Wednesday, 8 December 2010

To See Or Not To See, That Is The Question...

There is always the debate of is it better to have seen and lost or have never seen at all and not know what you’re missing. Of course neither are ideal, but let’s face it, blindness is a disability and therefore in most cases can’t be cured.

For someone like me who was born fully sighted and perfectly healthy, becoming partially sighted at the age of 2 and eventually stripped of useful vision by the age of 18, I get asked all of the time don’t you wish you could still see? Can’t they do anything? God, it must be horrible!

Yes, being blind is an inconvenience, but just like the snow you have two options. You can either let it stop you from continuing with day to day living or fight it and get on as best you can. There was a time, when I spent 8 years losing my vision, getting some restored and losing it again that I felt being blind was the worst thing in the whole world! I hated not being able to see at night, not being able to find my friends in the playground, not being able to read and not being able to walk around freely. However, I eventually got over myself and accepted the fact that being blind isn’t that bad really!

This blog post has been inspired by meeting a mum of an old school friend whilst out shopping yesterday. Charlotte was one of my best friends at primary school and one of the few people who knew me when I had good partial vision and witnessed me lose a substantial amount in year 6. Literally, from the age of 6 I can remember always being around her house, she’s the one who introduced me to Brownies and I think we both had some great birthday parties. I remember her and her family were animal mad, having at least 3 dogs, 2 cats and other small furry things! Digby, was my favourite dog, a beautiful looking German Shepherd with his gorgeous black and brown coat and pointy ears. He was a hyper dog, but I can’t ever remember being afraid of him and he’s the reason why I would love a Shepherd as a Guide Dog. They also had a blind dog called Nelly. I can remember watching poor Nelly walking into things, but he never got frustrated and just got on with it!

Anyway, I have some great visual memories of Charlotte, like the bright orange diadora tracksuit she had that I begged my mum to buy me the same one, when she played a bear in our year 5 Christmas concert and her cool flashing trainers she wore with her Brownie uniform. If I hadn’t had lost my sight maybe I wouldn’t remember these things, but if I was blind from birth I wouldn’t have the opportunity to appreciate the detail of the memories.

I also have a difficult memory that will always stick with me. It must have been Charlotte’s 12th birthday party that she invited me to. After primary school we got split up at secondary school and didn’t attend the same school from year 10, but the first summer after being in year 7, we must have still been friends. Charlotte had a sleepover in a tent at the bottom of her garden. It wasn’t a massive garden, but you’ll understand why at the time I thought it was. It had been approximately 1 and a half year’s since I had a dramatic drop in vision. We were all in the tent comparing who wore knickers under their pyjamas when we had to go inside for cake. It was dark already even though it was August and whilst everyone ran inside, I blagged that I didn’t want any cake. I sat in the tent, peering out and can recall seeing the lights at the house, it couldn’t have been more than 10m away. After a few mins Charlotte came back to the tent and insisted I went inside too. We’re 12 years old, nobody explained to me what night blindness was, I could still get around fairly ok in the daytime, so how was she expected to know I needed help, if I didn’t realise or understand myself! She grabbed my hand and we walked in with no conversation and looking back it’s a great example of how children are more accepting of disability. Once I was inside and in the light, I was completely fine, the cake was 101 Dalmatians!

Losing your sight is a traumatic experience for anyone. People say it’s easier when you’re younger, but if me losing my sight was easier than a 40 year old I’d hate to be their age! If anything, to me it’s better if you lose it when you’re older, the visual memories you can retain are far more than what I have. Although, I wouldn’t change mine for the world.

For me, I can definitely say that it’s better to have seenand lost, than to have never seen at all. I can’t imagine not knowing my colours amongst a thousand other things. Losing my sight has also given me a determination I never would have had if I was partially sighted still. As they say in every bad is good and in every good is bad...


Jen said...

That's a brilliant post!
I think your opinion of losing your sight has changed a lot since we used to post on the message board (whatever it was called I can't remember!)
I've never had sight, well only as a newborn baby and I think this is easier as I didn't have to adjust to vision loss. I don't care about colours or what people look like. Its the only way I know, so its fine.

Selina Litt said...

I know, i'm certainly not bitter anymore! I've heard alot of people who are basically blind from birth share your opinion. I think it's all really interesting.

Torie said...

I too am blind from birth. Most of the time i just get on with it, but sometimes i just wish I could see, say a picture of Ushi as a pup, for example.

I think if i had the option i would rather be blind from birth as you won't have to ajust. If i could get my sight back I wouldn't want it! Xxx.

Roshni said...

Your post was beautiful, made me quite emotional though, you are a great writer and observer of human behaviour. I too have been blind since birth, and I too have always thought its better that way, so it was interesting to hear things from your perspective. When I was growing up, I had no concept of blindness as such, so I wondered across roads, (and surprisingly survived!), I climbed trees and did whatever any one else was doing. I landed with a bang when I found myself in “special school”, and found every one so boring! I went to mainstream school for my secondary which was better, but was still aware of being “different”, from others, and I suppose my life thereafter was about trying to minimise on the difference! Children are more accepting, because they haven’t learned how to judge yet, and we need to make sure the next generations grow in to adulthood with this mentality in tact. I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t be tempted if I was offered my sight back, but that said, It hasn’t stopped me from doing any thing I have wished to do: and for that I am grateful for my parents for not holding me back, even when I’m sure they’d wished I’d stayed at home and done “normal” stuff. Keep posting: I know I say it often but your blog rocks!