Believe me, you can see without eyes!

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I don’t have to explain to Indians and a few others from outside the subcontinent about Lord Shiva’s third eye, elegantly portrayed in pictures of him adorning the prayer rooms of devote Hindus across the country.

Across the world, people believe in the third eye: called the Agnya Chakra in some spiritual practices. Concentrating on the Agnya chakra would open up the Kundalini, or so some practitioners of deep meditation techniques say. Please don’t quote me on this or try practicing it without training.

The point I’m trying to make here is, a person can see without actually physically seeing. Even for those who are born blind, there are methods of observation through other senses and by gleaning visual cues from people populating their environment.

My fellow blind brothers and sisters may not necessarily agree with me, since most of them confuse developing a visual sense with the desperation to belong to the world of seeing people.

But if you are blind and want to write creatively, learning to understand how things appear visually is a helpful practice.

Imagination is key to good writing. I don’t mean inventive, but forming a mental picture; what neuro linguistic programmers would call visualisation.

Years ago, I was listening to self-help and motivational speaker Skip Ross who told the story of a business man starting his day by pausing before the picture of a red Ferrari he pinned to his notice board as a means of spurring himself to performing well. The man was only wanting to buy a car that looks similar to the one on the poster, but to his surprise, he ended up buying the same one.

And yes, I hear all you sceptics out there who dismiss this as some old charlatan’s bad trick.

If you want proof of a creative and immersive book that also has visual element (albeit a minor one), pick up “The Story Of My Life” by Helen Keller or John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Milton was able to see until his thirties and so the visual component in his grandiloquent verses may not be all that surprising, but Keller is a different story.

By writing, I don’t mean dry prose, which anyone can put together flawlessly. Sharpening your senses and using it while writing a scene needs practice and, for a blind person, it needs to be intense.

The urge to write is not just the urge to express oneself, but to re-create something that exists deep down. To me, it’s a picture book with moving elements embedded in them. You open the album with the thick cover and flip through the different phases and ages of your growth. You fix your eyes on one of the pictures that trigger a scene. You are transported to a year nearly 20 years ago, and then you start telling how it felt when your dad walked away without patting you in the back for scoring well in your final exams or getting a medal in your school debate.

You may not be able to see, but developing a deeper visual imagination would help you understand the environment around you better. Sighted people develop the eye for details, while the blind can say with confidence “I can imagine!”

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Here’s the greatest secret to lead a long and passionate life

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More often, it’s not the story, but the actions, the principles and the ideas we glean from their stories that provide us the seedlings for success.

This inspiring person who we’ll be featuring in our first newsletter, for instance, never allows the idea of death stop him from living a wonderful and fulfilling life. When I met him, he could walk and make his audience hang on to each word. A stirring speaker, he lost his sight when he was on the verge of living his dream as a hotelier. One terrible physical deformity after the other followed, but he felt excited about that one thing he wanted to have. He had it very recently and, in the pursuit of getting it, beat his disease to live longer than the average life expectancy of someone with a similar ailment.

Excited by a goal, a dream, a love for something isn’t just for the sake of a career. Pursuing things close to your heart with the single-mindedness of an archer aiming at the bull’s eye helps you discover the true purpose of your life. You’ll stumble on a mission that’d not only change your life, but the lives of thousands like you. And yes, researches (https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/having-a-sense-of-purpose-in-life-may-add-years-to-your-life.html ) have shown that people leading purpose-driven lives turn out to be medical miracles who out-live their diseases.

If you’d like such stories, plus reflections on life principles, positive affirmations you could use in your daily life and review of books that would inspire you in your journey, sign up to our newsletter:

https://forms.convertkit.com/417120?v=7

You’d also be a part of the Facebook community where we exchange inspiring ideas that work for you and things that you’d like to share with others.

Hope to have you as a part of this exciting journey of self-discovery.

