3 Tips for People Facing Vision Loss or Blindness
Receiving a diagnosis that you are going to be low vision, legally blind, or completely blind can be devastating. You may be shocked and overwhelmed. Your mind may start racing with questions such as: How will I continue to live? Do I still have meaning and purpose? How will I adjust and adapt? Then anxiety, sadness, frustration, and anger can dominate your thoughts.
As a 9-year-old, I was diagnosed with an eye disease. Over the next ten years, I became blind. I now have light perception, but no usable vision. As a teenager who was becoming blind, I experienced the above questions and feelings. Now in my early 30s, I have had years to adjust and know that I can indeed live a full life. So what advice would I give someone who has recently received a diagnosis and is struggling to comprehend the news?
1. Know that you are in a grieving process.
When receiving the diagnosis and experiencing major vision loss, you are starting a time of grief. You are grieving the vision you once had and now no longer have. The stages of grief are often denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and acceptance. Give yourself the space to feel each of the stages and emotions. It will not be a linear process of feeling one emotion and then moving to the next emotion. Rather, you will go back and forth between emotions. There is no set timeline you need to achieve. Just give yourself the time and space to feel each emotion. Rather than ignoring the difficult feelings, turn towards them so that your mind, body, and spirit can acknowledge the struggle.
2. Ask for help.
Please do not try to cope and adjust alone. Reach out for the psychological, physical, and spiritual help you need. Rather than acting strong and as if you have it all together, reach out for support. When you are struggling emotionally, it’s OK to get help from a professional. When you need to learn necessary skills such as adaptive technology, Braille, and orientation and mobility, seek out the services that will help you. When you are struggling spiritually, connect with your faith group. There is no shame in asking for whatever you need. You are in a major time of transition.
3. Take life one day at a time.
Thinking about the future can be absolutely overwhelming. The fear and anxiety can be paralyzing. Rather than being overwhelmed by the future, take each day at a time. Do what you can do for that day. Adjusting to blindness, learning all that you need to learn, and being confident with your “new normal” will not happen in one day. Think of the transition as a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself by taking one day at a time. Focusing on each day will give you the strength you need.
Receiving the difficult diagnosis of vision loss and making the transition is overwhelming and exhausting. Yes, you will have days when you are fearful and scared about the future. You will also have days of strength, hope, and empowerment. You have what you need to make the difficult adjustment. Remember that you are not alone. Never forget that you can and will live a full life!