I have been having some really good days with my vision. I can see. I can read. I can work on the computer. I haven’t been tripping or falling down. I have hardly even noticed that I have any vision problems.
Until today. Today was an entirely different story. Today took me back to the confusion and frustration of not being able to see clearly. This morning, I was a participant in a meeting and my task was to set up the equipment for a powerpoint presentation. I had a problem with this one other time, so I had someone go over all the equipment with me, so that I knew just what to do. So, this morning I arrived early. I made sure that the speaker phone was working. I turned on the projector for the powerpoint. But I could not find the button to turn on the computer. I searched the computer with my eyes and my fingers, but that button did not seem to be anywhere.
People began to arrive. I was getting nervous. I felt so stupid that I could not find the button to turn on the computer. Finally, I had to ask for help, admitting that I couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. Someone walked right over and hit the button and the computer turned on. It was an uncomfortable moment for me.
After the meeting, I went back to work. My eyes had trouble focusing all day. They were scratchy and watery and I had to keep taking breaks from looking at the computer. I kept thinking about the incident with the computer at the meeting. Finally, I decided to stop being so hard on myself. If it was hard for me to find the button, it must be hard fir anyone who is visually impaired. So, I sent an email to a friend in Vision Rehab and asked if he could put an orange button on the on/off switch. These bumpy orange buttons are great because you can see them and feel them. I will be able to find the button from now on.
I felt great, like I had achieved a small victory. Unfortunately, my poor vision day continued. The agency I work for had a big employee party tonight. It was wonderful, a great opportunity to get together with friends and meet new people. The event was held at a nice, downtown hotel. Because of my vision, I had a problem when I walked into the room. It seemed like a sea of colors and I could not recognize anyone or tell which tables had empty seats. I don’t feel comfortable in unfamiliar places anyway, and not being able to see or recognize anyone I knew made the unfamiliar room more than I could navigate. John was with me, and we walked a short way into the room to see if we could find someone we could join. The visual information was overwhelming to me. I wanted to leave. Finally, John steered me toward an empty table and suggested that we sit there and that others would join us. I sat down and he went to get us each a drink. I sat at the table, alone, for what seemed like a really long time.
One of my friends, Mary, came to the table to say hello. She offered to add chairs to her full table to fit us in, but I knew the tables were too crowded for that. I tried to explain how hard it was to find empty seats and I started to cry. I felt ridiculous, but my eyes just kept filling with tears. We kept talking and I was fine after a minute. When John returned to the table, we found a nearby table that had some empty seats and joined the people at that table. Eventually, another friend from work joined our table with her husband. The people at our table were funny and very nice and we had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, not being able to find friends to sit with had taken its toll and I was not quite the outgoing, friendly self I have been trying to be at work.
I keep thinking about the idea that low vision, in itself, is not the problem. It’s my attitude toward my low vision. When I could not turn on the computer, I saw myself as stupid. When I could not find a seat, I wanted to give up and leave. In both cases, I panicked, which only made the situation worse. I allowed my vision problems to make me see myself as incompetent – unable to do my job, unable to be myself, unable to be the person I want to be.
The good news is that I learned a lot about myself, the way I handle difficulties caused by my vision problems, and how I can grow from this information. I realize that I need to step back and take a deep breath when I find myself in a situation where I have difficulty completing a task because of my vision. I want to have more positive self-talk when I am in a stressful situation. I need to remember that I am not incompetent or unfriendly or unpopular or stupid. I cannot let every poor vision day turn into a bad day. I can make a plan so that does not happen. I am stronger and better than that.