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Why self-doubt is the worst enemy

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Friends:

Self doubt is the worst enemy to progress. It often begins like a faint dot in the horizon and snowballs into an avalanche that shatters our confidence. For persons with disability, it’s vital that we snuf out self-doubt before it could sneak up and topple us. Here’s my blogpost on why doubt could be our worst enemy.

View story at Medium.com

As you may have noticed, the blogposts basically focus on the positives of an individual. Like all of you, I thrive on positive energy and in a mission to eliminate all negative thoughts. I firmly believe clearing away negative energy helps us harness our strengths and transform our lives. I’m working on a newsletter with this singular purpose.

I brainstormed with Sujitha, a journalist who wanted to work with me in the project, and we decided it should be more than inspiration. It should have affirmations to create positive change, profiles of stellar personalities who broke their shackles and achieved success, besides book reviews, meditation and a Facebook group to exchange ideas in creating a positive environment.

Yes, this’d be a community!

This is not an exercise to hand the tablet with Ten Commandments we brought from the mountain top. I and Sujitha are learning things as we try transforming our lives as blind people and as professional journalists and share whatever we learn to you so that we all will work in our own ways to make positive difference.

Sign up in the below form if you like to be a part of this community. Also share and pass on this news to friends and family who might like this idea.

Sign up in the form below to be a part of this collective journey towards positive experience.

https://forms.convertkit.com/417120?v=7

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How to cope with gradual vision loss (Part 4)-Grab the white cane

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Nope, my intention is not to bore you out of your mind by talking about white cane again. I write this because so many people still hesitate to grab the white cane and discover the feeling of liberation. No gradual vision loss patient knows that white cane has the magic to put the swagger back on your steps: Go grab your white cane, and it ain’t a shame.

Perhaps the biggest problem a person losing vision gradually faces is the constant question “what do they all think?”

The simple answer they would come to understand as they reconcile with their vision condition is…”it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks.”

Because it’s not “they” who live your life, or face the kind of challenges you face, or struggle to get back on your own two feet when good vision diminishes slowly into a foggy obscurity. And it’s not “they” who would realise for the first time that you need to endure something you never imagined you’d face in a million years.

Psychologically, most of gradual vision loss patients think grabbing the white cane is self-advertisement of their disability. This can’t be more wrong. Because your disability becomes obvious to people around you the moment your vision begins to reduce beyond the legal levels of clarity. At that stage, a shadow would seem like an object you want to circumvent without collision. And, invariably, those displaying false bravado or live in the illusion that their vision is still clear would crash into tables, chairs and virtually anything in their way.

At that stage, patients need a good idea of their space and what occupies them. It could be a room with furniture or a sidewalk that is bumpy and uneven (as is the case in many Indian cities).

But the patients think that the white cane shrinks their personality and their confidence. They build an unsavoury picture that the cane is their enemy because it shows them as inferior before an able-bodied person.

This anxiety is not without substance, as wherever they go, people treat them as different from themselves. If they work in an office, for instance, they are either left alone (especially when they don’t have a disabled companion or a colleague) or excluded as a group of persons with disability since the able-bodied persons have no idea how to include them or think it’s best to leave the persons with disability alone.

I heard that one of the BPOs that recruited blind people excluded them from social activities like going together with lunch or participating in external activities. It took a very long time for them to realise that a person with disability, like anyone else, would like to be included in regular group activities -both official and non-official— because disability doesn’t make them lesser humans and they are still social animals.

While awareness about inclusion is important, it’s equally vital to build the confidence of the blind and the gradual vision loss patients and break the taboo over the white cane.

In the end, it’s in the best interest of the patients –such as those with retinitis Pigmentosa or advanced levels of Macular Degeneration– to grab the white cane. It isn’t the source of shame, but a pole to guide you through difficult physical and psychological terrains.

There’re several organisations across India who offer the Orientation and Mobility programme for the blind, imparting not only cane-based navigation techniques, but also ways of organising their personal space to lead an independent life. National Association for the Blind-Karnataka has the best facilities to teach O&M.

