A Learning Day

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.

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10 thoughts on “A Learning Day

  1. I know how you felt about the party because I had similar feelings. I had no idea where anyone was. Had Chris not spotted me when I arrived with the others from the shuttle, I would have wandered aimlessly. These big gatherings are very difficult. If only I could train Julia to find a given person. LOL

    • I didn’t even see you at the party. I was so worried about finding an open seat that I forgot to look around for friends. Then, when i found a seat I just stayed put until it was time to leave. If I could do it over again, I would walk around and look for people I know, instead of being a wallflower and staying safely seated.

      • These big gatherings are difficult for anyone with low vision. I’m similar to you in that once I find someone or someone finds me, I stay put rather than mingle.

        I also wanted to comment on the part of your post where you described your feeling of incompetance when trying to turn on the computer. For different reasons, I understand how you feel.

        When I was wearing the big AFO, I was worried that people who saw it would think I was incompetant and didn’t know what I was doing as a tech teacher or intern back in 2009. Wearing the AFO, even though the doctors said it would help my foot did little for my self-confidence.

        Surgery to stretch the gastroc muscle and then Dr. B’s proclomation of no more AFO did more to raise my self-confidence than many people telling me that the AFO did nothing to alter my ability to perform my duties at work. Even though people told me that others did not think I was incompetant if they saw the AFO, I wondered…

        Having the AFO visible really shook my self-confidence. It was like when I was a teenager and did not want my peers to see my cane or low vision aids. As an adult, I don’t care if people see me using a magnifier or some other blindness tool, but I just could not get over the fear of being misjudged when I had the AFO. This is why I wore pants and did not wear skirts for the years I was using the AFO. I also was careful what type of pant I wore because some pants showed the AFO more than others. Obsessive? Maybe. I just could never get over that fear of incompetance while wearing it.

        Graduating from the AFO was the best gifvt I have been given in the recent past.

      • I am so glad you are done with it. Thank you for sharing how you can relate to my feeling of incompetence. It’s nice to know someone understands. Thanks again for reading my blog and commenting. 🙂

  2. (((hugs))) Asking for help has been the hardest thing for me to deal with. I want to do it all myself and I don’t want to need anyone. I’d be a hypocrite to say don’t worry about asking for help when you need it but you (and me) really shouldn’t. I hope tomorrow is a better day for you.

  3. Hi Belinda,
    I am sorry your day was so stressful. I’m guessing blogging about it helped as I know talking things out usually helps me. I wouldn’t feel at all bad about the computer this morning – I am fully sighted and I couldn’t find the button either!

    I cannot understand what it must have felt like when you walked into the ballroom this evening. As with any physical condition, unless you have experienced it, you cannot fully understand how it impacts someone. I suppose the best thing I can do is to continue to offer my support and encourage you to keep educating us, either through your blog or through conversations.

    Belinda, knowing you is making me a better person and I mean that sincerely. Your writing ability is a gift, and you may want to consider sharing your story (in some way) in our newsletter. What you experienced tonight is probably what many of our folks experience and it helped me understand and empathize in a way I might not have been able to if you were not courageous enough to share.

    Lastly, don’t be so hard on yourself. We were just saying tonight how happy we are that you are part of our team. Your centered-ness and your calming way are only exceeded by your kindness and warmth. I feel privileged to know you.

    Best wishes from a grateful co-worker.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Rosemarie. I learned a lot about myself through this experience and am already planning some coping mechanisms so that I handle similar situations in more productive ways. And, hopefully, I will become more compassionate and understanding toward others because of this. My big regret is that I feel like I lost an opportunity to go around from table to table and chat with people at the party and introduce John to everyone. I will definitely do better with that another time.

      I value our friendship more than I can adequately express. I feel so blessed to have you in my life. Who knew that landing this new job would get me such a great new friend. Peace, Belinda

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