When I was 19 years' old, I was told I had gone partially blind.
I was about to start university to do a course in English.
I was already planning to do my MA in Film.
And it wasn't actually as big as a blow as you think it was. For most of my life, I've had inherited eyesight problems, mostly from my father's side. I was born with lacking muscles in my left eye and a damaged retina, which meant that I could never see properly through my left eye anyway. As a child, it didn't give me too much problems except that my eyes would get very tired and it was not until I was 11 that I started wearing glasses. Back then, I didn't know how bad the word 'bifocals' was for an 11 year old. They told me what had happened and I recorded it in my diary back then, here is a paraphrasing of what went on thirteen years ago...
The optician had told me that what had happened was my right eye was receiving most of the pressure and strain, seeing as my left eye was not working to the best of its ability from birth. This meant that eventually, my right eye was also giving up. It was at that crucial point which meant that if I didn't get glasses, I really just wouldn't be able to see anything. My vision had become double and I could really feel it deteriorating pretty quickly. For an 11 year old, that's pretty scary. I would get upset over the fact that I couldn't see and it really took it out on my mind. I was convinced that if I didn't get what I wanted to read in, eventually I wouldn't be able to. I still think that to this day. I started reading far more, normally two books a day or more - just in order to get them in because of this problem. I had another appointment when I was 15 to change my glasses.
When I was 15, my prescription changed. And this is when you know that your eyesight is deteriorating quicker and quicker. I entered the opticians and they began their tests. After this, they gave me a prescription where the doctor basically said to me, 'it's quite extraordinary, I hardly ever give this prescription to someone of your age..." I asked him what that meant and he told me, 'normally, this prescription is reserved for people over 45..." As long as I could see, I don't think I really cared who the prescription was reserved for normally. But the prescription was very strong and I felt like for the first time in my life, I could see properly. Everything was so sharp when I put on those glasses and yet, I understood that it meant somewhat sacrificing something specially. That was when the doctor sat me back down and told me one last thing. "You know, your eyesight won't be getting better anytime soon..." He emphasised the word 'better' as if he meant something else entirely. "It may, however, get worse..." Again, emphasising the word 'worse' told me what he meant. He did mean something else. "Your retinas are damaged and your field of vision is incomplete..." I asked him what that meant. He replied. "It means that in a few years, you may go partially blind..." He didn't emphasise anything in that sentence. There was no emphasis on the word 'may', which would mean a condition and there was no emphasis on the word 'few' which would actually mean a little longer than four years. There was just this eerie silence which made me confused. I'd never felt blindness before.
I stopped going to the optician for the next few years until I finished school and was due to start university. I didn't really want any more bad news at a time in my life where I was practically already suffering with exam stress. When I was 19, I went back for a routine check before university and I really should not have because after getting on to my course, I did not want any bad news at all. But I knew that I had to due to the fact that it could mean getting a better prescription now that my eyes were going from bad to worse again.
I sat in the chair and got my eyes tested again, but this time it was different. As my eyes were being tested, I saw my optician consulting with someone else. They ran some different tests and the appointment was slightly longer than usual. It ended with my optician taking off his own glasses and placing them on the table as he sat on the chair near me. "Do you remember when I told you that you may go partially blind?" He said. I was surprised he remembered, to be perfectly honest. But yes, I did remember and I held my eyes shut for a few seconds - I already knew what he was going to say. I was only 19 - it wasn't fair. "You've lost your peripheral vision." He sighed. I knew it. I couldn't see well and my peripheral had suffered greatly. It was like over the four years everything in my peripheral was slowly fading to black like the end of a movie. I gulped. "All of it." He put his glasses back on. "It's gone." He said. I asked him what I do now. He gave me a very strong prescription for a new pair of glasses and told me I had to come and get another prescription at 21, when I finished my degree and then, a few years later so they could monitor my vision. He then told me about my blindness. "There's really nothing you can do. It seems to be quite extreme and you should not drive or operate machinery..." He continued on to state the things I could no longer do.
It was quite a blow for a 19 year old, but I understood it for my lifetime of eyesight problems. My eyes were giving up fast and it was not only due to genetic factors but also because of the amount I would strain my eyes. As my eyesight would falter quickly, I could never get glasses that worked for long periods of time (over 5 years) and so, my prescription kept going up and up, making my own eyesight corrected and strained and corrected and strained. This would strain my eyes and contributed, however slightly, to my blindness. I felt like that guy at the beginning of Jose Saramago's book Blindness who goes blind in the middle of the street in his car. I knew I had to adapt and it really has had a massive impact on my life. Let's put it this way in a practical situation: if you were to now look straight ahead in front of you, now hold out your right arm at a 90 degree angle to your vision. You can still see it. I can't. I would have to physically turn my head to see anything about my arm. Now, that's frightening.
If I'm going anywhere on my own, I'm immediately quite anxious because of the fact I can't see either side of me. I wouldn't see if someone were approaching me. I wouldn't see anything at all. Over the five years I have been partially blind, I have adapted well and come to understand and work with it more and more. It has not gotten better and, has recently, gotten worse. I have been told that it is possible that one day, I will go fully blind. But as someone who is not yet 25 and already having this eyesight loss, I can honestly say that there isn't much to be afraid of. I'm adapting and I'm learning. I was refused surgery because my eyesight is so bad - I think that I will have to live with this then. I hope that in the future, they will have something that can fix this for the future generations. That would be something to look forward to (pun intended).