Do you ever wonder why family, friends, or even complete strangers say the things they do about you and your vision loss? You know, things that make you go “Hmmmm”. Well, chances are, they’re just trying to be helpful or encouraging the best way they know how. Some people may be at a loss for words and what they end up saying wasn’t meant to be patronizing or sarcastic. Then there are others who need to keep their damn mouth shut.
I know how other people’s comments can sometimes be a bit ridiculous, and yet, I know they really do mean well. Over the years, I have learned a few ways to ignore, own, deflect, or simply appreciate people’s comments in regards to my vision loss. Perhaps you will relate to one or all of the following comments that have been said to me.
Ummm. Thanks, but no thanks to this and any other random health advice. You know the ones I’m talking about – everything from “You need to go to this eye specialist I know,” and “You should try this new detox diet I saw online,” to “You need to try these vitamins I sell in my business, I’ll send you a link!”. ugh.
Response strategy: Start by giving the person offering the advice the benefit of the doubt. They likely are offering this advice because they care about you and want to help. And such recommendations are better than the alternative option where they either ignore you all together or ignore the fact that you are legally blind. Simply offer your thanks and appreciation for their concern and information. If they don’t back off, you might also tell them that you have a great doctor or several specialists who provide you with excellent care and are up-to-date on the latest treatments/research for your condition. You can also make this a teachable moment to increase awareness about your type of vision loss.
Let’s own this one! Such a comment usually comes on the heels of people first learning of your vision loss or hearing of the challenges you face because of your vision. Take it as a compliment! It certainly beats hearing “Wow, you’re a miserable mess”. Right?
Response strategy: First of all, you could consider it a win that you are successfully hiding the struggles and challenges nobody knows about. It’s not that you’re ashamed of them, you just don’t have to put it out there 24/7! Think of it this way – when we look at an Olympic gold medalist, we see them proudly wearing their gold medal after crushing their competition. But how often do we think of this athlete in grueling workouts – training and practicing their sport for hours every day. Pushing through the pain, sweat, and fears to be the best they can be. Hmmm? Not that often. Instead, we just see an olympic champion – a freakin’ badass. Perhaps that’s what others are thinking when they say, “Wow, you’re amazing!”. C’mon, own it. Being seen as a freakin’ badass isn’t such a bad thing, is it?
What What? Yep. I’ve heard this one a few times. This is the comment you may hear after a conversation about assistive technology or accessibility features on your smartphone. You may get the overwhelming urge to say “Are you effing kidding me?” and angrily assure them that there is NO good time to go blind! Hey, I totally get it! In fact, I’ve been there, done that debate. But we know what they’re really trying to say, right? The sighted people around us are so amazed by what today’s technology can do for people who are legally blind, (i.e. software programs, magnifiers, CCTVs, wearable and assistive devices, phone apps, etc. etc.) they are sincerely happy for us! Happy that we have so much available to help us be as independent as possible.
Response strategy: Let’s not get all bent out of shape here. As someone who lost her vision 5 years ago, I can now say that I agree with this comment. They are right! Don’t you agree that today’s technology for the blind or visually impaired is amazing? If someone is unfortunately going or has gone blind in 2018, it is a good time. Many things in life are now made accessible and the assistive technology available is insane! If you have been blind for many, many years… I suspect you would agree that losing vision today is better than losing vision 10, 20, 30 or more years ago! So, let’s all calm down and keep our cool.
There are ignorant self-appointed judging a**holes In the parking lots and streets of every city or town. Most likely you will never see this person again so who cares what they think.
You have a handicapped placard because the only entity that matters in this situation, is your state’s department of motor vehicles. The DMV, (and your doctor), recognizes that you have a disability. So, you have that powerful agency in your corner, unlike the idiot who’s passing uninformed judgment.
Response strategy: Just let it go. Ignore it. But if you feel you must say something, you could stop and make this a teachable moment about invisible disabilities. Try not to start the conversation with “Oh. No. No you didn’t. Who the hell do you think you are?”. Well, at least don’t say it out loud!! Honestly, I’m not so sure that a person making such judgmental comments is in the right frame of mind to stop, listen, and learn from you. Use caution if you take this approach.
While living with vision loss can be difficult at times, having strategies for responding to unsolicited comments can help you take these encounters in stride. People will continue to say the darndest things to those living with vision loss, or any disability, including the famous, “Everything happens for a reason my dear.”. – for. the. love. of……. – stop it! – So, keep your head up and your heels high, and celebrate the efforts you put into living your best life every day.
• In regards to comment #1 – Do your own research or check with a medical professional before buying into a diet, product, or service you know nothing about.
• The “Response Strategies” I mention above are just suggestions, nothing more. I am not telling you, or anyone else, how to handle the comments you receive. I only offer these as ideas for you.