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Managing Social Anxiety & Sight Loss

Managing Social Anxiety & Sight Loss

While appearing confident is important it’s more important to articulate what our needs are. Because I appear as if I’m in control people forget I can’t see and sometimes this hurts more than helps. I think part of my struggle here is the delicate balancing act of being confident yet knowing when to request assistance.

Bold Blind Beauty

These Four Walls

Recently I’ve talked with several of my blind & visually impaired friends about managing social anxiety and blindness. For many reasons, anxiety, as it relates to our sight loss, is a topic we don’t talk about frequently. On a personal level, one of my reasons is simply the fear of my fear. I feel like if I talk about it all the scary things in my mind they will come into existence. So how do I handle social anxiety and sight loss? The easy answer is I fake it.

Truth be told I’ve always lived with social anxiety and my blindness kicks it up several notches. A panic attack always lurks just beneath the surface whenever I’m in unfamiliar or heavily populated open spaces.

When you can only see blurry shapes, colors, and movement, it’s not ideal. Adding noise to this equation can overwhelm my senses compounding the anxiety. For example in a shopping mall environment, the expectation would be humans and service animals here and there. Without any central vision, I cannot see fine details so people’s faces are nonexistent. Whenever my grown children come by they have to identify themselves so I know who they are. So imagine being in unfamiliar territory with unknown people—no one stands out even people I know.

While being within the confines of my home makes me feel safer than anywhere else there are some challenges. When I’m home alone I know exactly where everything is, on the flipside when my son and grandson are here it can be chaotic. I rely on everything being in its place but when you share living space, there are bound to be problems.

The Moment Of Truth

Since retiring several years ago, my life mainly revolves around being at home on my computer. Blogging and social media have given me an outlet to connect with and live life vicariously through others. Even so, there is the inevitable grocery store run, doctor’s visit, or an occasional special outing that requires leaving home. Then there’s the dog.

As an animal lover and dog owner, it’s my responsibility to walk my Mollie. One would think that since I’m familiar with the area where I live this would be an easy thing to do right? Nah, it’s not that simple. See I live in a condominium complex without sidewalks which means I have to be constantly alert. In addition, I cannot use my cane when walking Mollie which makes me more vulnerable as drivers don’t know I can’t see. Many of my neighbors also don’t know I can’t see because I guard my privacy—so there’s that.

Today was a minor turning point for me as I admitted my fear and pushed through anyway. The first day at a new gym can be a little unsettling to anyone I suppose. For me, I was downright terrified but I’d put it off long enough and decided to be honest.

Because I’d called in advance the facility was expecting me but I opted not to disclose my disability until in person. With white cane in hand, I followed my son into the building. Once inside I met Tammy, the owner of the gym. I briefly explained my fears and she immediately put me at ease. She explained the gym’s offerings and told me she’d create a workout plan for me in large print. I was over the moon and may for the first time ever, take a couple of classes.

Lessons Learned

Today was a very good day. Was I still anxious? You bet I was! But being upfront with Tammy about my blindness and explaining what I can and cannot see helped her to help me. For far too long I let my fear control me and was afraid of being vulnerable, judged and appearing foolish.

I also think that while appearing confident is important it’s more important to articulate what our needs are. Because I appear as if I’m in control people forget I can’t see and sometimes this hurts more than helps. I think part of my struggle here is the delicate balancing act of being confident yet knowing when to request assistance.
Since empowerment is a key component of Bold Blind Beauty I sometimes feel torn about admitting my perceived flaws. Then there’s another part of me who understands that real empowerment and confidence comes from knowing when to seek help. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help.

My anxiety like my blindness is a part of me and will more than likely remain with me until my last breath. I do have a few additional tips that I’ll share at a later date. For now, though, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you ever talk about your fears?

Managing Social Anxiety & Sight Loss Image Descriptions:

The featured image, as well as the gallery of three photos, are of me on the treadmill. I’m wearing navy exercise capris, teal tank top, teal & navy sneakers and navy knotted head scarf.

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Sight Loss Story Is More Than Meets The Eye

Sight Loss Story More Than Meets The Eye featured image description is in the body of the post.

When I succeed, I am proud of myself but don’t take it as a blind girl win. When I fail, I forgive myself and think of an alternative way to succeed.

~Jenna Faris

Sight Loss Story Is More Than Meets The Eye

My sight loss story has no true beginning or end as I was diagnosed with congenital blindness at four weeks old. For reasons unknown to anyone, my limited vision declined steadily throughout my life. Blurry shapes and contrasts I could make out at five years old are now mere memories. Perhaps what little I can see today will one day be a memory, as well.

Not much is known about my family’s rare hereditary condition. It doesn’t have a name, and there is no cure for it.
With half of us blind, and the other half sighted, my family is split down the middle.

