One of the toughest things to cope with when trying to deal with visual impairment or recovery from any other illness is dealing with the emotional issues. If you don’t, then potentially you risk facing emotional meltdown which is a rapid or disastrous decline or collapse of your emotions which could lead to a total breakdown. It is an emotional reaction to being placed in an overwhelming situation from which there is no easy escape, but escape you must.
You need to establish an understanding of your emotional vulnerability, identifying any negative patterns that initiate a negative emotional response. You can’t ignore your emotional emotional meltdown, you have to face up to it.
What I do know is that your fear of what may happen often restricts you in ways that are more harmful than the original problem you’re trying to deal with. I may be visually impaired, my right eye unable to see anything other than a fog, but I still have a perfectly good left eye, well when I wear a contact lens. It restricts me about that there’s no doubts. Things that I once took for granted I am no longer able to do. Yet there is so much I am still capable of doing. Now when I think about my initial feelings I realise I allowed the emotional impact to get totally out of hand, my glass was half empty.
When we find ourselves in a situation from which we can’t easily escape, trapped in a situation that is difficult to cope with, our brain becomes flooded with negativity and fear. We begin to shut down, and this leads to everything just worsening. We reach emotional meltdown point. It seems easier to give up your battle and just accept what comes your way. You feel the whole world is upside down and you believe life will never be the same again with you just being miserable fighting your illness or disability for the long term.
Suddenly everything seems to be falling apart. All kinds of scenarios may come up; you might no longer be in a position to support your family financially, you could lose your job, simply your dreams are falling apart.
Coming to terms with any illness and disability is not easy. The early days will always be the hardest yet with a few changes you can live your life to the full. Yet thinking positively is no easy matter but it is important to be enthusiastic about life again. There are only two choices for you to make. You can stay down and complain about your problems and allow the rest of your life to just meander aimlessly or you have the option of trying to make most of your life even with your new limitations.
For me when I lost the vision from my right eye i thought that all my ambitious plans for the future had been permanently derailed. I kept asking myself why did this have to happen to me, why is life so cruel. I went into a downward spiral of negativity and couldn’t see anyway to pick myself up.
The thought that sparked the beginning of my transformation was that I owed it to myself and my loved ones to enjoy and appreciate the good things in my life that I still had. My philosophy of ‘never giving up’ once again came to the forefront.
I began to focus on my children and grandchildren, then my thoughts turned to the fact that I had to seek solutions instead of focusing on problems. I wanted to pick myself up and be the example to my children that I needed to be. Up to this point I couldn’t get past the fact that I was unable to focus my vision on a screen, so reading and writing were so difficult. Therefore it was impossible to complete my first book and then the others I had planned, so my future as an author was at an end. But then my mind reminded me that nothing was impossible. The answers were always there you just needed to look for them.
I realised how stupid I was being. I was allowing my illness and disability to get the better of me and I was lost in feeling sorry for myself. All this was achieving was to get me nowhere. I still had a life to enjoy and I needed to concentrate on the things I could still do in the future. I may not be able to cure my disability but I could learn how to live my life to the best. I could find alternative ways to do the things I wanted to do, and overcome the obstacles I was facing.
I didn’t beat myself up for the time I wasted feeling sorry for myself. I accepted how natural it was to go through the emotional upheaval when I first lost my vision, having in my mind loss control over the direction of my life, allowing my medical condition to dictate my future. At that time I felt like I no longer had the power to decide what direction to take or what to do next. Such a feeling of helplessness can be devastating emotionally and can create all sorts of additional problems.
I eventually realised I had now come to a time where I could move on, and let life continue. Where everything that had happened undoubtedly had a dramatic effect on my ability to make decisions objectively and rationally but now I could look at things very differently and get back to living my life with a positive outlook.
Right at that moment I accepted that it was in my power to improve my life!
I began to start small, giving myself manageable goals each day that could build on each other. I began to continue writing my book. Not with pen and paper, nor with keypad and word processor, but by recording my voice through a microphone. Then I found software to convert audio to text. Next was software that could at the touch of a button increase font size on screen or change colours, which also would read back text on a screen through audio. So now not only could I get my words down but also edit them. But this was only one of the battles.
So many other problems had been caused by the operation and my loss of vision. My general health was dreadful. Just an hour of working would exhaust me. I’d get tired very quickly and have to rest. My fitness was the worst it had ever been. So again I broke the necessary tasks down into small chunks. I changed my diet, then I began doing exercise. At first only 10 minutes a day, but slowly I built this up and now am back to an hour four times a week.
For quite a while it became an effort to just get out of bed and make breakfast. So this became one of my challenges. Setting a time to get out of bed, and rebuild the routine of ensuring I ate breakfast. After all I’ve written many times the importance of this meal.
I began to write in my journal once again. I recorded everything I did daily and reviewed it at the end of the week. I also used it to record my thoughts and measure my positivity against the negativity. This enabled me to once again rebuild my positive mindset.
All these changes, plus the many more I made aren’t the answer for you. What is, is how the transformation came about.
I looked at my problems. I was honest with myself. I accepted the true facts of ‘what was’ and then I began to question what was my way to move forward.
I searched for solutions what would I have to do to solve each and every one of the areas of my life that weren’t going well as well as overcoming the specific problems caused by visual impairment.
So for those of you trying to come to terms with visual impairment or any other major illness take these steps.
1. Give yourself time to grieve. Yes you need to feel sorry for yourself for a short time before you’re able to adapt to your new situation. It’s important to give yourself time to come to terms with what has happened and it’s long term effects.
2. Look at your problems, the negative affects your illness or disability has had on you. Look at all the areas it influences.
3. Knowing what your problems are ask yourself ‘What can I do about this, what’s the solution.’ Keep asking until you have answers.
4. Now knowing what you need to do, do it! Take action until the solution has fully come about.
5. Key to it all, the fuel for your motivation, the reason you’ll put the effort in to pick yourself up and not just come to terms with your illness or disability but why you’ll go on to make things great, is finding your empowering breakthrough goal. I’ll write in more detail on this another time. But it’s your reason for being, living, succeeding, the thing that will bring you happiness. The one thing that if you achieved it will just make life brilliant. So ask yourself:
‘Whats my breakthrough goal.’
Once you have that, think of it every day and take action to begin bringing it about.
Do not look for any reasons which would stop you from pursuing your goal. People manage to find all kinds of excuses for things they have not done and should have done. As I am writing these strategies my life is certainly not straightforward. Yet I believe that tomorrow will be a better day and I will be able to continue and help great people like you achieve your dreams and be happy.
Now go on and make your life great. Accept you’re going to have bad days, but know tomorrow can always be better. Ensure that you experience daily both advances and moments of joy. Make your mantra ‘I can do this and I’ll never give up.’
Your disability doesn’t have to prevent either success or happiness! Don’t allow emotional meltdown to cripple your future.
My mission is to provide support, information and activities with a view to helping those with visual impairment gain the best outcomes in life and reach their full potential.