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Vulnerability, Sight Loss & The White Cane

Vulnerability, Sight Loss & The White Cane featured image description is in the body of the post.

Vulnerability, Sight Loss & The White Cane

“What bothered me most about my sight loss was my fear of people knowing I couldn’t see. Everywhere I went I felt so vulnerable and isolated not to mention, my anxiety levels rocketed off into the stratosphere.”

The first time I picked up a white cane was when my Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Specialist introduced me to one for my training. Perhaps it was the novelty of a new gadget is what prompted me to follow through but secretly I was bitter.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, in the privacy of my home it was okay to learn proper white cane techniques. Practicing in public was a different story.

  • What would people think?
  • Are they looking at me?
  • What if I run into something or someone?
  • Are they laughing at me?
  • Do I look foolish?
  • Are they talking about me?
  • Why? Why do I have to do this?

On and on these and many more questions ran through my head. I felt scared, exposed, and vulnerable. I hated vulnerability.

After my O&M training was complete I was free to use my cane independently. So what did I do? Simple, I stashed it away and continued living pretending.

With the exception of family, co-workers, and friends, no one knew I couldn’t see. The problem was I seldom went anywhere alone because while I didn’t look ‘blind’ I was.

So I continued my charade until the day I wanted to take a short stroll. I’ll never forget; I was at work it was the middle of the afternoon and I needed a little snack. I could have asked any number of people to go with me but I wanted to do this on my own. Afterall it was no biggie, and I was familiar with the route to the store which wasn’t far from my office.

So Clever & So Foolish

On the elevator ride down to the lobby of my office building I had second thoughts but squashed them. As I pushed through the revolving glass doors out onto the plaza I thought “maybe I should turn around.”

Alone with nothing but my thoughts for company, I walked to the store. As I walked by people I didn’t know whether they noticed me and it didn’t matter. For at this moment I appeared just as sighted as anyone else. That is if you ignored my superheroine move when stepping off curbs.

When you lack depth perception it can be tricky navigating uneven terrain. Your footing is unsure so curbs, stairs, cobblestones, etc. can make walking a little dicey. So what I would do is put out my right hand as if an invisible energy force would keep me from falling.

Once I reached the safety of the store I was so relieved because I’d done it by myself. After I bought my snacks and left the store it was just a couple of short blocks back to the office.

I did my little ‘step off the curb superheroine move’ then I heard it. A blaring car horn and someone shouting at me! How could I have missed it? The car nearly hit me and I didn’t see it coming. Shaky and on verge of tears I don’t know how I gathered myself but I made it back to the office.

Strength In A Simple Choice 

Acceptance of a major life-altering event like illness or disability can be extremely difficult. And even once the choice for acceptance is made it can still be a day-to-day struggle. However, I believe strength and freedom are found in acceptance.

I realized the day I was almost mowed down by that vehicle I had a choice. I could continue living in denial. Or I could pick up my white cane, embrace my sight loss and work to help others by sharing my story.

Today I not only use my white cane but I proudly wear my Abby gear! Below I describe today’s featured photo.

Vulnerability, Sight Loss & The White Cane Featured Image Description: 

A mirror selfie of my black “Relax It’s Only A Cane!” tee. I’m wearing new hair, a pixie cut wig, blond in the front, dark brown in the back. Wished I could have taken a full body photo but my phone doesn’t take pictures on voice command.

The white Abby icon is above the slogan walking with her white cane in one hand, handbag in the other. She is wearing heels and a stylish dress made of panels resembling overlapping banana leaves. The dress panels gently curve from her nipped in waist to just above the knee. Her signature hairstyle is best described as explosive.

 

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Uncertainty, Imperfection & Sight Loss

Uncertainty Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

Uncertainty, Imperfection & Sight Loss

“I think it’s important to remember things aren’t always as they seem but rather how we want them to appear.”

Have you ever felt like you don’t know what the heck you’re doing? Confession, most of my days are anxiety-ridden and quiet as it’s kept, a good portion of it centers around my lack of eyesight.

Sometimes I feel so out of my depth and overwhelmed I can hardly breathe. It begins deep in the pit of my stomach and rises to my chest. My neck and shoulders are tense and hurting. Thoughts are racing through my head and I can’t focus. Again, for the umpteenth time, I wonder am I losing my mind?

Feeling small, unimportant, unworthy, and afraid, I continue to push through because god forbid I don’t meet my unrealistic expectations. The negative self-talk is a never-ending loop that I try to combat with positive affirmations. Sometimes this technique works but when it doesn’t I end up drained, depressed, and defeated.

Limitations, Struggles & Competency

For most of my life confidence seemed elusive to me. As a shy introvert, insecurity and fear of not being accepted ruled the day. Being so socially awkward is one of the reasons why I worked so hard to achieve perfection even though I also believe perfection’s unattainable.

At the height of my career, working in a profession I loved, I finally achieved the confidence I sought. I enjoyed working (maybe a little too much) and loved challenging myself to improve. Constantly going beyond my comfort zone was scary yet welcome and helped me grow as a professional.

Then along the way, I lost my eyesight and uncertainty began to take center stage. No longer being able to trust anything I can see wreaks havoc on my life day-to-day. To compensate for my lack of eyesight I try to cover my fear by wearing a cloak of confidence.

