What’s in a Name? Eye Problems? Losing Vision? Going Blind?

 A white cane is stowed at the back of a brown bag with only the tip on view.
A white cane is stowed at the back of a brown bag with only the tip on view.

 

How you think about your vision can be less about the reality of your eye condition than where you are on the road toward personal recovery.

 

Going through vision loss is a personal internal drama. It seems like a tragedy. If your vision loss or blindness is rapid or instantaneous, it will almost certainly involve months of surgeries or treatments. At some point the treatments slow down or stop. You may not be able to see, but on the inside you still belong in the sighted world and have a sighted person’s attitude to blindness. To think of yourself as blind may be possible for brief moments, but mostly it’s too much to take in.

 

If your vision loss is slow – slipping away by tiny degrees over decades – it may be hard to anticipate a state of blindness which hasn’t arrived. The same is true if you have always had poor sight. You may ignore your eye condition most of the time. Inside yourself you are part of the seeing world. Blindness is something separate and distant.

 

There are many other ways that you may have lost your vision, or much of it, but it is almost always traumatic, and the urge to continue to live in the seeing world, even with very little sight, is strong.

 

And there’s another big factor: The majority of Americans who now live with serious sight loss or blindness went to school, fell in love, kissed the pretty girl or the gorgeous guy, got their first car and first job, settled down, and had children maybe, all with good eyesight. So most of their important memories are in bright images.

 

When you think about it, there is bound to be a long, long period of adjustment during which you may be more comfortable thinking of yourself as having vision loss, or sight problems – preferring one of the phrases that is based upon vision, not on blindness. During this long time, as you put yourself back together, you may gradually shift your standpoint. You may find one day that you now think of yourself as part of the wide circle of the blindness community.

 

Before you can do this you have to come to the knowledge that you are perfect and complete, with whatever vision or lack of it you have. The loss of vision does not define you. You are not your eyesight any more than you are your shoe size. Blindness is a physical condition that has very large effects, but it isn’t you.

 

Then you can think clearly about your choices and decisions. You think like a blind person not because you have no vision, but because you have to plan how to work with your family, your friends, and the public at large. You have to think from blindness so you can have what you need for a fulfilling, interesting life.

 

Like a kid on a long journey, you might ask yourself, “Am I blind yet?”

 

 The white cane is out of the bag now. It is being used by someone walking downstairs.
The white cane is out of the bag now. It is being used by someone walking downstairs.

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