Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Alpaca Adventures

It’s that time again where I reprimand myself for not blogging enough and promise myself I will find the hours to blog more in future. There’s so much I want to get down so I can look back and appreciate the memories in years to come.

A couple of months ago I turned thirty-one. The build up to turning thirty seemed to go on forever yet suddenly thirty is already history. I always wondered when I would feel like a grown-up and I think thirty-one is the age. I don’t know how to explain it, I feel I hold myself slightly differently now. I feel more mature and dare I say wise. Saying all of that this year for my birthday I spent it feeding baby alpacas, hardly the most adult thing to do in the world, but it was a fabulous experience.

The more birthdays you have, the harder it gets deciding what to do. Then when you are visually impaired certain activities are ruled out like escape rooms, laser quest, go carting and paintballing for their lack of accessibility. I would love to try them all if I could. Going out for meals and to the cinema is nice, but they don’t always feel special. Deciding to feed baby alpacas was very last minute and something I thought the other half would enjoy as he is a massive animal lover. I didn’t think of myself so much. It would just give me something a bit different to do on my birthday.

There has been a lot in the press in recent months about the interaction between humans and wild animals. Swimming with dolphins, riding elephants and stroking lions are becoming frowned upon, as we are becoming more aware of the cruelty behind the scenes or the impact it has on their natural state. I don’t know if feeding baby alpacas is deemed ethical. However, I went to a lovely alpaca farm where the animals seemed to be well taken care of.

I have to stress I keep writing baby alpacas as it is quite significant. I didn’t sign up to feed adult alpacas, I was going to feed baby alpacas. Before the experience started we had a little health and safety brief as we would be entering the alpaca enclosure. They explained how to approach, feed and respect them. I asked my boyfriend how big a new born alpaca was and he told me they were knee height. You can picture my surprise then when we entered the enclosure and one casually nudged me on the shoulder! Apparently baby alpacas grow up super-fast. They were definitely all at least five foot in height and before anyone panics, the mums were in the enclosure too.

I like to put myself in situations outside of my comfort zone even if it means I am scared silly. So yes after learning how big baby alpacas actually are, I spent quite a lot of time gasping and generally being a wimp. Nevertheless, I did put my big girl knickers on and gradually relaxed. The animals were friendly in nature and eagerly ate the food from your hand. Their fur was extremely soft to the touch, a texture so unique.

I can’t recall seeing an alpaca when I had useful vision. Having the opportunity to interact with them allowed me to create an image in my mind’s eye, one I never would have truly got if someone was simply describing. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend all animal experiences for ethical reasons, if you are visually impaired and you get the chance to get up close and personal with an animal, go for it, enjoy it and treasure it.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Support Selina To Save Sound

Fundraising. It is such a challenging task. There are so many worthy causes out there and so many charities seeking donations. In an ideal world we would donate to every charity if we could. I always try and give a few pounds here and there. I like the feeling that it gives me. The feeling that I am making a difference all be it small. Giving to charities definitely feels easier than requesting donations. Yet this is what I am here to do because the cause is something so personal and possibly life changing for me and my family.

Norrie Disease. It has stolen my vision and is threatening to steal my hearing too. It has stolen my brother’s vision, given him profound learning difficulties and also threatens to steal his hearing as well. It has also affected two of my uncles. One unfortunately passed away before I was born. He was blind and had profound learning difficulties like my brother and an epileptic fit (another symptom of Norrie Disease) took his life in his early twenties. My other uncle had his sight stolen at birth and Norrie Disease has already stripped him of his hearing. In short Norrie Disease has wreaked havoc on my family.

The cruel fact of the matter is that there is no cure for Norrie Disease. However, there is a glimmer of hope if the Norrie Disease Foundation can raise £62500 by February 2020. Please read on to find out more and how you can help.

