Sight Loss and Mental Health
So….. I haven’t posted any blog updates for quite some time, Many reasons for this, some of which were:
- Me blogging about sight loss and how I feel – does it actually matter to anyone else but me?
- I haven’t got anything to say that hasn’t already been said in other places, buy other people
- Do I really want to be that person that sits, and writes for hours on end about “woe is me”?
- Whats the point?
Well, when I really think about it:
- I know that my friends and some of my family are interested in what I have to say about the topic, and how it makes me feel.
- I may have nothing new to say, but sometimes, if many people say the same thing, it can bring about positive changes
- I do sometimes feel “woe is me”, but then other times, I feel great. I don’t think this is just a blind guys life, I think we ALL have these feelings from time to time in our life
- The point is, if it helps me to put down in words whats floating around in my head, then it sometimes helps me heal, helps me to break down what it is that’s getting to me. Also, if it helps just one person going through sight loss, then it has got to be worth it.
- And finally – If it doesn’t interest someone that clicks onto it, they can always lt, they can always click back off – no harm done
So, here I go…….
Where I am Visually at the moment with my Sight Loss
In April of this year, my vision category was changed from Partially Sighted to Severely Sight Impaired (Blind). This shook me to the core. Just when I thought I was getting used to life as someone who is partially sighted, then the carpet is pulled from under my feet once again – talk about kicking a man whilst he is down! So in 11 months, my sight had deteriorated significantly, So, once again, I am trying my very best to get to grips with it, and prove to myself (and others) that I can still have a positive and happy life, living as a blind man.
Am I completely blind?
No, I actually am not. Blindness is a spectrum, like many things, it varies from person to person. Only about 4% of registered “blind” people have absolutely NO vision whatsoever.
My vision currently can be described as having almost NO field vision – so, if I am looking straight ahead, I don’t see anything to my right or left, or above and below.. What I can see is very blurred ( I can see people and objects, but in a very blurred state, like looking through thick fog. I could see that a person is there, but I can’t make out their facial expressions, their eyes or mouth etc
When you see the Consultant ophthalmologist part of the referral is to have your eye test – same as when you go to the Opticians, and read the letters on the chart in front of you. This is called The Snellen test. The following will hopefully explain a little more, and make it easier to understand normal vision, partially sighted and blind vision ( For registration purposes)
The Snellen test for visual acuity
Visual acuity is measured using the Snellen scale. A Snellen test usually consists of a number of rows of letters which get smaller as you read down the chart.
On the Snellen scale, normal visual acuity is called 6 / 6, which corresponds to the bottom or second bottom line of the chart. If you can only read the top line of the chart then this would be written as 6 / 60. This means you can see at 6 metres what someone with standard vision could see from 60 metres away.
The figures 6 / 60 or 3 / 60 are how the result of a Snellen test are written. The first number given is the distance in metres from the chart you sit when you read it. Usually this is a 6 (for 6 metres) but would be 3 if you were to sit closer to the chart (3 metres away).
The second number corresponds to the number of lines that you are able to read on the chart. The biggest letters, on the top line, correspond to 60. As you read down the chart, this number gets smaller as it correspond to the lines with smaller letters. Someone with standard vision can read towards the bottom of the chart. Standard vision can be referred to 6 / 6 vision.
For example, if the second line of the chart was marked as the 36 line, a person with standard vision (6 / 6) would be able to read this line on the chart when it was 36 metres away. However, if you had a Snellen score of 6 / 36, you would only be able to read the same line at 6 metres away. In other words you need to be much closer to the chart to be able to read it. Generally the larger the second number is, the worse your sight is.
Sight Impaired (Partially Sighted)
- Visual acuity of 3 / 60 to 6 / 60 with a full field of vision.
- Visual acuity of up to 6 / 24 with a moderate reduction of field of vision or with a central part of vision that is cloudy or blurry.
- Visual acuity of 6 / 18 or even better if a large part of your field of vision, for example a whole half of your vision, is missing or a lot of your peripheral vision is missing.
Severely Sight Impaired (Blind)
- Visual acuity of less than 3 / 60 with a full visual field.
- Visual acuity between 3 / 60 and 6 / 60 with a severe reduction of field of vision, such as tunnel vision.
