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Trading Car Keys For A White Cane

Trading Car Keys Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Thought of you today when meeting with an independent living specialist. I told her of your post when you finally grabbed “the cane” 🙂 She gave me some raised dot stickers to put on the kitchen appliances so I know which button is which. As much as I hated to admit it, I needed some help. Please know you are so inspiring and your insights and humor are appreciated. 

~Melissa Welch

Trading Car Keys For A White Cane

Image description is in the body of the post
Stephanae’s Mirror Selfie

October marks 10 years since I gave up my driving privileges. My last day of driving began like most days as I went through the ritual of preparing for work.

With laptop, handbag, and car keys in hand, I headed out the door to my sexy silver Jeep. Not an impulsive person by nature, I bought this SUV when I began having vision problems with my good eye. The Jeep purchase was one of the best impulsive decisions I ever made with no regrets. Heck, I even had a silver trench coat to match―no one could tell me nothin’ when I was behind the wheel.

On that crisp fall morning, I got in the Jeep, put down my belongings, slipped on my shades, started it up, and with music blaring pulled off. I swung by to pick up my colleague, best friend and carpooling buddy. Midway to the office, I matter of factly said to her: “I can’t drive anymore.” There were no theatrics, tears, or tantrums, it was time.

The Numbers Were In My Favor

When I look back at how my blindness evolved I can honestly say I knew. Even when the doctors were so sure I’d never end up where I am today, I knew. I remember bluntly asking each of them if I would go blind the answer was always “no you won’t Ms. McCoy.” 

Nothing that happened to me was supposed to happen, or at least that’s what the doctors said. When my first macular hole was diagnosed I was told there was a 95 to 99 percent chance my sight would be restored. Odds of it happening in the other eye was also very low. 

What kills me to this day is up to the point of that first macular hole I had the best vision of my life. Sure, I was using readers but my distance vision was corrected to 20/15. When I wore contact lenses my sight was so good I felt like I could see through things. Maybe it was a sign of things to come? 

Fear Of Blindness Blocks Progress & Independence

During the height of my sight loss, I was seeing no less than two or three eye doctors monthly for several months. A snowball effect of related and unrelated issues began cropping up. Cataracts, a torn retina, glaucoma, uveitis, not to mention how bizarre my vision was. With blank spots in my vision, people’s faces were disfigured to me and everything was distorted. 

Still, my retina specialist maintained his stance that he could “fix” me. After four years of back and forth, I’d had enough and went back to Cleveland Clinic. It was at this last appointment I found out I was legally blind and no more could be done for me medically.

My acceptance of being a blind person didn’t happen overnight and on many days I was a miserable mess. I think my doctor’s fear of blindness hindered me from a smoother transition i.e. low vision rehabilitation. He was opposed to me learning how to use the white cane and I allowed him to project his fear onto me. 

Blindness Isn’t Always Obvious

Trading Car Keys for A White Cane Image description is in the body of the post.
White Canes

When it comes to blindness we’ve been so conditioned to believe that people who are blind have no sight whatsoever. The societal expectation is that we all wear dark sunglasses and have vacant stares. For many of us who were born with sight, once we lose it some of us can still do things like making eye contact. It should be noted while we ‘appear’ to make eye contact, many of us can’t see faces or facial expressions.

Since my remaining sight is next to none, I need to use a white cane to navigate the world safely. I read books by listening to them, magnification and screen readers allow me to use my cell phone and computer. Thanks to technological advances there are always workarounds and adaptations to allow us to sustain our independence.

When I began Bold Blind Beauty it was to bring awareness to blindness in the hopes of changing perceptions. So many people who cannot see won’t disclose it because of shame or fear and this needs to change. Eyesight without a doubt is so precious, yet it shouldn’t be the determining factor in who we are as people. Blindness is another way of seeing.

The opening quote to this post was written by one of my followers and it is a reminder of why I do what I do. Some may think trading car keys for a white cane isn’t a fair trade but when independence is on the line I beg to differ. 

The turning point for me was understanding I had a choice in how to move forward in life. I could give up or give in and embrace my blindness. Today, I accept being a blind person, and wouldn’t want to trade places with the person I was for anything.

Trading Car Keys Featured Image Description:

Photo is an image of a black key fob with a car keys and two other keys.

Stephanae’s Mirror Selfie

In this photo, I’m wearing a black “Ready To Conquer” Tee-shirt. Fashion icon Abby is to the left of a checklist “Handbag, Heels, White Cane.” Directly under her and the checklist is the slogan: “Ready to Conquer”

White Canes

This photo is part of my collection of white canes. These three are different colors/types: slimline black, slimline gold, green, gold & white cane with a rolling marshmallow tip.

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Sky | Blind Beauty 56

Blind Beauty 56

Sky | Blind Beauty 56

“Some people might have taken the news of going blind as the end of the world. Most would have given up and thought their life was over. Well, it did the total opposite to me.” 

~Sky

I think Sky’s words in today’s post are especially meaningful with October being Blindness Awareness Month.

Did You Know?

The World Health Organization estimates that there are over 285 million visually impaired people, 245 million with low vision and 39 million totally blind people. Sixty-five million people have cataracts — and in the U.S. alone, over ten million people have retinal diseases that deteriorate peripheral and night vision. One of the major causes of blindness is uncorrected refractive errors causing blurred vision, leaving people unable to clearly see images on the retina. (source: nationaltoday.com)

I found strength and determination I never believe I had before sight loss. I have become the person God always knew I was. Becoming blind has saved my life. I see things differently literally. Having a great sense of humor is also a plus.

“Strength and growth come
only through continuous
effort and struggle” 

~Napoleon Hill 

Blind Beauty 56 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a new faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Sky’s image on the cover is black & white. She is wearing a white lace embellished top and has a floral head wrap tied in a bow on the top of her head.

Blocks of text superimposed on Sky’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”

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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.”

Bold Blind Beauty

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.

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.