During many previous posts, I’ve made a small note of being visually impaired. Though I’ve often wanted to post this, I have never actually gotten around to it. I finally got to it now, because I have had a few posts in mind but they wouldn’t make a lot of sense until I made my audience aware of this little situation. So here is the story of my disability.
When I was born, the doctors discovered that my eyes were underdeveloped. The left eye was beyond saving. It has never had any ability at all. It’s just aesthetic, I suppose. The other wasn’t much better but there was still hope for it. As a baby, I received multiple operations. The doctors removed the lens from my eyes. They also transplanted a cornea twice. Since I was so young however, my body rejected the donor organ. The doctors decided not to try again since it didn’t seem to work. During my youth, I’ve had a few other operations concerning my eyes. One was to fix a condition in my eyes that had kept deteriorating my eyesight. The other is a small tube above my eye that drains a certain harmful liquid from it and thus keeps the pressure down.
I have an enormous medical history in this regard. Most of it would mean nothing to you all. Admittedly, some of it is a mystery to me too. I don’t understand all the terms.
What I do know, however, is what this means for me. Unlike what people tend to think, I can’t tell you what I see. I don’t have a reference for what ‘normal’ people see so I can’t compare my own eyesight to it either. But I have had wonderful doctors who have explained the situation to me.
Because I only have one eye to perceive with, I can not see depth in any way. I can observe that it exists in the world. I can understand that one tree is closer than the other because it is bigger and that its roots are lower in my field of vision. But the actual depth that there is, I can not see. I live in a 2D panorama.
Additionally, my one-eyed life has made my field of vision smaller. When people walk to my left, I can not see them. When they walk to my right, I can often see them vaguely from the corner of my eye. This is why I like it when people walk at that side of me so they aren’t simply a voice to my left. I like to know where they are. That makes sense, right?
Finally, a noteworthy consequence of the removal of my lens and the damaged cornea. The lack of a lens means that I can not make things in my field of vision look sharp. It also means I can not filter light as well as other people can. My cornea, after its second transplant, was also rejected by my body. This means it is damaged and vague. This further increases the vagueness of my environment and the light sensitivity.
Of course, this explanation too, is more just a vague view (pun intended) of my daily life. So I will try to explain it. First, I’d like to elaborate on how light works for me. When I see light, it becomes distributed across my whole field of vision. It is the same with fogged up windows or shower doors. Light becomes a cloud of light, rather than just one point. This means that it makes it harder to see anything else besides the bright scattered light. In the dark, this means that there is only darkness and pools of light around me. Naturally, I rely on my other senses during the dark since my eyesight is practically useless.
The vagueness means that I see more unclearly than the first smartphone’s cameras. I have less pixels, I suppose. Things in my life are blurry. Yes, my glasses help to compensate it a bit, but I can still not see fine detail. Sharp contrast and large details make it possible for me to function in life (reading the computer with inverted colors and big letters, for example). But the majority of my life is simply shapes. A slim blot of color on the street can be a person walking or a person on a bike. A big dark block in front of me on the street might be a car or truck. I can’t recognize the faces of friends or family. I recognize them by their voices. I can’t read ‘normal’ text. I can’t define things in the store unless I know exactly what to look for. For example, when I need shampoo, I will look for an abundance in purple somewhere, since Andre Lon’s packages are nearly always a pleasant violet hue. So I know that if I find those, I find other shampoos too. This is how I often find my way through stores. I go by large details since I lack the small ones. My mind is always working overtime to try to identify what I’m seeing through the clouds of vagueness.
The fact that my brain works hard is one worth nothing too. Even I find it easy to ignore this part of my disability. It means that everything I do, from walking to the train station down the street to buying a sandwich will always take more energy than it will take other people. I do my best to lessen the work my eyes have to do. Sometimes I close them while I do chores at home but the effect of closing them does not make up for the energy spent. I often find myself needing insane amounts of sleep over the weekends to compensate for how much of myself I have been giving away in order to keep up with other people.
I must admit, this is something that I really still struggle with. Even if I admit to myself that I have been doing too much and that I need some time to regenerate, I do not always take the time to rest up. I will feel that since other people can do this, I can too; even though I know I can’t. I’ll continue to do my homework and attending classes; pushing myself onwards.
At the end of my past schoolyear, I felt that I was really on the edge of a burnout. I had exams and a project due. The project was to be done in only one week and it took up all my time and energy. I enjoyed it, for sure. It gave me a chance to show off all my talents. Yet even things I like can really take up my energy because it just means that I spend countless hours on them, like I did with this project. Honestly, school should not have lasted even half a week longer. I could not have done it.
I know that I probably make my situation sound bad with that last paragraph, but it really isn’t as pitiful as people might think. I am also an individual. I’m not just a blind girl who needs to be admired for trying to make something of life. I also cook and clean and do chores. I navigate the streets on my own using my cane and all my sense. I travel with buses and trains and everything. I visit friends who live hours away that way. Life isn’t so bad but it is just a work in progress that I can cope better with every day.
As it has been to me, may destiny be kind to you.