Imagine A World Without Sight. Now imagine it without sound too. This is the reality facing people like me with Norrie disease.
Norrie disease is an ultra-rare genetic condition causing blindness/severe visual impairment from birth and deafness which can start in early childhood. In addition to this some also have issues with cognitive development.
There is currently no cure for Norrie disease.
There are around 40 known cases of Norrie disease in the UK and 500 globally; however we expect there are more families affected by this condition currently undiagnosed. Research into Norrie disease is severely underfunded and the current research looking into treating the hearing loss finishes in September 2020. If this research is not continued then children and families with Norrie disease have no hope in finding a cure before they lose their hearing as well. The progressive hearing loss is one of the most devastating symptoms of Norrie disease and we desperately need to continue this research but we need your help to do so.
The NDF was created in 2017 to respond to an acute need – to provide a support network, accurate info for families and professionals, and now, new research into Norrie Disease. The NDF is run solely by volunteers.
The Norrie Disease Foundation’s Vision is
To find a cure for Norrie disease hearing loss and to ensure the community has the support they need to live the lives they deserve.
Blind children with Norrie will go deaf too unless we fund further research now! Please help!
Thanks to Sparks and GOSHCC we have a chance to change this if we can raise £62500 by February 2020 to move forwards with pioneering research into stopping the hearing loss. Research into Norrie disease has already made a difference but the only way we can get more answers and results is to get more research done. Please join us on our journey of finding a cure - every single step is important.
This research has the potential to completely change the lives of those living with the condition - being able to identify why the hearing loss occurs, and when and what treatment to either halt or prevent the hearing loss is of huge importance to the Norrie community. Sound is incredibly important to those with visual impairment, so developing an additional sensory loss in late childhood/early adulthood is particularly hard for the individual. It is anticipated that the findings from the successful project would be adaptable to other relatable deaf/blind research projects.
If we don't raise a minimum of £62500 by February 2020 we can't stop our blind community becoming deaf too - please help us change this. A few ways you can help are outlined below-

Jeans for Genes
It would mean the world if you could get your child’s school, workplace or community group to sign up and hold a Jeans for Genes day between Monday 16 and Friday 20 September 2019. I am happy to go into your child’s school (within Leicestershire) with Guide Dog Calvin if they do sign up. All funds raised will go towards the research project. Feel free to pass my email address: selinalitt@googlemail.com to any schools. You can send photos of your Jeans for Genes day to me and we will post them across our social media. It is REALLY important when signing up that you select the Norrie Disease Foundation otherwise we won’t receive the donations. You can sign up here.

Face Book
Why not hold a fundraiser on Face Book in aid of the Norrie Disease Foundation when your birthday comes around. It is so simple to set up. Face Book will suggest setting up a fundraiser a week before your birthday. I did one this year and was delighted to raise £200 for the NDF. A massive thanks to my friends and family. Just one little thing to note, the search box is a bit silly so make sure you type ‘The Norrie’ in the edit area, as typing ‘Norrie’ doesn’t bring up the NDF for some unknown reason!

Amazon Smile
The next time you shop on Amazon instead of going through the main site go through Amazon Smile and select the Norrie Disease Foundation as your chosen charity. Amazon will then donate a small percentage to the NDF.

Run or Ride
Why not take a look at the running and cycling events the NDF has secured charity places for on their website. If you already have a place in an event you can still raise funds for the NDF, just let them know and you will be supported all the way.

DIY
Alternatively, you could create your own fundraiser. Perhaps a quiz or curry night? Football or tennis tournament? Fun day or music concert? Whatever it might be get in touch with the NDF and they will be more than happy to provide flyers advertising your event.

Just Donate
Finally, if you are feeling generous and would like to just donate a few pounds then that would be amazing. I have set up a fundraising page exactly for that purpose. You can visit it here Support Selina To Save Sound.

The NDF is such a small community with a tall target to reach. Every donation will be so gratefully received.

THANK YOU

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Life Update

Finally I have found the time to sit down and write. I am not a fast writer so I like to have a couple of spare hours free when I decide to blog.

This post isn’t going to be interesting to most, but it is important for me to document the last few months of my life.

Let’s start with my knee surgery on 28 February. My consultant micro fractured the section of my knee that I injured, which has hopefully encouraged scar tissue to act like cartilage in that area. There was also a loose bone fragment that was removed and I expect was one of the reasons I was experiencing a lot of pain pre-surgery. I was on two crutches for four weeks and then down to a single crutch for a further two weeks. Surprisingly, I didn’t need to take any pain killers whatsoever post-surgery. I keep asking myself what is worse, super painful eye surgery where you suffer for a week or painless knee surgery where the recovery takes months. I still haven’t decided!