Let’s join hands to promote use of white cane. Let’s make gradual vision loss patients confident and independent, and aware of the space around them.

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Is blindness a sickness, a disability or a different way of experiencing life?

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It’s strangely amusing how some people react to your challenge. There’re those who blame you for finding yourself in a difficult situation. And there’re those who chide you, with all good intentions of course, for having failed to care enough to avoid trouble.

The funny thing is, people just project their own ideas and imaginations in another man’s life without ever bothering to understand his challenges. I never doubt the good intention behind every frantic attempt to rescue us from the bind. But, as people often say, the pathway to hell is paved with good intentions.

As for me, people often react to my challenge with alarm, disbelief, and, more often than not, pity. I once remember a woman in my neighbourhood holding my single hand in two of hers and squeezing it with all her might, all along crying that I should petition to god; demand what I truly deserve.

That experience, as you can see, had left me with a bruised hand and nothing else. And there’re those others who would thrust a sheet of paper in my palm, begging me to consult the doctor and assuring me that my particular affliction would be cured “with god’s will.” And I would stand in the middle of the street or in the railway platform clenching that piece of paper and wondering whether those kindly folks have actually scratched out the address to heaven.

Wherever I turn, I’m made to feel like a sick man; like a desperate man who needs a cure from his condition. But in reality, I’m neither sick nor desperate, though I may be guilty at times of making my acquaintances feel both.

Usually, the conversation with a perfect stranger –who may be observing me from across the seat in the moving train or walking on the crowded pavement dashing against people in a constant hurry-, would go something like this:

“Oh, how very sad? God has no eyes.”

At first I’d assume they’re passing on this wonderful piece of wisdom to someone else. And then it’d occur that the word “eyes” is a dead give away. Just to make sure that I don’t end up looking like a fool, I’d gently nod my head and check if there’s any response from the wise stranger.

“tisk, tisk, tisk…god really has no eyes,” they’d say, or something very similar to that, ramming in the idea that I have a challenge that is out in the open for them to notice.

“Why do you say that?” I’d ask out of curiosity.

“If god can see, he’d have given you your eyes,” the wise stranger would say.

I’d shrug my shoulders in response, not knowing what to say to the statement that revealed the foolhardiness of the speaker than anything.

At that point, the wise stranger would mercifully leave me to my senses, or try imparting more of their wisdom in the guise of guiding me along the crowded pathway, or stuff my hand with the sheet of paper or a visiting card with the doctor’s name.

In the last twenty-seven years, this happened so frequently that I react with indifference to the way people respond to my blindness. In the early days, I used to get worked up, though even back then I was too polite to say something nasty. Or maybe I didn’t feel confident as I do now. The sign of confidence, of course, is to be sure of your situation and not let others plant the seeds of doubt in your head. And avoid reacting to what people say, which would upset them, but save you from letting them feel emotionally better at your expense.

Folks ask me how to stay confident “despite” being blind. When that particular question is put to me, not too often as I’d like since folks usually think a disabled man is always depressed or pained by his condition, I’d laugh aloud much to their astonishment and tell them it’s not despite blindness; it’s because of it.

“You keep your eyes ahead of the street and see the bike or the car zooming by without much care for the pedestrians,” I tell them. “But I don’t see that guy, which saves me the stress and the rage. Not that I’m not aware of him, but I keep myself to the corner and remain there. If I happened to see the dangers I face as a pedestrian, I’d die out of fright or decide not to venture out of the safe zone…home, that is.”

It’s harder to explain that blindness is an experience; disability is an experience of life, just like how the three genders experience life or those walking alive from an accident but find it life changing.

Most people looking at us think disability cripples our ability to sense things around us and find it harder to believe it is the opposite.

