There are so many different layers to life with sight loss, it’s not all black and white and I believe that the best way of filling in that grey space is by talking about our experiences, our struggles and what we might be going through.
By talking, we educate, we raise awareness and most importantly, we help each other realise that we’re not alone in what we might be feeling; perhaps one of the most invaluable realisations.
So let me tell you a little about my journey with anxiety.
When I first experienced feelings of anxiety, a feeling that was often induced by my vision impairment and the consequences it had for me, I had no idea how much this feeling could escalate, what lengths it would take me to and how lonely it could make me feel.
My vision impairment would often plant seeds of doubt and worry in my mind, I’d always be sceptical about going to new places, trying new things and walking into a room of people. But as my eyesight deteriorated further, these seeds started to grow and I became increasingly anxious by the thought of going to school, walking into the sixth form block especially, somewhere which was often full of people.
This is what caused my first panic attack. It ensued after I walked into sixth form which was incredibly busy, I didn’t know where to turn to, I couldn’t see if there was anywhere free to sit and I felt too self-conscious to ask for help. It was overwhelming. And so I ran out, made my way to the nearest toilet block and locked myself in one of the cubicles, not being able to breathe, my heart was pounding and the voices of those coming in from the corridor seemed distant somehow.
I spent years thinking the feelings I was experiencing were normal so I ignored the signs, I didn’t talk about the overwhelming wave of anxiety that came over me whenever I sensed further deterioration in my eyesight.
I didn’t realise how damaging this feeling could be, I didn’t know how important it was to reach out, I couldn’t put it all into words and sometimes I still struggle.
This has of course only scratched the surface in terms of my story but if you take just one thing away from this, I want you to know that you’re not alone. There are people out there who can help, so many that are willing to listen.
The affects disability can have on someone’s mental health is a conversation we need to have more of and by talking a little more about my own journey, I hope others realise the importance of reaching out.