What’s so frustrating to me is straddling the fine line between being competent while living with a disability. I find it ironic that while I had limitations before I lost my sight, they weren’t so much of an issue. However, if I admit certain aspects of life are harder because of my disability this isn’t understood. To some degree, I feel like I have to be superhuman when I didn’t feel this way before sight loss.

Silly as it may seem, one of my hardest struggles is asking for help. “Asking for help” is my kryptonite which plays right into the whole “superhuman” thing.

Throwing Change Into The Mix

Early in my sight loss journey, I was fond of saying I was the same person I was before. This isn’t totally true. Oh, sure I still share some commonalities as I did before losing my sight but I am different.

For one I’m considerably older and there are new obstacles in my path. My body and mind don’t work like they used to and I have to constantly improve my problem-solving skills.

Sight loss has forced me to let some things go. Perfection has truly left the building. No longer can I be overly concerned about those things I can’t see because frankly, it’s too tiring. Yet at the same time, it’s weird because I’ll swat at what looks like a bug, bird or some other flying unidentifiable object only to find it’s a floater in my eye.

Depth perception is an issue especially when I’m riding in the front seat of a car. Since I can’t judge distance but can see moving vehicles I’m a nervous wreck. Not to mention the driver is on edge while I shriek and jump at the thought of an impending accident.

The truth is no matter how hard I try not to focus on my sight loss there is nowhere I can hide from it. It is always there and with it is the constant uncertainty of what’s going on around me.

Frequently on Bold Blind Beauty, I talk about perceptions and how we look at others. I think it’s important to remember things aren’t always as they seem but rather how we want them to appear. Just because it looks like I have it all together doesn’t mean I do. Since losing my sight most everything I do takes considerable time, effort and it’s certainly not easy.

While the tone of this post isn’t my typically upbeat tone it is real. Transparency is and always has been very important to me and this also means being vulnerable.

Have a nice weekend everyone!!

Featured Image Description:

Mirror selfie, I’m wearing a pixie cut wig, black tank top, dangling earrings and nude lip color. Blond in the front, dark brown in the back.

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Christie Smith | Blind Beauty Issue 34

Blind Beauty Issue 34 Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

Christie Smith | Blind Beauty Issue 34

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is the cause of Christie’s declining eyesight. “Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of eye problems that affect the retina.~American Academy of Ophthalmology

Freedom From Other’s Perceptions

“I “came out” on Instagram and openly shared my story for the world to see and join me in navigating the murky waters of RP. This was such a tremendous step for me because I never let people in on my secret shame and feelings of inadequacy due to my visual impairment and also because I worried so much about what people would think. Never again will I underestimate the greatness inside of me because of the limited thinking inside of others.” ~Christie Smith

Regardless of the reasons behind our sight loss coming terms with it can be a difficult process. Even though intellectually we know we did not cause our eye conditions many of us experience feelings of shame. In addition to adjusting to our fear of blindness and grief from loss, how we are perceived wreaks havoc on our psyche.

While I am thrilled people are opening up about sight loss we still have a long way to go. Since many don’t understand the spectrum of blindness, too many individuals living with sight loss are harassed. When seen using smartphones or reading a book people say we’re faking because we use a white cane. Imagine how it must feel to lose your sight then become a target for bullying because of incorrect assumptions?

It’s no wonder so many of us feel we need to hide our disability. We’d rather people think there is any number of things going on with us rather than sight loss. Just something to think about.

Blind Beauty Issue 34 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a mock magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Christie’s cover photo is a stunning black and white image. Always smiling, in this photo, Christie’s hair is swept up from the right leaving the left side curly. She is also wearing large hoop earrings.

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On Being Legally Blind

On Being Legally Blind image description is in the body of the post.

Are those who are ‘legally blind’ able to hold a job? And if so, what fields would you advise them to enter?  

On Being Legally Blind Q&A 

Recently I was interviewed by my friend and fellow blogger Wendy Robinson of Wendy’s Written WordsIt’s so nice to take trips down memory lane to see how far we’ve progressed. Following are a couple of snippets from the post. You can access the entire article here: On Being Legally Blind A Q&A

Are those who are ‘legally blind’ able to hold a job? And if so, what fields would you advise them to enter? 

This is a question I’m deeply passionate about. Yes, people who legally blind or partially-sighted can hold a job, so can people who are totally blind. The idea that people who are partially sighted or totally blind cannot hold a job is a myth. In answer to what fields? I don’t feel qualified to give advice in this area except to say, ‘find your passion and pursue it’. No one is an expert at everything! With the exception of being a driver or pilot, sight or lack of sight has nothing to do with being able to hold a job.

You have been so successful that you are generously helping others with advice on mixing and matching items in their wardrobe. Can you expand on that? 

We cannot simply look at a person and think we know their story. We are complex creatures and there is so much more to us than mere appearance. My desire to change perceptions is why I share what I know, with respect to style, from personal experience.

No doubt you need help to get to appointments, social functions, and gatherings, shopping et al. Do you have designated drivers? How do you feel in losing your independence and having to depend on others?   

As far as independence, I refocused my thinking to what I am able to do vs. what I could do prior to my sight loss. For me, this boils down to choice and I choose not to view myself as dependent. Everyone is skilled or deficient in some manner and I choose to promote my strengths.

On Being Legally Blind Q&A Image Description:

White Q&A text and white question marks sprinkled throughout are on a multi-shaded navy blue background.