If you are blind, you should begin to understand how different your experiences would be from others. This would strengthen your confidence. And if you are able-bodied, you should understand that persons with disability aren’t protagonists of god’s tragic script, but an altogether different group of human beings who offer newer perspectives to life.

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A time machine to the lost summer

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Talking about summer is a joy.

Oh, I know some of you wonder what is so joyful about the time of the year when the heat threatens to melt the ice, the tar and even the brain in spite of the thick skull. I know the frustrations of having to get out of home on a blazing summer afternoon.

Summer conjures up the picture of unbearable heat, the trickle of sweat rolling down the back, the constant burning sensation on the skin and the alarming thought that we’re witnessing the height of global warming that would destroy the world in the not-too-distant-future.

But to some of us old buzzers, memories about summer comprises of tender coconut water, Palmyra fruit and musk melon; the relaxed game of cricket on the dry riverbed; Friday evenings at the ancient temple built of pure granite that had four giant towers facing up to four different roads.

They say childhood is a phase of life that we all have to grow out of, but there’re moments when we yearn for the innocent simple existence, when worries were all about the next game we should play and how quickly the summer vacation was coming to an end like loose change in the pockets of a wastrel prancing around the carnival ground.

Each summer, as the harsh streaks of sunlight pierces every pore of the skin and plasters the shirt to the body in that sickly wetness, my mind boards that invisible time machine and travels down the memory lane to the unforgettable vacations spent in my hometown Virudhachalam.

The time machine usually lands in the bustling junction where the arterial Bazaar Road cuts through the Bridge Road that becomes the famous Cuddalore Road beyond the bridge across the dry river.

People thronged the tea shops displaying the giant pictures of M. G. Ramachandran (the actor-turned first minister of my state often compared with Reagan) and discussed the days political development. Arguments in these corner shops would reach fever pitch when the elections drew closer.

I’d get off the time machine, wait for the crowded buses and tractors laden with green sugarcane sticks to pass and cross the road. My focus would be on the shop displaying the latest issues of magazines and the day’s newspapers. Stacked on the corner of the shop were the latest crime thrillers in Tamil. The shopkeeper, a friend of my uncle, wouldn’t complain if I jumble the paperbag editions of writers like Rajendra Kumar, Pattukottai Prabhakar, Rajesh Kumar, the man hailed as the king among the thriller writers, Devi Bala and a few new comers.

I’d pick up a couple of Rajesh Kumars and walk straight out; I need not worry about paying since uncle would’ve taken care of that. On the second left on the Bazaar Road, adjacent to the police station was the house I spent at least five or six of my summer vacations. The street was usually quiet, except for the bawling of the ice candy man and a few other hawkers. I wouldn’t notice any of them if I was too absorbed in the page-turner.

Nearly 33 years later, 27 of which I’ve spent as a blind man, technology has made it possible to read books again. I endlessly boast of how I could read a book like “The Lust For Life”, a mammoth 1150-page biography of Vincent Van Gogh, thanks to Kindle Reader, VoiceDream (the iPhone app to read ebooks) and Audible (audiobook app), all on my iPhone 7.

But missing is the quiet street, the occasionally chatty neighbours who like to know what you’re reading and the elderly men who lay sprawled on the easy chairs in front of their houses drawing the fresh breeze from the river beyond the line of trees at the far corner of the street and the temple.

There was something so fresh and healthy about that breeze, about that food and that place. It’s true that my time machine transports me to that age, and to that time. I feel the coolness of that breeze in the depths of my skin, but my heart goes heavy when reality brings me back to the present with unrelenting urgency.
It’s, after all, just a memory. I sigh heavily, thinking how quickly the three decades have passed and how life itself seems so different now.

But then, isn’t life all about change?

Aside

Commander cool

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It was 1981, or so I think, when I was about eight. Mom and three of
my siblings were returning from a visit to our grandparent’s house,
about five stations away from ours on the suburban train in Chennai.

