When a person is diagnosed with an eye condition, or low vision, whether progressive or finite, it can be devastating. Yet it is vital to understand that grief, shock and acceptance are part of the sight loss pathway.
What do I do now?
It is not just about feeling overwhelmed and having to get used to a different life. It is also important to understand the sight loss pathway.
By connecting with the right optical professionals who have the knowledge and experience to signpost you to relevant services, you can begin to visualise your new life unfolding before you, instead of closing down. This will include counseling support, support for rehabilitation and independent living with sight loss.
Counseling can be one to one support, group telephone or online support. The RNIB is the best starting point and you can ask to be referred to the Sight Loss Counseling team and receive a swift response for assessment. The service is accredited by the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and is completely confidential. There is no charge for sessions or calls. It is important Counseling professionals have sight loss awareness training so they can have a greater understand of what a person is going through with sight loss enhancing their empathy.
Is anyone there?
Feeling you are alone and unable to cope are common symptoms of sight loss and coming to terms with this life-changing condition is possible, with the right approach.
Reactions to being diagnosed with sight loss, although variable, tend to be similar to bereavement. Feelings of denial, anger and fear are typical and nothing to be ashamed of.
One door closes…another door opens
In fact, these emotions are part of a healing process. Recognise that there will be a period of adjustment as you gradually transfer from the life you used to have to the life you have now.
I don’t really have sight loss…do I?
Shock and denial come high on the list of emotions. You may, at first, be unable to believe the diagnosis or that your life will change. Over time, you will find new ways by yourself to cope with a new situation.
Get out of my way!
Anger and questioning are common feelings. People frequently get angry with the very people who are doing their best to help you, such as friends, family and professionals. You may have a target for anger, such as after an accident or you may feel anger as a response to this unwelcome change happening to you.
Helplessness, fear, panic attacks and anxiety are all part of the pathway on which you now find yourself; accepting what cannot be put back can be very difficult to deal with.
…and I’m crying
Sadness and grief are part of the bereavement you feel, especially if you have been used to leading a very active, independent life. And they can lead to depression. Listen to BBC Radio 4 where Peter White interviews Diane FonSeka and she explains how her close friend, Nina Davies was let down by a lack of sight loss awareness from counseling professionals and Nina sadly ended her life.
Who am I?
Loss of identity and renewal of identity can affect anyone of any age. You may no longer feel capable of being a parent, the income provider, the sporty, fit you of old, the artist or professional. Adjusting to a new identity takes time and you may discover new ways of fulfillment.
Talk to somebody
Coping and ‘getting on with it’ are fine but you may need to allow space for how you are really feeling and make room for a process of management which can strengthen you and increase your ability to cope.
By connecting with people who can help you with your finances, income worries, daily activities, equipment, transcriptions, job prospects, making new friends, returning to a favourite sport or starting a fresh activity, and overcoming the embarrassment that you find the simplest of tasks difficult, you may be surprised at how a new and enjoyable life can open so many new doors.
For more information on sight loss awareness training visit: https://visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/training/visual-impairment-awareness-training/