Guide Dog Calvin ensured I smiled whilst I was on crutches as he insisted on going behind me and pushing me along with his head. It reminded me of a parent elephant helping its young along. I love that he still finds new ways of amusing me. He turned 11 in March and is still working. His workload is very light mind as I have found it a challenge to walk relatively pain free at his pace, which is akin to a brisk walk. This afternoon was probably the first time I felt comfortable throughout our walk. It was only 25 minutes, but I can begin to start looking at increasing the distance.

I can’t say I am enjoying the rehabilitation of my knee. However, it was a relief to start doing pool sessions and getting back into the gym. I am a long way off from attempting to run again, but I should start putting some weights back through my legs in the near future. On a daily basis I am not yet better off than I was pre-surgery. I still have times where the joint aches and catches. I am also yet to get full mobility back, as I am not able to kneel. I know I have to play the long game.

On a positive note, work has been nice and busy. I am on a 0 hour contract so there can be months where I don’t work at all. Lately it has been nearly every week and is providing an ideal distraction from the lack of athletics training.

Another good distraction was my recent holiday to Mallorca with the boyfriend. We only went for 4 nights, the weather was mixed and I was ill with a cold for the majority of it, but it was great to get away and spend quality time with each other. Long distance relationships are tough.

I turn 31 next month. It doesn’t feel nearly as daunting as turning 30 was. I must make plans to celebrate. Hopefully I won’t leave it so long before my next blog post.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Fractured Dreams

Let’s pretend it is the end of 2018 for a few minutes. Life has been mind boggling lately meaning that I haven’t been in the right mood to write.

Last year was a mixed bag. An operation each for Calvin and I, lots of illnesses for me, the continued rehabilitation of my knee and three holidays to Paris, Amsterdam and Mallorca. Turning 30 was depressing, but I think I am over that one now. There were some constants with my relationship, job and volunteering at Brownies. I nearly moved house then thought better of it. Nothing amazing happened in 2018 and thankfully nothing too awful either.

Moving on to 2019. I thought this would be the year that I would be competing again. It has been 19 months since I fractured my knee warming up for a race. Rehabilitation was tough mentally and physically, but I was seeing progress. Last summer I moved from running on grass to the track and towards the end of the year I was even trying out blocks again. However, my knee has never been totally pain free and the flair ups started happening more often even when the intensity of training wasn’t increasing. I hit a brick wall. I was regularly getting sharp pains when I ran. At a loss with what to do next I decided to get referred back to a consultant and had an MRI scan a couple of weeks ago.

The results were heart-breaking. The fracture called an osteochondral hasn’t healed. Not only that I have now developed early-onset arthritis in that knee. The consultant told me that there comes a time in our lives where we have to make decisions. He told me to stop running.

It is no secret that athletics is my life. Since childhood I have been addicted to the sport. I have been nothing but dedicated when I decided to try and make it as a world class athlete. It has helped me massively to come to terms with my sight loss. Athletics has given me a purpose. I never expected to run forever, but I did expect to leave the sport on my own terms. I haven’t achieved everything I feel I am capable of yet. Prior to my injury I was running faster than I have ever done before. I still have dreams of going to a European Championships and breaking the 13 second barrier for 100m. Going blind was difficult and although some might not understand, the news that I may never run again is just as hard to take.

Unfortunately, my injury can’t be fixed. However, there is a possibility that my symptoms can be improved with surgery. I understand there are no guarantees and my consultant strongly believes even with surgery that I should no longer run.

Surgery is booked for 28 February and I will be on crutches for 3 weeks, which will be a challenge in itself. Then I need to go through the process of rehabilitation again. At the moment I haven’t given up on running. It could be argued that I am in denial. I am just not ready to give up on my dreams. I could switch sports, but athletics is my one true love.

Away from my knee, 2019 is going to be testing generally. I am a few weeks away from being on the Guide Dog waiting list for a year. Calvin’s retirement looms ever closer with his 11th birthday taking place next month. I am not liking not being in control of things lately. My future feels so uncertain.

I deeply hope that when I’m writing my review of 2019 that I will be feeling very smug. Fingers crossed that I can defy the odds and get back to sprinting relatively pain free and that Calvin will be happy with retirement.

