How to Talk About Your Vision Loss, and When

When do you speak about your loss of sight? When don’t you need to mention it? And how do you stop strangers or your cousin from asking intrusive questions? This is a big topic, but here are some tips to start with.

At the beginning of your sight loss, you are still the person you were before. You need to take great care of yourself because you are very vulnerable just now. You probably need to think of yourself as an invalid. The suggestions in this post aren’t for you – yet! First you need to talk about everything that has happened – the doctors, the surgeries, the treatments, and your hopes about recovering sight. You may want to talk a whole lot about it for a long time. It’s part of your personal recovery.

You need support for this “talking cure” from your priest, a dear friend, or a psychotherapist experienced in major loss and grief. After some time, as you get yourself back together, you might want to restrict your conversation about what has happened to your vision to people who care about you. You don’t want to come across as a medical curiosity.

When you are ready to speak about your vision loss, you need to make it effective, short and simple. It’s like a little performance. Here are some tried and true phrases:

First of all if your contact with other people is brief, then there’s no need to say anything except ask a question or make a simple request.

“Can you walk with me across the street?”

“Is this the way to the Post Office?”

But sometimes the request is for longer, more detailed assistance. For this you need to practice one of these phrases – or something like it:

“I see very little.”

“I don’t have any sight.”

“I can’t read price tags.”

When you are at a social event, use the same kind of simple words, but do it after you have introduced yourself and started the conversation:

“Hi, my name is Hannah, have we met? … Hi Doug, nice to meet you.” And after another back and forth, “By the way, I should mention that I have very little sight.” Answer one or two questions he may have, then change the subject.

You mention it so Doug isn’t distracted by wondering why your eyes look funny, or you don’t smile back, or he is fixated on your white cane, but can’t talk about it until you do. You could say at the end of the conversation, “If you see me anytime please do say Hi and also say your name, because I won’t know if you just wave or smile.”

The major reason for getting skilled at talking briefly about your vision loss is very simple. It gives you back control.  You have thought hard about this, about how you want to phrase your disclosure. You have practiced it in the shower, and tried it out on your friends, and in time you get good at it. Your tone is all-important. You are aiming for light, easy, and friendly, so as to get past the awkward moment.

You also get good at stopping strangers and even family members, from asking intrusive questions:

“What’s wrong with your sight?”

What happened to your eyes?”

This can be said in a way that isn’t intrusive, but sometimes it is. Then you have to be assertive:

It’s a long story.”

It’s not something I like to talk about.”

And if they’re really getting on your nerves,

“How’s your vision?”

Let us all know how you talk about your vision loss and when you do it. How you   change the subject, and stop hurtful comments.

Other blog posts that relate to this topic:

Four Rules for Getting Assistance

What’s in a Name?

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