Since I was legally blind at birth, I never went through that difficult transition period of growing accustomed to sight loss. But, that is not to say my journey has been without challenges. Instead of facing the realities of vision loss, I had to face my sighted peers’ perception of blindness. I was raised in a family where blindness was simply viewed as a personal characteristic, like hair color or favorite food. It was a shock to find that the majority of the world viewed blindness differently. Many see it as a great limitation, a heavy, shameful burden, and an insurmountable barrier that would affect every aspect of my life.

More Than My Disability

Throughout my teenage years, I struggled to prove that I was just as good, worthy, and capable as my sighted friends and siblings. I battled bullying, an eating disorder, and blind brothers who were arguably better at being blind than me. Failure, I felt would prove everyone right, and success would prove everyone wrong. So I went out of my way to oppose stereotypes because I hated being known as the blind girl. It was important for me to break the mold and to stand out for anything other than my lack of sight. Making a point of wearing makeup, and refusing to wear sunglasses. I made a point of wearing makeup, absolutely refused to wear sunglasses, and I threw myself into my education. My urgent approach to my studies could only be described as obsessive because I wanted to be known as the:

  • A+ student
  • Starbucks-obsessed-freshman
  • chick in the blue shirt

Any title would do, as long as it did not center around my disability.

I can’t recall freedom from the gut-wrenching feeling of failure when someone referred to me as the blind girl. Maybe it faded around the time I connected with cool blind people my age. All I know is, one day the words didn’t make me feel bad anymore. I am a blind girl however I am not ‘the blind girl,’ but maybe to them, I am. The phrase no longer makes me feel less than what I am, it merely reminds someone of who I am. While I know my blindness doesn’t wholly define me, if this characteristic stands out to most people, that’s fine. I know I am more than my disability, and if they get to know me, they will too.

Empowerment Gained Through Acceptance

Today I refuse to wear sunglasses not to prove a point, but because they limit my vision and light perception. I now wear makeup when I feel like it, because it makes me feel good inside. And I achieve in school because I know this will further my career. When I succeed, I am proud of myself but don’t take it as a blind girl win. When I fail, I forgive myself and think of an alternative way to succeed.

I recently graduated with a bachelor of science in food, nutrition, and health from the University of British Columbia. This summer I’m working part-time as a server while scoping out further career options and working on my book series. I’m just your average twenty-something dreamer with a whole life of possibility ahead.

My sight loss journey may never truly be over, but I’m okay with that. I hope it continues to help me become the human I want to be.

Connect with Jenna:

Sight Loss Story Is More Than Meets The Eye Featured Image Description:

Jenna stands at the back of a cruise ship. She wears a deep blue shirt that matches the ocean and sky behind her. Her dark brown hair streams down her back as she smiles serenely at the camera.

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#BlindMKLady Hashtag Evolution

I'm Blind Why Should I Wear Makeup image description is in the body of the post

#BlindMKLady Hashtag Evolution

“‘You are not less of a person for using a white cane.’ This takeaway was life-changing for me; the cane doesn’t define you, it’s just a tool. After hearing this I became a different person and people noticed.”

~Amy Wilson

Hello Bold Blind Beauty Readers, 

Some of you may know me and some of you may not. Before I explain what this post is about, I will give a short introduction to who I am. My name is Amy Wilson, a middle-aged thirty-something midwestern woman.

For over 25 years I’ve been defined as legally blind and never considered myself a special or unique flower. Although, I’ve accomplished many things in my life that some say are exceptional. In fact, in the last few weeks, close friends have told me I need to improve my self-promotion skills.

I’m so bad when it comes to talking about myself. My husband is the same way—humble is the name of our game. Not my son though, he is the show off of the family. Each person in my wonderful family has their own disability. I only say this to tell you there is a lot of stuff going on in our household. 

The #BlindMKLady Hashtag Breakdown…

1. Let’s begin with why I chose to include the word ‘blind’

First, saying visually impaired makes it too long, lol, just kidding. In the world we live in, you are ‘blind’ to the sighted community even if you have residual sight. On the other hand, to the blind community, you are ‘sighted’ if you have a little vision. How does that even make any sense? So am I blind or not?

For over twenty years I hated when people would call me blind, I would go on the defense right away. Do you know where that got me? Nowhere really.

Being called a blind person bothered me so much I wouldn’t even use a white cane. So if I have ever shoulder checked you I am sorry. According to my ex-husband, I did it a lot but in 2015 that changed for me. I can remember it very clearly as I met people who I now call family. And you would never guess who they were? Yes! Other blind people!!! 

I mean I had previously met blind people, but these people didn’t let their blindness define them. Adding to this, was my takeaway ‘you are not less of a person for using a white cane.’ This takeaway was life-changing for me; the cane doesn’t define you, it’s just a tool. After hearing this I became a different person and people noticed. I no longer had a problem walking around with my white cane. If anything I think I strutted a little more. 

