I feel like sometimes, people with sight assume that visually impaired people either really want to be sighted or really don't – more leaning towards the former. That may be a generalisation on my part but I've found that whenever I explain my (long) stance on it, I get a surprised reaction. I don't fall into those two neat categories. Instead of trying to force people to feel how I feel, I'll walk you through why I have such a complicated view on things because every single person is different, whether you're completely blind, partially sighted or are somewhere in between.
Shortly after I was born, I lost the majority of my sight to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity. Of course, being weeks old, I don't remember seeing. Although I have a tiny bit of useful vision, I have no real concept of true colour, faces or how things actually look – and, having never had anywhere near good vision, I don't even know how to describe that to you in a way that you or I could understand. Throughout my life, I've been content with that to varying degrees but as you'll read, the level to which that is has changed rather drastically.
In primary school, some years before the age of 11, I wanted to see in an abstract sort of way. I didn't understand what it was – before the age of 4, I thought I was like everyone else. To be presented with the fact that you aren't like other kids was something I didn't think affected me at the time. However, now, I can remember feeling quite lonely: I couldn't join in much at break with the sighted kids; I learned Braille and used a Perkins (a large Braille machine) which set me apart from everyone else; I did different art and had teaching assistants with me, including one who helped me at lunch to begin with. I knew my little school and though it brought me comfort, I felt sad because I couldn't run with the others. Though I never cried about it or never really registered it as an issue, I hadn't met any other VI people before the age of 8. My weird isolation turned into a wish to do things I couldn't, to see what I couldn't – I told a teacher once that I'd really like to see and she sounded so sad afterwards. I'm not ashamed to say that I felt like that: as a child, I still had a lot to learn about myself and it's so difficult to not want to see if you're presented with the fact that you can't every single day.
From the age of 11, I started to meet more and more people who had sight loss and really got involved in the community. I went to what I called "blind camps", weekends away, events with those in my local area and talked to my VI friends on Facebook. I go to a mainstream school with a unit for VI people because I thought it would give me independence. The majority of my friends were sighted (they still are) but even so, I loved knowing people like me because there were people who got it, whereas in my primary school – though they didn't pick on me – they just couldn't understand much. Instead of wanting to see, my attitude polarised: I absolutely didn't. This might be difficult to explain.
Being visually impaired let me do so many things I otherwise wouldn't. I met authors (although that's not common – it was for a thing which I was chosen for); I can meet beautiful and amazing people; I've done so many activities that have made me more well-rounded as a person. I wouldn't have started this blog if I wasn't VI: I'd be a different person and I liked myself how I was. Back then, the thought of a "cure" genuinely terrified me. I thought about how much I'd have to learn: to recognise things, learn to read and write again – which as an adult would be more difficult, learn to keep my balance (I have no depth perception) – it would be overwhelming. I'd also have to adapt to seeing out of both eyes, something which I've never had before. I have a huge fear of the unknown and I don't understand how people can cope if they see colour for the first time. I know that if I woke up one day to full sight, I'd be screaming in terror because everything would be too much and would, probably, feel unreal. Anyhow, I was utterly anti-me getting sight "back".
Now, it's not so simple. I totally understand why I felt how I did before: to me, they're both rational thought processes and are what many people do feel, both those who have lost their sight recently and those who haven't. However, I sometimes change from being frustrated at my lack of sight, to vehemently wanting to stay this way, to just not giving a shit on a daily basis.
In a word, it's messy. I can't give you a clear-cut stance: getting my sight would be useful, yes, but I don't know if I could deal with the changes. It's not so easy as to say "you'll learn" because if you present someone with something they have literally no concept of, they may not come out of the shock for a long time. To have changing viewpoint doesn't help me figure out what I really want: all the ways I, and you, feel are valid but it's tricky when for me, there isn't a set answer I can give. Luckily though, I have less fear than I did before.
This may not even be how I feel in two years: I could have a viewpoint turnaround – who knows? For now, though, I'm happy to just live my life. It's not easy to be able to just accept things and I'm still learning how. Unlike before, I don't think about my sight that often – just when it comes up. It's just a thing that is and it's taken me years to fully accept that. I may have said I was okay with it but really, I wasn't; it's only now that I realise that I'm bothered sometimes but it's nowhere near all the time.
I'm just one person. There are hundreds of thousands of other visually impaired people around the country and the world who'll have a wildly different view to me. Some don't want to see and some do; some have gone all their life without sight and some have lost their sight only a year ago – each can have their separate stance on this which is all completely fine. Some people can't deal with sight loss because it's the loss of a sense; everyone takes their own time to come to terms with everything. People change and people are okay for changing.
I hope that me talking about my thoughts has helped you understand me a little better. Again, remember that I'm just one visually impaired person and someone else will probably give you a totally different answer. If you've got any questions, leave them in the comments below; I'll do my best to answer them! In addition, if I offended anyone by the words in my post, I'm extremely sorry.
If you'd like to talk about your experiences, you can always email me or leave a comment. I'd love to know your thoughts – either on having vision or, if you have another disability, how you feel about it in general.
From Elm 🙂