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WOTM 39 Featuring Silvia Seyringer

Stanley & The Staircase To The Light

Silvia (white cane in hand) and her daughter (wearing Mickey Mouse ears) are posed standing in Disneyland.I am a survivor. I tell myself this every day, so it must be true! When I found out I was losing my sight, I was devastated, but although it was a harrowing and speedy process, it was not the worst thing that had happened in my life. Having gone through worse and survived, I knew I possessed the key to letting myself out of this dungeon and I knew the staircase to take to see the light again (pardon the pun!)

The first sign I was losing my eyesight was a rare cataract condition resulting from damage inflicted on my eyes as a child. After operations and exploration of the nerves, it was discovered that I had an additional, rarer condition: juvenile macular degeneration, rods and cones dystrophy. Instead of viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, I view the world through a blue lens, with black polka dot spots! (I still see through rose-colored glasses metaphorically, though.)

It was extremely hard for an independent person like me to adapt to the seeming lack of freedom when sight had deteriorated such that I was provided a white cane by Vision Australia. I absolutely detested asking for help. My daughter helped as much as her busy life allowed, guiding me on her arm whilst I used the cane (Stanley) to navigate uneven ground surfaces. Why Stanley? Because I couldn’t stand ‘him’ but essentially, he led me around, plus a reference to black and white era comedians, Laurel & Hardy (Stan being the extremely skinny one!) A very wise woman had recommended naming your cane. It makes it more personal and like a member of your family, whom you need to accept.

We had planned a trip to Disneyland because my daughter missed out on another trip, so this was to be our time together. Little did we know that by the time we left Sydney, I would not be able to see beyond 10cm from my face. Working our way through those throngs of bodies, everyone out to get to where they were going as fast as possible, is a story in itself. I was so grateful that I had a solid body to hold on to and that Stanley announced that I could not see ahead of me. It made it so much easier for others to accept that I had not walked into them deliberately or bumped them with intent. When people are rushing (especially in huge crowds), there sometimes isn’t even the time to apologise properly, so a glance at a cane alleviates this courtesy.

Needless to say, my favorite ride was Space Mountain (which is set entirely in the dark). I could really enjoy that one as I could relate! The non-vision impaired screamed in terror, I just screamed because the sensations of going through space without seeing what was ahead of me was so eerily familiar! And because I was strapped in, I felt safe and it was fun when compared to the unpredictability of day-to-day travel.

Having lost the use of my sense of sight to a large extent meant that I really had to use my brain. I am beyond thankful that my memory still functioned and I could work out where to go using logic when I couldn’t see. I learned to really listen for train station names and sounds after missing my (extremely well-known) stop so many times because I couldn’t recognise it anymore. Trying to ask for directions (or even just to find out where you were) was problematic in a city of 5 million people; no one has patience or time for you, however, at one glimpse of the cane, people were immediately more forgiving and accommodating.

I realised I had to stop working when I didn’t see clear glass and broke many beakers in my laboratory at work. There was a bit of an existential crisis when I realised I couldn’t work as a scientist – “Am I still a scientist?” I need to transition to theoretical science rather than conducting practical experiments. Or retrain altogether, in a different field.

Every day is a challenge but as time goes by, it becomes the norm as you get used your new way of being. And it is not so bad, as many unexpectedly good things have come from being differently-sighted. I now regard it as a blessing. I have gained so much more in terms of valuing life and experiences. At the conclusion of each day, I give thanks that I was privileged to experience it, no matter that the shape and look of these days is different to all those previous years.

Image: Silvia (white cane in hand) and her daughter (wearing Mickey Mouse ears) are posed standing in Disneyland.

I met Silvia on Instagram and was immediately captivated with her photography. Not only does she take breathtaking photos but her descriptions are sublime. You can connect with her via @silviasalzburg to enjoy her craft.

13 thoughts on “WOTM 39 Featuring Silvia Seyringer”

  1. This is a beautiful message that I will pass along to Silvia. It’s also a testimony to a person’s unlimited potential when we make a conscious choice to live and enjoy the beauty life has to offer regardless of our circumstances. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  2. Gian Luca Garattoni

    Blindness is an everyday issue since my 13y old son lost his sight when he was 4 months old. He is with me now in Vienna and at last I will be able to keep the promised I made to him when he was in the incubator and the odds were pretty much against his survival chances: “One day we will eat the Sachertorte in Vienna” His life isn’t at all límited by his sensorial déficit, thanks to his condition I have learned how to find beauty in many things and people. It doesn’t take a hero to face a serious handicap, it rather takes an incurable life lover. Thank you Silvia

  3. I agree with you, Silvia is wonderful and has a great attitude. None of us know what we are capable of enduring until we have to go through it. The process is an ongoing one made more challenging depending on the severity of the life altering event. It can take a substantial amount of time and I think the same could be said for practicing gratitude and making a conscientious choice to keep going in spite of. It’s not easy, but when faced with giving up or moving forward at some point survivor mode kicks in and I found it really helps to engage with others who’ve chosen to move onward.

  4. Silvia sounds like a wonderful lady, and very inspirational. I’m glad that she has the ability to be thankful for her vision loss and for the new things she has experienced because of it. I would hope I could do the same, but I think it would probably take me years to get there.

  5. Hi George, thank you for your comment. I’ll pass it along to Silvia and yes, when you have a chance please check out her IG account. Her photos are breathtaking.

  6. Nice sharing of emotions and facts. Your mention of Stan and Oliver turned on the visual image of them in a cheap hotel, climbing into a Murphy Bed, and the thing closing with them in it. If you don’t mind, I’d like to check out your Instagram pictures. I struggle with my passion for photography since MS and paraplegia began coming along on my photo shoots.

  7. Nice story Stephanae!

    Ms. Carla

    From: Bold Blind Beauty Reply-To: Bold Blind Beauty Date: Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 11:03 AM To: Subject: [New post] Woman On The Move: Silvia

    Steph McCoy posted: “Stanley & The Staircase To The Light I am a survivor. I tell myself this every day, so it must be true! When I found out I was losing my sight, I was devastated, but although it was a harrowing and speedy process, it was not the worst thing that had “

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