2. Classification of Being ‘Blind’ 

Last year I heard a speech that changed my viewpoint on being classified as ‘blind.’ It talked about how people put you into categories and how as blind people we do it as well. The point made was, ‘why are we segregating ourselves within our own blind community?’ Whether you have no vision or just been declared legally blind, guess what? You’re blind! Now let that sink in.

I know from personal experience it’s hard to take on the blind label. It’s especially difficult when you are new to blindness. When I heard that speech I made the decision to stop saying “I’m visually impaired” and just say “blind.” By doing this, I’m letting society know that ‘blindness’ is not just the ‘totally blind’ but me too. 

I’m blind so what? I’m still a Rock Star! No way am I a rock star but I think you get my point. And maybe you just have to listen to the P!nk song—”So What.”

3. What’s A MKLady?

The other part of my hashtag speaks for itself as I am a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant. I love the company, Mary Kay. This is actually my second time being a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant. 

My first time, with Mary Kay I was not confident in my blindness at ALL. I let it get in the way of having my own Mary Kay business. This time is totally different. I got great advice right from the start. If they can’t handle the fact that I am blind then they are just ‘not my people.’ Simple right?

‘Not your people’ can be used in so many different areas of our lives, even with family. Be confident in who you are, no matter what!!! Do I have regrets in my life? You bet, but I don’t dwell on those things—you can’t change the past and the future is tomorrow’s problem. However, you can focus on now.

Knowing Who I Am

I view myself as the #BlindMKLady and wouldn’t have it any other way. And I am not the only #BlindMKLady out there either. I’ve met other MK ladies and am personally building my team of blind and sighted ladies. My goal is to be the first blind Mary Kay Sales Director. It doesn’t matter how long it takes me. My goal is huge even for a sighted consultant. If you want to assist in helping me achieve this goal let’s chat. 

No matter what your goal is in life don’t let something like being blind hold you back. Blindness does not define you. You define you. Put your big girl panties on and make stuff happen. If you want someone to cheer you on, contact me, I will be your cheerleader. 

Be Bold, Be Beautiful and most of all be true to YOU!!!

Yours Truly, 

Amy Wilson, #BlindMKLady

You can find me on Facebook as Amy Wilson or my Facebook group called Wilson’s Wildflowers

#BlindMKLady Featured Image Description:

Closeup photo of Amy looking fabulous with her wavy brunette hair framing her face and sunnies on top of her head. She is wearing a blue/black floral dress with a v-neckline.

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Blind Beauty 72 | Jenna Faris of Safe Space

Blind Beauty 72 | Jenna Farris

Blind Beauty 72 | Jenna Faris of Safe Space

“Most people view blindness as a massive barrier, an insurmountable mountain that can never be climbed. I view blindness as an alternative path, one with perhaps more obstacles, but also more triumph.”

~Jenna Faris
Jenna and Susie on Beach
Jenna and Susie on Beach

My grandmother was a genius when it came to reading people. It was one of many traits she had that I secretly and not so secretly envied. As I got older and remarkably wiser (for a teenager) I would often disagree with her assessments of people. Thankfully, with more advanced years, I continued to gain wisdom and had to admit she was almost always right.

From where I stand today, I think I’ve always had the same ability as my grandmother I just didn’t recognize it. Learning to trust my gut where people are concerned was a process aided by a healthy dose cynicism. In the social media I believe cynicism is a requirement to protect oneself online.

When meeting someone new for the first time, I’m very particular. If a person just messages me a simple one-word greeting I typically delete then block them. While it may sound harsh, this is one of many rules I use to gauge people I choose to interact with. Could I possibly be blocking people who are legitimate? Sure, but with well over 7 billion people on the planet, I simply move on.

A Safe Space

According to Internet Live Stats at the time I wrote this sentence, there were 4,185,806,809 internet users in the world. Skeptic that I am I would need more research to determine if this is a reliable source but I digress. If there is even a remote possibility that these stats are even close to accurate, that’s a lot of people. The world is a huge place and the internet has given us the ability to connect where it wasn’t previously possible. When you add in the speed of information being transmitted by many of these people, well, this is another story.

While I tend to think there is danger lurking around every corner every now and then even I’m pleasantly surprised. Last week, for example, a young lady named Jenna Farris contacted me through our Facebook Page. The way she introduced herself was so outstanding she automatically set herself apart.

Upon visiting her blog Safe Space, I was immediately impressed with her philosophy through her tagline:

“Where everyone is welcome to participate”

When I read her introductory post “This is me ” I was done! Before I go any further I’d like to encourage everyone who reads today’s post to read “This is me.”

Jenna and I exchanged several comments then emails and I’m so honored to introduce you to her. You’ll be hearing more from Jenna as she’s agreed to be a Woman On The Move and I can hardly wait to share her story with you. This young woman is a phenomenal person and one my grandmother would love!

Blind Beauty 72 | Jenna Faris Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. The black & white image of Jenna and her guide dog, Susie sitting on sandstone, are on the cover. Blocks of text superimposed on Jenna’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”