Hello! I’m Elin, a 22-year-old from North Wales. I currently split my time between working as a Social Media and Communications Officer in the charity sector, studying a part-time degree with The Open University and writing about all things vision impairment, music and fashion on my blog, My Blurred World.
I was diagnosed with the degenerative eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), when I was six-years-old, this was three years after my initial symptoms were noted. I was registered blind/severely sight impaired when I was twelve and I like to describe my eyesight as being an old camera which is constantly out of focus; that focus deteriorates day-by-day and the shutters are slowly closing in, casting dark shadows around the edges of my view.
It’s safe to say that being vision impaired does present challenges and whilst I don’t gloss over these, I am very much an advocate for wellbeing, self-care and positivity so I’m excited to be joining you in blog form for the wellbeing retreat, it sounds wonderful!
A positive attitude has always been a cornerstone of my sight loss acceptance journey so I thought I’d run you through some of the things that have helped my family and I to maintain that positivity over the years.
I know that different things work for different people but I personally find it helpful to read about others’ perspectives which can often provide some guidance and reassurance along the way.
TAKING ONE DAY AT A TIME
I’ve found that something simple can often make the biggest difference and, for me, taking one day as it comes is one of the things that ushers me towards a positive mindset.
My eyesight follows a trend of deteriorating day-by-day but the level of pain or sensitivity I have and the amount of flashing lights in my view can fluctuate, and so my feelings can often follow suit. But, through taking things day-by-day, I find that I’m not thinking too far ahead in terms of how I’ll feel tomorrow, or the day after, or next week, which allows me to focus on the here and now and gives me that opportunity to think about what positive things I can take from every day.
My parents echo this sentiment and say that trying to find just one positive thing in each day reminds them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Even if it’s just a small spec, it’s there as a reminder of happier things that can be found in the darkness.
FOCUSING ON WHAT I CAN DO
It’s so easy to think about all the things that you can’t do because of your vision impairment, but something as simple as focusing on what you can do and all the things you’re good at can make such a positive difference.
I was awful at sports when I was younger because I couldn’t see the ball in rounders or tennis, this often left me feeling deflated because I couldn’t join in with other children. But I could do other things like hoola hoop and skip, as well as being able to play the piano and harp. I soon realised that these were things to celebrate and be proud of.
There is always something you’ll excel at so don’t let your vision impairment hold you back.
TALKING TO OTHERS IN A SIMILAR SITUATION
My parents and I hold our hands up and say that we were never the most forthcoming in terms of talking to others in a similar situation and, despite the fact that it’s something I’ve branched out on due to writing my blog, my parents admit that they remain a little more reserved.
I was very reluctant to talk to other vision impaired people when I was younger, I deemed the prospect as something that would make sight loss even more real. This was at a time when I was desperate to fit in, so I refused any opportunity to meet other VIPs. I didn’t realise that I was isolating myself by doing so and i was oblivious to how much reassurance I needed at the time.
When I eventually created my blog in 2015, I started connecting with other vision impaired people and my eyes were opened to a world that I never knew existed before. I’ve found so much comfort when talking to others who are in a similar situation and there are a whole host of people, on and offline, who I can now turn to if I need to chat. I’ve been able to draw so much positivity from this in the last few years and it’s definitely something that continues to provide me with comfort when I need it the most.
I’ve heard so many people say that things such as VICTA”s family weekends are a great way of meeting others in a similar situation and it gives you the opportunity to chat to them about what they find helpful, to pick each other’s brains in terms of finding resources and support and to laugh about the more light-hearted misfortunes because, in my experience, there are plenty of them! I think it’s important to make light of a situation where possible.
EMBRACING WHAT MY VISION IMPAIRMENT BRINGS TO MY LIFE
If you had asked my younger self to list positive attributes to my disability, I would have redirected the route of the conversation completely. But now, I can proudly sit here and list all the amazing ways my vision impairment has contributed positively to my life.
From enabling me to learn unique skills such as reading/writing braille, touch typing and using the long cane, to forming friendships and allowing me to work with charities and giving me the opportunity to utilise my passion of helping others by sharing my experiences with people in a similar situation. I could go on.
My younger self never would have believed that there could be so many aspects of my disability that I could eventually claim to be grateful for, but it’s something that now brings a lot of positivity into my life.
When I asked my parents what helps them to stay positive, they took a walk down memory lane, explaining how they never wrapped me up in cotton wool when I was a little one. They gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to do and, whilst it terrified them to see me whizzing downhill on my bike behind the guide of my brother’s florescent jacket, they said that the smile they saw on my face afterwards was all the positivity they needed.
LEARNING DIFFERENT WAYS OF APPRECIATING THE WORLD
One thing that aids my personal wellbeing is being outdoors and I’ve realised that I don’t need to see the rolling hills or the sheep that populate the fields around my home in order to appreciate my surroundings.
The world is more than what we see in it and I personally think that the best time for discovering that is when you’re a child. Creating different activities consisting of varying sounds, smells, tastes or touch can be fun little ways of realising that you don’t need to see in order to be creative and adventurous.
Trying something new can be exciting and the giggles that activities fuel are always a spark for a positive and happy feeling.
FINDING “YOUR THING”
Having an outlet, or two, where you can feel completely yourself can work wonders in terms of finding positivity. For me, it’s when I’m reading, writing, listening to music or spending time outdoors that I feel the most at ease. I often let my thoughts run away with me when I’m writing and it’s something that helps me to channel feelings that I might not express otherwise.
Finding your passion and embracing it can be the perfect way of feeling more positive.
HAVING OPEN CONVERSATIONS
One thing my parents emphasised when I asked them what has helped them remain positive over the years is the importance of having an open conversation.
Laying all our cards on the table, asking questions and being honest with each other has been something that has always guided us along this unpredictable journey.
It’s not always easy to be open and honest and I’ll hold my hands up and say that it’s something I’ve struggled with over the years out of fear of being a burden, but it’s important to remember that you’d be anything but.
Being vision impaired or being a parent/carer for someone experiencing sight loss can be a very unique experience, so there’s immense strength to take away from knowing that you’re trying your best and doing all you can do. But it’s important to remember that it’s okay not to be strong 24/7.
Over the years, my family and I have been able to adopt a lot of perspective which affords us the opportunity to look at things a little differently. We can’t claim that it’s always easy but these are just a few of the things that bring a dose of positivity into our lives.
We’re now able to substitute many negative thoughts with positive ones and we’re reaping the rewards as they come.