“This is my long Facebook post from 2 years ago (2017). Every single word is still very true today. We are still seeking compassion and still trying to educate others. If you haven’t read it, please do. If you have, thank you! It is a great reminder about what my family goes through still.” ~ Chrissy Terry
So, I share many moments from my life to try to give those around me a little perspective into the daily struggles and accomplishments of a blind person. Before I became blind, I knew one person that was blind, so I know most people don’t have a reference for this knowledge, nor do they understand there is a spectrum for sight loss. No matter where my family and I go, we can’t just shop, eat, or go to the beach without running into uneducated people. I say this not to be rude, but it takes a toll on you when people are constantly making comments to you or your family about your disability. For instance, the stereotype of if my eyes are not “weird”, I’m not wearing sunglasses (I do a lot, even inside when my eyes hurt, but not always), and if I’m using technology then I don’t “look” blind to them. So, what does blind look like? Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles? These are the references for most people. However, this is very, very inaccurate for 85% of the blind population.
Here is the definition of blindness from the American Foundation for the blind (AFB):
“Blindness: A wide array of conditions ranging from a limited ability to see objects with special aids to the absence of light perception. Most people who are blind have some light perception.”
After just over 21 months of sight loss, I’m still getting used to it. When this type of loss occurs in your life, you don’t automatically know how to deal with it or know what is available to help you deal with it, if you have never experienced it before. However, you adjust what you can and use what you have. I’m still learning what is useful to me and what’s not.
In my family, we joke about my blindness because that’s how we get through it. I say we, because what people outside the four walls of my house don’t know is how it affects my family and the stresses we go through on a daily basis. We have faith, we are strong, we are optimistic, we overcome, but we are human.
No matter how strong we are, it often becomes difficult to hear people repeatedly say that they “forget I’m blind because I get around so well” or “I see you around, you must be better.” Well, thank you because I do try my best. However, we can’t forget, it’s a daily reminder for me and my family. No, I won’t get better, I choose daily to be the best I can each day. Every time someone screams at me because I have a dog and they’re afraid (you just scared me by screaming in my face and he’s in harness, he’s my guide dog, my eyes), every time someone tells me I shouldn’t take a dog into some place (kind of need him to get around and not trip or run into things), every time we go anywhere knowing we can never truly have a “normal” anything because things are different, it’s a reminder.
I don’t expect people to fully understand because most people have never been a young mother (yes, I consider myself young!) dealing with sight loss. For most, their dealings with sight loss occur in the older generation that have already raised children and grandchildren. Those people that have had the chance to see their children accomplish major life events, graduations, weddings, and such. As hard as it may be on those caregivers of the older, it is so much more difficult for a young child to understand why their parent can no longer see. Or for a mother to try to understand why her child can no longer see. Don’t get me wrong, sight loss at any age is a very life-changing, emotional loss that should never be downplayed by anyone.
My hope is that people will be compassionate, but many times that is just not the case. What people don’t see is that someone is usually with me giving me clues to what is going on and who is around me, or I’m using what I have (peripheral’s, hearing, smell, shadows, movement) to figure it out. I also use the assistive technology available to me to do things that supposedly “blind people can’t do” and I love the advances that are making things more accessible for me. There have been many caring people that have helped us and I am truly thankful for them, friends and total strangers.
I love the new relationships and deeper friendships that this loss has allowed. I love that I am able to share my faith with people daily because of my disability. I have always been independent and will continue to seek ways to do what I’ve always done and love doing, just in a different way. I love educating people about sight loss, guide dogs, accessibility, and overcoming, because that’s what I am, I am an educator and always will be!
If you related to this, you cam also read Chrissy’s first Blind Reflection here – I Watched My Children’s Faces Fade As I Lost My Sight | A Blind Reflection by Chrissy Terry