- Visual acuity of 6 / 60 or above but with a very reduced field of vision, especially if a lot of sight is missing in the lower part of the field.
Why talk about mental health in relation to sight loss?
For the simple reason that, Sight loss has had a great impact on my state of mind (mental Health) – MASSIVE.
Until I lost my sight, I thought I had gone through the odd spate of depression at various times throughout my life. Never talked about it much, never really wanted to, and like the typical man, got over it in my own way, by myself (or so I thought). However, th sight loss thing, especially the Blind classification has taken me to depths I didn’t know existed.
Sight loss really is a Life Changer. End of life it is not ( although, at several points along the way, I thought it may be), but it sure is a massive wake up call that life is short and that I have taken so many things for granted over the years to this point. I try, always to put on a brave face in public, with friends, with family, colleagues and associates. Laughing things off and making light of it all – but in reality, sometimes (not all of the time) l feel like life really sucks and that it is just too hard to function and have a normal and fulfilling life. People tell me how brace I am, how inspirational I am, and how amazingly well I am coping. I often think, when people say this – I have gotten onto a train or a bus, gone into town or to the shops or for a walk on my own for almost 50 years – so, why, when I get on a bus now, is it so amazing and inspirational. I am not saving lives, I am not making doing anything out of the ordinary – and If I don’t get on that bus, or get on that train, then I am stuck inside these four walls. So, in reality, I am doing them because it is a necessity, not because I am brave or inspiring.
A lot of the time, I choose to take the easy route, and simply confine myself to the four walls I call home, where I feel relatively safe. It scares the hell out of me to get out my white cane, put on my dark glasses and walk out of the front door, because there may be an obstacle on the pavement or a group of people that make comments as I walk by. I feel foolish feeling around with my cane and walking stooped like an elderly frail man. And, when I make it to the shops, then I can’t see what’s on the shelves or find what I’m looking for by myself.
What if I get off at the wrong stop, what if the taxi driver asks me which way to go, or is it the next left. What if I misjudge the traffic and walk into the road and a car slams on its brakes and honks the horn at me. What if I bump into someone and they have a go at me – all manner of things go through my mind ( and usually because all of these things have happened at some point during my sight loss journey.
I used to be a very social person, and always good in a group or one to one – now, I feel quite intimidated in both settings and nervous. Missing visual queues, talking to someone, to find they actually left or are now talking to someone else, thinking they have finished speaking, so, I chime in, only to realise I stopped them mid flow.
The Future for me
Due to the speed of how my vision has deteriorated over the last year, I do. have a constant worry and total fear of loosing ALL my sight. I don’t not want to recognise my son, or his Girlfriend, my partner, my dear friends or my pets. It scares me that I won’t see those important events that happen to people in my inner circle, that mean such a lot. I panic about my future, and how or indeed if I will cope.
So, really sight loss has a terrific impact on your mental health
However, then, I so far have managed to tell myself that:
- There is AMAZING support out there that I have had, and continue to receive.
- The World isn’t completely bad – loosing my sight has made me realise that there is a huge amount of good people out there
- Those who love me and hold me dear, will do so, regardless of my health or capabilities
- I have managed to adapt to Partial Sightedness, so this is just another step
- That I am lucky that I have had many years of full vision, so, that when someone Tells me there is a yellow rose in bloom, even though I can’t really see it now, I can smell it, I can feel it, and best of all, I have a picture in my mind from when I could see – so, I can imagine what it looks like.
- I have The most amazing partner who loves me unconditionally and is there by my side for me no matter what. Who has proved his love for me in so many ways this last 12 months beyond belief.
- I have friends and neighbours who are The best ever and GENUINELY want to help and support me
At the times when I remind myself of the above positives, then I am ok, and life is once again good. I need to constantly work on reminding myself of these things when I am at my lowest.
In my next post, I am going to tell you all about my recent Cruise around The British Isles. The Highs, The Lows and the Laughs
I hope you have found an element of interest, m insight and understanding by reading this, and as always, thank you for your time, and hope that you will share these things with your own friends, so that together we can make the World a little more understanding and accepting of our differences. I am also as always very happy to hear any comments you. may want to make
Till next time……