Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published on Second Sense’s Second Opinions blog.
Feeling the Safety in Numbers
There is safety in numbers and comfort in being one of a crowd. But, sometimes it is necessary to see if you can stand alone. It means facing fears of failure and putting to the test everything you have learned up to that point.
Blind service agencies and support groups provide a safe haven when you are adjusting to vision loss. You are supported emotionally and you are learning the many practical skills to be independent again. Who wouldn’t want to spend time in a place where you feel helped, valued, and accepted?
Why Ever Leave?
You have probably heard that adjustment to vision loss is a process. As someone who teaches independence skills, I enjoy reminding people of how far they have come. A cooking student was recently struggling to mince garlic with her chef knife—more from her frustration of the little garlic pieces sticking to the knife and “disappearing” than any lack of skill. I asked her if she remembered her first classes in the kitchen. She did remember the dishes she prepared but had completely forgotten that she used to be too scared to use a sharp knife. So much learning needs to be done that people tend to look only ahead to the next hurdle rather than taking a moment to look back and celebrate the journey so far.
Sometimes the realization that your rehabilitation program is coming to an end can cause anxiety. Life after your time with the rehabilitation professionals and all your new friends with vision loss can seem like a big, blank void. It is easy—and tempting—to let services provide the structure for your everyday routine.
Remember, whatever “adjustment to vision loss” means to you, it is a journey. All journeys have an end. A day will come when you should consider striking out on your own path, even if just temporarily.
Signs It’s Time to Fly On Your Own
Once the emotional adjustment to vision loss is under control, it is easy to get hooked on learning the skills needed to be independent. It takes time to learn how to use a computer again and gain orientation and mobility skills. During the learning process, you experience the pleasurable and stimulating feeling of taking control of your life again. You meet new and inspirational people. The world of people with vision loss becomes a very comfortable, happy place.
There is nothing wrong with that!
But, why not take it one step further? First ask yourself these questions.
- When you wake up in the morning do you generally feel pretty good?
- As you go about your day, are you able to manage getting around by yourself and finding things you need, without depending too much on anyone else?
- Do you feel fairly confident and safe as you go about your daily business?
- Are you spending any time doing things you like to do rather than practicing skills or going on mobility lessons?
- Has your rehabilitation professional told you that you have reached the goals set in your individual rehabilitation plan?
If you have answered “yes” to these questions, then ask yourself:
What would you do with your time if you didn’t go to the support group today or attend a social event at the local blindness agency?
After all the challenges of adjusting and learning, you may be ready for the next step of taking your new self out into the sighted world. Why not try:
- taking a community class in something that interests you,
- going to a movie or a restaurant by yourself,
- volunteering at a place that has nothing to do with vision loss, or
- getting back in touch with any sighted friends that have dropped off the radar.
Just as the onset of vision loss can cause a person to question what has value and meaning in their life, so too should the end of rehabilitation training. It is an opportunity to explore.
Gaining a New Perspective
Time away from your old routine will give you space to explore who you are now and what you truly wish to be doing with your time. Try taking a break from the support group or from training. You may find that you are more independent than you ever dreamed you could be.
If you decide to return to the support group or resume services, everything will look different to you. You will see how far you have flown!
Polly is the Director of Rehabilitation Services at Second Sense. She runs a variety of low vision support groups, trains support group leaders and has written a manual for running a group: Starting and Maintaining a Vibrant Vision Loss Support Group.
Read about Polly Abbott.