When you imagine your 20’s it’s the decade of freedom, self- discovery and making the most out of life. It’s painted to be the best years of your life before you become a ‘proper adult’ and actually have to settle down. For some, your 20’s begins at university where you gain independence and figure out what career you’d like to do.
I appreciate this is very stereotypical of me, and not everyone has the time of their life while they are in their 20’s – but you get the idea!
For me, self-discovery took a bit of a nose dive. At the age of 19 I was registered as partially sighted and began to use a long cane. Before this point, the prospect of being visually impaired or using a cane just wasn’t a thing. It was never predicted I would lose my eyesight and to begin with it was a gradual decline that almost went unnoticed. Going from someone who believed they could see fine to a diagnosis and the confirmation this was not ‘normal’ really did come as a shock. Sight is something we often take for granted; in some ways it was like I lost it part of myself the second the diagnosis was given.
I previously walked with a walking stick due to having cerebral palsy and this was something I was comfortable with after many years of acceptance and confidence. My identity did include my disability, it just didn’t encompass this new found long cane. How did this even happen? What does this mean for the future? Will it continue to get worse? These are still questions I ask myself today nearly two years on, with the answers appearing unknown. A big part of adjusting to my cane has been the explaining it to others. Let’s face it, it’s a little odd when one day a person appears to see fine and the next thing you know they’re using a giant long white cane that you associate with a person being blind.
There have been times when I have found my cane absolutely invaluable, especially as my vision has continued to deteriorate. It has meant I have had the understanding from others about how bad my vision now is. My cane also gives me the confidence of where I am, even if it can be hard to emotionally come to terms with the fact it is needed.
I know I haven’t finished adjusting to this aspect of my life, but that’s okay! It’s still possible to wholeheartedly enjoy the world despite so many unknown aspects of your health and through this process I will regain my sense of identity.