Losing my eyesight and finding myself: What I learned from going blind
Sleepiness, a throbbing head ache, nausea, and a lack of concentration is what I lived with day-in and day – out for several months. At the age of sixteen, I believed these symptoms were just an effect of hormonal changes. In Mid October I had finished taking a hot bath when I felt the strength of my body rush out of me, allowing gravity to pull me to the ground. I was hurried to the hospital where they ran tests. The M.R.I. revealed a brain tumor in my right frontal lobe that was slightly smaller than a tennis ball. The following day at Sierra Vista hospital I was in surgery having the intrusion removed. The operation was successful and thoroughly rid me of the tumor, leaving me with full cognition and motor abilities. However, over the next couple months my vision slowly faded until I was left with only vague shadows. Though I lost my vision along with freedoms, I gained clarity and appreciation for life.
Having the pressure of the tumor gone with minimal nerve damage and an E.E.G. showing my brain receiving visual signals, doctors were baffled as to why my vision was diminishing. This triggered frustration from the uncertainty encompassed by hope for my vision returning as I healed, since there was no cause for my loss. Needing to recover, I lounged in my cushioned bed. I now had ample time to watch TV, catch up on some letter writing, and reflect upon my situation. Six weeks went by from the day of my surgery. One late morning, curled up in my cozy bed, I scanned my eyes across my modern styled room. Sunlight flooded in from my window, brightening the room. To me though, a foggy haze blanketed the room. Breaking my gaze of the room, I grabbed a sheet of paper from my bed side table to write a friend. I began to write the first line, holding the paper closely to focus the grainy, dim spot of vision on my writing. I dropped down and wrote the second line, then looked back over it. Stun and despair flooded me as I peered down at the note to find I had written over the first line. My vision was worsening. The world around me was falling into a constant night. Only in my world there is no light to turn on, no shimmer of the moon. What I saw digressed into indistinguishable shadows in the peripheral of my left eye with a charcoal grey around it. The right eye was left with psychedelic color streaks filling it. To survive my other senses have heightened. I now discover with my hands and take in my surroundings with my ears.
I eventually had to learn to trust myself, other people, and the feel of my guiding stick. All of these things have their independent challenges. As I would walk through my house, my forehead would remain tight with fear of running into a wall. Slowing down and paying more attention, I adapted to navigating my house smoothly and in a relaxed manner. Outside of the house, I now had to cling to somebody’s arm for guidance through obstacles unbeknownst to me. Every step I took was heavy with hesitancy until I learned to surrender my independence and rely on people. To gain some independence, I started using a guiding stick. My stomach would groan, knowing my white cane distinguish me from others. Fear of being misguided and lost stifled me from going out solely using my walking stick. All of my development and trust came to be out of necessity, time, and experience.
For a time, I felt as if a child again; for, now I had no job or car and had to rely heavily on other people. The fulfillment of working for my own pay check was gone. Luckily, since I still lived at home, I survived with out it. What grieved me the most was not being able to escape to the open road where I was free and where I enjoyed blasting my music. Thanks to my supportive friends and family, I was at least able to get to school, shopping, and appointments. Never the less, an emptiness along with an inadequacy lingered with me.
After mauling over my situation for a few days, I determined I was grieved over my deficiency of responsibilities, not my job or car alone. I began to analyze how to regain this in other aspects of my life. Responsibility is taking positive action in your life. My job and car were concrete responsibilities I possessed. Although, what about responsibility for my personality and morality? Until this point I had been quick to anger and criticism with others. I now made an effort to find positive qualities in people and forgive when I was hurt or disappointed, leaving me with a satisfying peace. Where I would once associate with people my age with similar rambunctious attitudes, I now carefully chose friends who were supportive and up building in their kind words and clean conduct. Just with these few changes, my inadequacy was voided and replaced with a rewarding sense of dignity.
Lethargic and clueless one minute, healthy and perceptive the next; this was my ordeal. I look back at my incident, detached from situation, astonished by how I coped and came out as an improved person. I lost the liberties of being able to drive freely, leaving my house with the security and awareness of the world around me. Having a tumor and the absence of my sight is a devastation I still struggle with; this I cannot deny. However, I appreciate the wisdom that I have gained from this tragedy. I have learned how to adapt physically, visualizing by touch, and perceiving by sound. Not having a job or car pushed me to develop a broader scope of responsibility. My scope reached into my personality, where I cleaned up my negative attitude. I will constantly find traits I can improve, but the ones I have made so far have given me a solid foundation to build on. I still miss my freedoms. Never the less, the sobering effects enriched my nature, for which I am grateful.
This is an essay I wrote in 2005, four years after losing my eyesight.