It must’ve been a good visit. Grandma used to offer me sweets that I
greatly enjoy eating like ‘Thiruttupal’ or ‘pal kova’ (milk sweet
variety).

I don’t remember how the evening went on. The mental video screen
cliks into action from the time we entered the underground road
crossing and emerged on the other side after exiting the suburban
station on our side.

The sidewalk was encroached and whatever space left for the
pedestrians was too narrow that it was a struggle to walk free for
more than two steps. Mom carried my baby sister. My two brothers were
walking forward and laughing at something that amused them. In those
days, almost everything from a smooth brown pate of a balding man to a
monkey dancing to his master’s tunes amused them.

The street lights suddenly blinked out, plunging the sidewalk into
complete darkness. Light from the hurtling vehicles would momentarily
illumine the sidewalk and recede until the place became dark again. It
felt as if we were walking through the flashlights on a dance floor.

Something hit my eyes. The blow was so strong and painful that I
nearly fainted. My loud cry froze mom and the two little boys walking
in the front.

The blow shocked and pained me into stillness. Though my lungs
gathered air and mouth worked to produce the loud cry, I stood still
like a freshly made iceman. The hand I pressed to my left eye felt
sticky. Liquid Dripped between my fingers. And in my shock, I failed
to realise that I was surrounded by complete strangers.

Mom separated the men and knelt before me, still carrying my baby
sister in one arm.

To her great relief, the cut was on the brow. She spotted the wooden
slab covered by a sheet of tin with sharp edges slanted down from the
wall. Lottery tickets were clipped on a series of ropes running across
the slab. I was walking too close to the makeshift lottery stall and
the slab was low enough to hit my eyebrow.

Someone produced a glass of water or juice or something. Another hand
thrust a strip of bandaid on mom’s hand, which she gratefully stuck on
my bleeding brow.

It was a lucky escape alright. The blow missed my left eye by a few
inches. And what if the long and heavy slab unhinged itself from the
wall and crashed on my head?

But when I think of that incident, I wonder what would’ve been running
in mom’s mind? She certainly wouldn’t have thought about the glory of
motherhood or, as a Tamil saying goes, feeling rich with the wealth of
children around her.

But I know she wasn’t questioning the wisdom, or the lack of same, of
having four children, or blaming her husband for not being on her side
when the need was so great, or blaming us for being who we were. She
acted like how every commander would act at a sudden enemy attack.

Alas, no mother in the world wins the bravery medal.

Aside

How do I handle my gradual vision loss? (part 3)

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3. Don’t feel shy about using your white cane.

On the sunny evening, the room where I stood looked shadowy. The lady standing before me watched the mortified expression on my face with a
mixture of amusement and apprehension.

She was shaking hands with me just a minute before, trying to
demonstrate how I should hold the handle of the white cane. “Just the way you shake hands. Just grip it. That’s all,” she said.

“Here, take this and hold the way I showed,” she told me, extending a brand new white cane. That was when the real horror of the situation hit me hard. I realised for the first time that my blinding condition would no longer be a secret. The moment I carried the white cane, I’d unwittingly advertise my blindness to every stranger and run the risk of being regarded with pity, the one thing every blind and visually impaired person loathes.

I shook my head vigorously and gave back the cane to the instructor. It was I who forced mom to take me to the YMCA to learn mobility with
white cane. But she was confused watching me give back the cane,
obviously not wanting to learn.

The instructor, Mrs. Sahai, wasn’t surprised at all. “He’ll come back
when he understands the need for white cane mobility,” Mrs. Sahai said, giving an affectionate pat on my shoulder as we exited the office room of CBM at YMCA in Chennai/Madras.

Sure enough, I did go back to learn mobility three years later,
because mobility was inevitable to everything I needed to do, right
from commuting on my own to handling myself at workplace. The first
thing every prospective employer asked me was: “Can you commute on your own?” Desperate to beat the odds and land the job, I wanted to say “yes”, but couldn’t do so with honesty.

