7 Tips for Finding Happiness After Vision Loss
Facing vision loss at any age is life altering, and can be scary. Whether you have received a diagnosis that will eventually result in visual impairment or you are facing it currently, there are steps you can take now to continue living the type of life you want for yourself. Blindness is not the end of life, it is a change in life.
I grew up visually impaired, however in my early 30s I lost most of my vision. Growing up visually impaired I can say it’s not the end of the world, and having also experienced vision loss I know how to overcome the difficulties blindness can create.
Here are the seven steps I have found most important to living happily with vision loss.
1. Work through your emotions.
There is an avalanche of emotions that can come with the loss of vision. It’s normal to mourn for the way things used to be. It is also natural to experience frustration, stress and sadness at various points in daily living, especially within the first few months. It’s fine to have these emotions. Eventually however, these emotions can become toxic. Our bodies are not designed to maintain strong negative emotions for extended periods of time, and these emotions can eat away at our physical health and emotional well-being. If you are facing vision loss, get help working through these emotions, whether it is with a therapist, coach, leader in your faith community or some other professional who can help.
2. Be proactive in your life.
Just as there are mental health services available, there are also services specifically for the visually impaired and blind. I encourage you to seek those out. Get training in mobility and orientation so you can still live independently. Begin using a cane if it is necessary so you can travel safely. Learn Braille if it will be helpful. In many states there are training centers where you can learn the everyday skills of an independent blind person who can do almost everything a sighted person can.
3. Start exercising.
If you were physically active before vision loss, continue to be. If you were not active before, consider becoming so now. Physical exercise can improve emotional and physical well-being while giving you another outlet for working through emotions. For the visually impaired it can improve your balance, which can be impacted by vision loss, and rebuild your confidence. After losing my vision, one of the best decisions I made was to begin weight training.
I realize the gym can seem like a daunting prospect. It is difficult to see the machines for those of us with some remaining vision. It can be tough to navigate, and I know some people will feel nervous the first time. Feel confident to shop around. Not every gym or fitness trend is right for everyone. Find a gym that will give you a tour and help you with the equipment. Find a place where you feel supported and comfortable.
If going to the gym is not an option either due to other physical disabilities or life circumstances, consider what you can do to up your activity level in a safe way. The brain likes novelty. New experiences light up the pleasure centers of our brains and cause a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to both learning and feeling good. Adding new physical movement will help lead to a greater sense of well-being.
4. Keep your job and hobbies.
Just because your vision has changed doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy most things you used to do. If you are able to continue working, do it. It will move you more quickly back into a sense of normalcy. Whatever your interests and hobbies were, return to them. You may have to find new ways of engaging in them, but if you loved those things before vision loss, you will find that love again.
5. Start thinking creatively.
Building on the last step, become a creative problem solver. Blindness can and does cause practical difficulties from time to time. There are two common responses to these difficulties. The first is to let those difficulties get to us and give up. The other is to find new ways to overcome those difficulties. For many of the practical everyday challenges we face, there are tons of gadgets available to help. You might want to become familiar with the website MaxiAids.com. They have hundreds of gadgets to make life with vision loss easier. For other challenges, if you think creatively they become easy to solve. For example, I can’t see street signs and even with my monocular sometimes I have difficulty even finding the signs. So when I’m walking somewhere I find out how many blocks and in which direction, and just count them as I walk. It’s a simple solution that makes travel easy.
If you see difficulties as challenges just waiting to be creatively solved, those difficulties can transform into opportunities for your growth.
6. Connect with others.
In the early days of vision loss, some people will be tempted to go into seclusion. They withdraw from their relationships and may even think others won’t want to continue the relationship. Do not fall into this trap. Keep connecting to the people most important to you. This will keep you moving forward and help restore normality to your life.
You are not alone in vision loss. Take time to make connections with other visually impaired people. As helpful and supportive as sighted loved ones may be, they cannot understand every aspect of what we experience. Having visually impaired friends gives you space where you can share with others the frustrations and victories of living with vision loss. It is also a great space to ask questions you might not be able to get answered elsewhere. Building friendships in the visually impaired community can be transformative and fulfilling.
7. Set goals.
As you adjust to life with vision loss, set your sights on your future. Set specific goals, things you want to accomplish, places you want to go and experiences you want to have. Keep the goals positive, within your control, specific in time and place, and make sure the goal gets you excited. Setting these types of goals shifts your attention from the negative to a positive future. Life does not stop with vision loss, and when you have goals to work toward you can create a happy future for yourself.
Vision loss is a journey that takes time, but it does get better. Be patient with yourself throughout the process, get help when you need it, and embrace learning a new way of being. Vision loss is not an end but a transition point into something new life. You define what the life will be.
Getty image by LaInspiratriz.