“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.” S. Kelly Harrell.
Being diagnosed with an eye condition that will gradually degrade our vision will bring on a multitude of feelings ranging from shock and denial to depression, sadness, and hopelessness. At times our visual impairment may leave us feeling isolated and alone. Asking for and seeking out a support system is not a sign of weakness or a burden to those around us. Without a support system surrounding us in this trying time our level of stress can increase which can cause additional health or vision problems.
A good starting point is to find and attend a low vision or macular degeneration support group. The main objectives of these groups are to offer encouragement and information which includes, but isn’t limited to available technology and presentations by eye care professionals on new treatment options. By providing information and encouragement the bigger goal is to motivate us, so we take charge again of our life and vision.
Take Rita Harris who says the mission of the low vision support group she founded is “to empower and inspire others who are visually impaired by discovering self-worth and obtaining confidence which will enable one’s fulfillment of life…A support group is very important. When I was going through the process of becoming legally blind I went through different phases. I went from denial, to being embarrassed and avoiding social situations. I tried to cover up the fact that I was losing my eyesight. I was ashamed. I learned that I didn’t have to live that way. I’ve always been very independent and social, so going from being independent to dependent took a great toll on me. I realized I had to pull myself out of that situation. So, I decided to form a support group.” (Morgan Citizen County)
Erma Seal-Seigler, President of the Tucson Society for the Blind, told the Arizona Daily Star regarding their support group; “It is such a nice source of support. Sometimes it helps people who may be new to the problems of macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy to be among others who are visually impaired. They feel much more comfortable and can share their problems with them.” Being able to share our feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness over the loss of our vision can help us move past these feelings and to something more positive. We will not receive this support and encouragement by isolating ourselves, staying home, and giving up. We must reach out to others for this support; we must be willing to take the first step.
It is important to note that there is not a one glove fits all approach. When looking for a support group to join, feel free to shop around. No group will be the same, cultures and dynamics will differ, and it is important to find the one that fulfills our needs, to get the most out of it. This also means that our needs might change over time and we want to move on to the next level, and to do so we may have to find a different group to help us reach the next level. The important point here is not to give up if the first meeting didn’t go the way we expected it to turn out. Give it a second chance and if nothing has changed then it is safe to say it is time to move on.
As mentioned earlier, aside from emotional support, a vision loss support group also provides needed information on technology and treatment options, as well as product solutions for everyday life. Keeping up-to-date on what is available to improve our quality of life and helping us to stay active is important. Low Vision support groups often arrange to have local professionals visit the group to provide in-person demonstrations of the latest in low vision technology, hand out catalogs full of daily living aids, and provide information on new treatments for specific eye conditions. Finding ways to still enjoy our favorite hobbies, get out-and-about, manage our finances, and live as independently as possible is one of the most important steps we can take to successfully managing our changing eye condition.
To find a low vision support group in your area, you can check out these sources: VisionAware.org Support Groups: AFB Directory of Services Listings, E.A.R.S for Eyes National Directory of Low Vision Support Groups. Contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org to request the FREE brochure: Living With Low Vision: What you should know – published by the National Eye Institute.
Sources and Resources –
Morgan County Sees First Vision Impaired Support Group – Written By: Katie Morrison, Morgan County Citizen. January 31, 2016.
Group for visually impaired gets into rodeo spirit – Written By: Loni Nannini, Arizona Daily Star. February 8, 2016.Sep 10, 2019