I learnt the basic concepts of white cane use, but it wasn’t until
2004 I could hone my cane skills, when I visited the National
Association for the Blind-Karnataka. Having convinced my present management that I could work effectively as a journalist despite the obvious limitation, I first visited the sprawling campus of the NAB-K in Bengaluru. There, I was acclimatized with the techniques by the best in the business, the team led by Mr. Jaikumar and Ms. Shobha, ably assisted by Mr. Mohan Naik, Mr. Ramkrishna and Ms. Lalitha Kumari.

It was in the streets of Bengaluru that I first wielded the white cane and walked alone. The experience was liberating. I was the least bit embarrassed about advertising my blindness, but rather felt the air of freedom and confidence for the first time.

Such was the level of my confidence that I began long journeys all alone. I could fly at the time when flying was relatively a new concept for the blind and the airlines was posing additional barriers by refusing to board us. I continue to visit my hometown of Chennai all by myself in the relative safety of air-conditioned rail cars.

White cane mobility is the most emphatic message you can send to your family in terms of your independence. IT’s the best answer to the sceptics among your family and friends who’re not aware that there’re ways to breach the barriers blindness is posing.

Besides bolstering your confidence, walking with the white cane also allows you to find out ways of observing the immediate environment. You learn to process sounds and smells. Like a ballet dancer, you learn to coordinate your movement to the constant flow of traffic and pedestrians. The luxury of passing through the same roads, intersections and sidewalks would give you an intuitive understanding of the obstacles and ways to tackle them.

For those suffering gradual vision loss, white cane mobility is the first and the vital step to restore the lost confidence. It’ll help alleviate the initial trauma. You’d learn to tackle challenges blindness poses with less anxiety and with the assurance that you can crawl your way out of tight corners.

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How do I handle my gradual vision loss? (part 2)

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2. Try for a cure, by all means, but don’t postpone rehab.

 

Should I try for a cure?

 

 

This question is probably the upper-most in the minds of many facing
gradual vision loss. All the family members, friends, the most distant
relatives and even casual acquaintances over a train journey would wax
poetry over magical cures from masters of alternative medicines.

Now, don’t get me wrong on the alternative medicines. I believe the
host of them –such as the Indian systems of Ayur Veda and Siddha—are
an excellent ones for a host of ailments like asthma. But the extent
to which they work on genetically impacted conditions like Retinitis
Pigmentoza largely remain in the unknown zone.

Hope of cure is not entirely lost as several medical research groups
across the world are working on cures, which, given the complexities
of the region of the eye we’re talking about, are complex and
consuming more money and time than any single organisation can afford.

The point that I’d like to emphasise here is about rehabilitation. No,
you don’t have to give up your hope of a cure and the ability to see
clearly one day, but that can co-exist with adjusting yourself to the
sight loss and improving your quality of life.

What could come in the way of people accepting their blinding
condition is shame.

Learning to use a white cane to move around, organising things for
your daily use at home and even learning to perform tasks like cooking
are part of the rehabilitation programmes offered around the world.

Most who’re going blind have a problem in using the white cane for
mobility largely because they are ashamed of holding one. It comes as
a severe blow to their self-image. Believe me, that’s how it felt to
me when I was offered the cane at a training centre in my hometown of
Chennai.

‘Why should I advertise my blindness?’ was the question I asked my
mobility instructor when she handed me the cane on a hot afternoon at
the YMCA campus where the training centre functioned.

The same thought echoes in the minds of many experiencing gradual
vision loss. And, of course, the families don’t help their cause. They
often say why they should learn to be on their own when people at home
are ready to escort them outside, cook and clean for them. Though I’m
not very sure, such a mind-set seems very common in Indian families.

What people fail to understand is that rehabilitation, comprising of
all the things that I mentioned (and probably a couple of other things
like personality development and grooming taught in some
institutions), greatly boosts the self-confidence of the individual
going blind and helps reverse the feeling of inadequacy about
themselves that often accompanies sight loss.

