There is an advert on tv at the moment that you might have seen. In it, Trevor Mcdonald states that, “we are defined by what we see.” Each time I see this ad my blood boils on behalf of the two million people in the UK alone who have a “significant” sight loss. (RNIB)
Losing a substantial amount of my own vision in 2008 was utterly life changing and continues to have the biggest impact on my life of all my MS symptoms.
Since my eldest daughter started school I have felt the pressure to make new ‘mum friends.’ The school gate gang can feel impenetrable enough for any slightly nervous mum but when faced with visual impairment there’s a new layer of awkwardness.
My visual impairment is not obvious. Having lived most of my life sighted, I am adept at making fake eye contact. My vision loss is also central rather that peripheral, meaning that I don’t use a cane or an assistance dog.
I can’t recognise faces until I’m what can only be described as uncomfortably close! I get to know a person’s gait and body shape if I know them well which allows me to recognise some people from more of a distance. I fear many people think I’m just incredibly rude or more than a little strange when I either ignore them all together or smile inanely at everyone hoping I might know some of recipients.
My visual impairment has caused some good moments, like plunging my fingers in to a bowl of humous at a bbq thinking it was peanuts but on the whole, it’s a pain in the arse.
Visual impairment has taken away my ability to drive. Sending back my license was a real low point. Although I tried to make light of it by suggesting to my ophthalmologist that I could sell it on ebay, he didn’t laugh.
I have become better at just saying I can’t read something. I used to just take a stab in the dark at form filling. I used to pay for goods without knowing how much I was spending. Now I’m ok to say to staff in shops and restaurants that I can’t see. It’s a lot harder, however, in social situations, like the school gate. This is something I need to work on.
I know it’s just an advert, but to say we are defined by what we see suggests that we cannot experience the fullness of life with limited senses. We feel our experiences, our relationship and our surroundings much more than we see them or hear them. We feel them from within, no matter how our physical self perceives them.