I have been given twenty-five years to absorb the idea, if not the fact, that I am gradually losing my eyesight. I say I am losing my eyesight rather than losing my vision, because for me, there is a difference. Eyesight is what in the world I see; vision is how I see myself in this world.
My eyesight sees the bus, or it doesn’t. My vision is using the bus to enhance my independence, to increase my quality of life. Losing eyesight is a biological process; losing vision is the death of faith and hope.
For years after I was diagnosed with RP, I still had enough eyesight to drive a car, see the sights, photograph the world. All the while, I was terrified of the vision that, in time, I would become helpless, hopeless and useless.
My vision of life as a visually impaired person improved as I relearned life skills. I thought I’d never learn to type 30 words per minute, now I type 40. I was sure Braille was too difficult, now I label CDs, food containers and important papers. My ability to solve problems has been enhanced as my eyesight worsens.
Life still holds fear for me: loud noises, angry voices, strange places. I feel panic when I’m lost and alone. I rely more on less eyesight and I am afraid of becoming totally blind. I want to think this won’t happen. It makes me sad and angry to think that it will. I want to make a deal: Please, just leave me with the eyesight I have, and I promise I’ll be good.
These days, when I think about what I might become, I do not see a helpless, hopeless or useless person. I can keep my vision of myself as worthy, capable and creative. Sometimes, I think it has taken every minute of twenty-five years for this lesson to sink in. I might be a slow learner, but I’m grateful nonetheless.