Helping others is the best way I cope with my own blindness.
Now, here’s the back story. I earned this helpful point of view only after protracted periods of physical isolation and emotional withdrawal. Whew! I elevated denial, anger, depression and bargaining to an art form. Still do, only less than before. That’s normal in vision loss, but hardly helpful.
To help others, I first needed to help myself. And you’d think that my social work education would have helped me breeze through those stages of grief. You’d be wrong and so was I. The disease humbled me.
A few years back, I heard that the Guild for the Blind was starting a support group. I said, “I don’t need a support group.” Twenty-two years into vision loss and I was still thinking like an idiot. I went on about my marginal way. The next time the group was offered, I said, “Well, I might not need this for myself, but maybe I can help some newcomer.” I gave a little and took a little. Now, I hang on for dear life.
Coping with blindness is a collective, not a solitary, endeavor. While I understand that all I am is of my own making, that doesn’t mean I have to shovel my way out all by myself. I have learned that I can fight alone or recover together. I accepted the paradox that to surrender is to join the winners.
I have been blessed with friends who have taught by their example that giving it away is the surest way to keep it. In my volunteer work with the Guild for the Blind and Harold Washington College and my employment at Friedman Place, I try to give back what was freely offered to me. That’s the best and the least I can do.