Help Yourself

When you first notice that there is something wrong with your eyes it is normal to be in shock and then have fear and anxiety about your future. Once you have mourned the loss of your sight and have accepted your situation, it is easier to take responsibility for it.

It is easy to rely on loved ones to help you and often they shoulder the burden, but feel too guilty to mention it because they are not the ones with the problem. They do not want you to feel like a burden. If you take charge of some of the problem areas and keep communication open about things you do need help with, it makes for happier relationships. For example, when our children were younger, my husband would go off and do a full day of teaching and then still need to do the shopping for the family and then come home to loads of marking. At one stage I asked him if there was anything I could help out with to lighten his load, he said that it would be great if I could make a plan to get the shopping done.

I started with online shopping once a week, making sure there was enough milk and bread for the freezer. Then, talking to friends, they all said they go shopping all the time. I asked one friend a week to take me shopping on a Tuesday morning while the kids were at school. Eventually I had 5 friends each taking me with them to the shops on a particular week of a month and we booked it like that for a whole year. In this way I got to spend time with my friends, my anxiety about how to get to the shops was soothed, my friends enjoyed not shopping alone and we got to laugh a lot. Now I have a regular shopping buddy as she dislikes grocery shopping anyway. We make it a catch up time and often pray for each other. We also love riding our trolleys down the ramp to the lower parking level (the only time I get to drive a vehicle).

No blaming

Sometimes it is easy to blame people for not understanding your situation, but it is your responsibility to educate the folk around you so that you feel safe and calm. Let others know what you need. For example, on hearing that you have a sight problem many people grab you by the hand to lead you. This can leave you feeling helpless and out of control. If you say, “Can I rather take your arm and follow you?” You are not only educating them, but lessening your own stress.

Using a symbol cane (one segment shorter than a mobility cane) lets people know that you are visually impaired. It gives you the freedom to ask for help without folk thinking that you are brain impaired or just strange. (See my story ‘The Great Pretender’). It is an initial challenge to see yourself as ‘blind’, but I found that swallowing my pride and using my symbol cane has reduced my anxiety in dealing with the public. If someone greets me by name I can say, “Hi, who are you”, or, “Who is there?”

Using a symbol cane has allowed me to use public transport freely. Our South African society (or traffic angels as I call them) is very helpful and friendly when they see a need. See article on Public Transport.

How are the general public to know how to help the visually impaired unless you educate them, and appreciate them as you go?

Sort out your home and work environment

There are general principles that you can consider when you come across a frustrating situation or task. (From article read at Helen Keller low vision support group, Durbanville , July 2014)

These can help you identify how you can change the environment to suit your needs.

They are:               Lighting; Contrast of colour; Size; Position

See hints and tips for more specific information.

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