It’s also sad to see that many –even the most educated and savvy –
fail to be aware of the range of technology available to someone who’s
blind that allows them to perform miracles.

Say for instance, the Oober app (which is very accessible on iPhones)
allows them to book their own ride and move around without help. I’ve
done it plenty of times myself.

My question to those who think rehabilitation would somehow shift the
focus from the cure is this: why should you think rehab and cure are
diametrically opposite? Why can’t you pursue rehab to improve your
quality of life, financial independence (that comes as a result of
your ability to perform with distinction at work place) and a
well-rounded life (with pursuit of your hobbies) has to be somehow an
inferior ambition than cure?

Consider these questions, and think again.

(this series would continue)

How do I handle my gradual vision loss? (part 1)

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What does it feel like losing your sight little by little?

 

It’s more like sinking below the earth on the edge of the twilight zone.

 

Sometimes, the sights, the colors and the precise size of the objects look so wonderfully clear. And in the next minute, a hazy mist settles over the picture like powdery snow and everything begins to go out of focus.

 

There’re sudden and scary flashes as if someone had fixed a photo flash inside your eyes. And you blink, thinking that you’d see clearly, because blinking hard had worked in the past. But no. It doesn’t work any more. You come to a sudden and painful realization that your eyesight has been reduced to that misty haze where you see shadowy figures silhouetted against the expanse of a white canvass.

 

That’s how it feels for someone going through gradual vision loss. IT happened to me at my 17th year, and, believe me, I still wake up in the middle of the night, sweat trickling down my forehead, whenever my mind takes me back by twenty five years.

 

I wanted to exorcise the ghosts of that trauma, the pain and the helpless feeling, and so I wrote a book detailing everything I and my family had to face. All it did was to scrape open the old wounds and keep it raw. But I feel reliving the nightmare was worthwhile because the book helped fellow patients of Retinitis Pigmentosa and gradual vision loss to identify with the story and talk about it more openly.

 

The one question that keeps coming back over and over again is: how do I handle gradual vision loss? My book tells my fellow patients the story of what happened to me, but sadly, it’s not an instructional manual or an academic booklet to provide readymade solutions. It’s one way they could purge their own traumas and feel strong enough to workout their solutions.

 

But as someone who had walked through the fire and emerged stronger, I feel it’s important that I address the question personally with a few things I had done and things that worked for me. This is specifically for those going through gradual vision loss and how they handle their situation. I hope this is useful.

 

  1. Verbalize what you feel.

 

The most obvious challenge for someone who is going through vision loss suddenly and significantly is that people around them almost cannot understand the extent of their impairment.

 

People with Retinitis Pigmentosa or other retinal conditions can have vision loss in a matter of months or even weeks. No way would their parents, siblings or other close family would realize that something they could see so clearly just a week before is completely invisible to them now.

 

A friend of mine who studied science subjects at school had difficulties observing the plant cells on a microscope. Obviously he did that effortlessly a few weeks before and is now struggling to even fix his eye over the eyepiece.

 

He couldn’t open up to his teachers since he wasn’t sure whether they’d believe him, while he couldn’t carry on with the charade of doing his lab work any more. His inability to clear the school exam was blamed on his mental weakness. It took several years for his family and teachers to realize he was going blind.

 

So, it’s important you verbalize your condition to your family, friends and even neighbors of your colony, and the puzzled bus conductor, who like to know why you didn’t reciprocate their smile or a friendly wave or why you went dangerously close to falling over the sidewalk.

 

Some of you may be saying this’s easier said than done, but think of it. People who’re used to seeing you as a normal human being will have no clue as to how serious your problem is. Doctors can medically confirm your blindness, but for those who haven’t come across gradual vision loss, it wouldn’t strike unless you show the obvious signs of blindness.

 

(To be continued)