We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond…

Monday, 31 December 2018

A Decade of Words

This year my blog has been dominated by milestone posts. Calvin turning ten, me turning thirty and the NHS turning seventy. Before the year is out I thought I would squeeze in one more milestone. 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of my blog, this blog! When I started writing in 2008, who knew that I would still be writing today and that some people would make a career out of blogging!

I remember well the catalyst that led to the creation of Insight Out, although originally I named the blog Selina’s World. Oh how I wince at my younger self! Back in 2008 I used to be a very active member on a forum for the visually impaired, I have a feeling it was called Eyes Wide Shut. Anyway, another member shared that they had started a blog and I obviously thought, I want to do that too. Said blogger stopped writing last year after ten years of blogging, which was the right time for them. Remarkably that person still reads my blog and takes the time to leave me comments. I hope you know who you are. Thank you for supporting my blog from its inception and being my inspiration to start blogging. Keeping a blog has to be one of the best decisions I have made in life.

When I first started out I was vaguely aware that people might read my posts, but I treated it very much like a personal diary. I find my candidness and direct references to people in the early days somewhat shocking now. As time has lapsed my writing voice has developed. I still write openly and honestly, just not so tactlessly!

Having a diary of the last decade of my life is great. People with vision can look back at photographs and reminisce about that moment in time. They say a picture can paint a thousand words. Thankfully I have written those thousand words, which allows me to look back and recreate memories in my mind’s eye.

I always have and always will primarily write for me. However, if someone finds my content mildly interesting or a little bit useful then it is a bonus. To my knowledge I don’t have a massive following and that is fine. I blog as and when I can and when I wish. I find it an enjoyable and therapeutic process. I read my blog back fairly regularly. This might sound arrogant to some, but I am my biggest inspiration. I look back at posts and admire my work. At times when I’m feeling down I turn to my blog and remember my achievements or marvel at how I have matured over the years. This blog makes me both laugh and cry. It fuels my determination to keep striding for my dreams. The words I write make me believe, believe I can be the best version of me.


Thursday, 15 November 2018

Vice Magazine

Once again I scorn myself for not blogging more. I will be back with some new material soon. In the meantime, I am linking to a piece from Vice magazine who asked me to contribute to their article about how blind people experience sexual attraction. It was an interesting topic to explore and you can read the article by clicking here


Friday, 19 October 2018

30

Age is just a number. Digits that increase by one every year. It shouldn’t define who we are. Yet it does. In July I turned thirty and I still can’t get my head around it. Thirty. I don’t feel thirty, but what is it meant to feel like to be a number that begins with three?

Our twenties are our first decade of adulthood. There are so many things that are expected from us post-childhood. Some people manage to excel at being a grown-up. Before they hit thirty they have a degree, career, home, marriage and children. All of the assets required in order to navigate successfully through life. Those of us who don’t tick all of the boxes can often experience a sense of regret, failure or inferiority.

I wish I didn’t have the desire to conform to society’s expectations. We are all individuals that progress through life at different rates, achieving different things, which should not be measured against one another. Perhaps it is the competitiveness within me or human nature ingrained within us all. We seem to fight to be the king of the castle, the leader of the pack or the best in show.

So what happened in my twenties? I got a Guide Dog that enhanced my independence and introduced me to the concept of unconditional love. I obtained a First Class English Language and Literature degree from The Open University. I represented England at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. I became a home owner and can’t wait to finish paying off my mortgage. I left two jobs and started a third. I exited two relationships and entered a third. I stepped out of my comfort zone and volunteer at my local Brownie pack. I had a few more eye operations and accepted my sight loss. I holidayed in numerous countries. I attended music concerts, theatre shows and sporting events. I maintained, lost and discovered friendships. I blogged about it all.

As I embark on this new decade of life, I find myself constantly pondering, day-dreaming about the future. I am so eager to get engaged and married. I have baby names all picked out. I feel in a hurry, left behind because friends have raced ahead of me. I can hear a clock tic-toc away in my head. Time is running out. At least my sub-conscious seems to think so. The rational side of me reminds me to take a breath, appreciate what I have achieved to date and assures me that things will happen in their own good time.

Ten years, one hundred and twenty months, around five hundred and twenty one weeks and about three thousand six hundred and fifty two days. A decade of time. Time that I hope will be filled with happiness.