Facing my fear’s
To most people who meet me I come across as a very confident person. I’m very comfortable in most social settings. But like most people there are certain situations that make me anxious and when you throw low vision in to the mix then it adds another level of worry.
For me it’s not speaking in front of a large audience or meeting new people, I didn’t even get nervous when I jumped out of an aeroplane at 15,000 feet. What makes me nervous more than most things is travelling. Now I know that might come as a huge surprise to those that follow me especially as I travel quite a lot. In fact this week I’ll be flying from the U.K. to Florida where once again I’ll be speaking at some wonderful events. But it’s true, ever since I started to lose my sight no matter how often I do it, travelling makes me anxious. It can be a simple bus or train journey but nothing brings on my anxiety like a long distance trip. So how do I prepare each time I go away and what things have I learned as tips to cope better. Well for me it’s about over preparing and being comfortable.
I always make sure whenever I’m flying overseas or taking a long trip by rail that I book assistance. Most airports and train stations have a team of people who help assist people with disabilities with their journey’s. This could be something as simple as helping them onboard to find their seat or helping them navigate a busy terminal. The assistance teams usually required their services to be booked at least 24 hours prior to the journey but always try their best to accommodate anyone who asks for help.
I’ll never forget the first time I used assistance for a trip to London via train. I was so nervous and felt so self conscious having someone help me. I remember being sat in back of a little electric cart they used to transport people to the platforms. I felt like people were looking at me and I had to swallow my pride but I knew that I would really struggle to get there without the help.
That feeling of embarrassed slowly faded the more and more I took trips to the point where I came to realise that asking for assistance is not a reason to feel embarrassed but actually a reason to be proud that I wasn’t giving up my independence to disability.
Now I rely on the assistance staff to get me through the most anxious parts of my journey. When I travel to the airport I’ll check my bags and then get the airline staff to get one of the assistance team to meet me. They will then help me through airport security and once I’m in the departure lounge I tend to just ask them to leave me there and to meet me at my departure gate just before boarding time. I’ve learned that I can get help when I need it and be by myself with my mobility cane to wander around the shops and bars until I’m ready to board. Once I’m on the plane and in my seat I can relax, my anxiety disappears and I can enjoy my trip with a sense of pride that I faced my fears again. Once I land wherever it is I’m going I have assistance waiting for me there other side to help me get through customs and the busy lines.
One of the other things I’ve learned to do is be over prepared. Now I’m not one who normally takes notes writing down details, I’ve always been a kind of fly by the seat of my pants guy and it’s worked out well for me that way. But when it comes to travelling as a visually impaired person I need to feel extra organised. Seeing information boards is near on impossible with my level of sight so I need to make sure I’ve got all the relevant information in my notes, the apps for all the airline or train company’s download. Having everything there to hand helps me manage my anxieties and allows me to feel reassured that I’m not going to miss a flight or go to the wrong place.
Now even though all of these things help me they don’t take away the anxiety completely and that’s ok. I know now that it’s perfectly natural for someone like me to feel these things and I don’t get too hard on myself about like I used to. The difference is now despite these feelings of anxiety I get every time I’m about to take a trip I don’t let it hold me back or stop me travelling the world. Furthermore the feeling I get knowing that me and my cane can go anywhere with a little bit of planning and whatever assistance I need from others.
So if you like me get nervous about heading somewhere new or far away I hope my experiences encourage you to go face those fears.
I’m no longer scared of blindness
I’m prepared for vision loss
I am comfy with this haze these days the streets with the cane I cross
I’m adjusted to the fact I lack the sight to do something’s without prearranged assistance help me travel spread my wings
Yet none of this is weakness
I’m not ashamed to take a hand
For everyone who listens to this poem understands
There’s many shades to blindness
of that please have no doubt
and just because I use a cane doesn’t mean I can’t see nowt
But I’ve not long been like this
I fought to be right here
Not long ago as vision go I felt consumed by fear
I lost my independence
my pride and purpose too
I’m sure there’s plenty reading this that feels it sounds like YOU
I stayed at home too often
made excuses that I bought
I believed the lies about my eyes that misconceptions taught
Instead of swiping left to right for my mobility
not self assured I felt a fraud for how I really see
The world said only those who have none left are really blind
So I stayed home alone confused by how I am defined
The days turned in to weeks and months I hid behind my door
Frustration replaced confidence
the world felt mine no more
But nothing lasts forever
like useful sight this past
Time and talking healed these wounds beyond doors and shores net cast
To find the words for others
who like me had failed to see that seeing isn’t everything there’s more to life happy
And even though this didn’t suddenly change all over night
I learned to breathe whilst I still grieve
I saw a future bright
So I’m no longer scared of blindness I’m prepared for vision loss
I am comfy with this haze these days the streets with cane I cross
and if you’re just like me or see someone this could be too
I hope these words show you you’ll cope or foot inside my shoe