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
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.