One thing that most people going through sight loss face is the idea of having to be dependent on others. Whether it is being driven around or having a menu read to them, it can be hard to learn how to depend on other people. However, it is possible for us to inadvertently become so dependent on others that we cannot function on our own. In fact, we may even fear being alone. But, how do you know if you are becoming TOO dependent on those around you?
For the most part, we strive to be independent people. We want to go where we want, when we want and do what we want. This is never more true than when independence is ripped away after sight loss. You can no longer do the simple things that you did before, such as hop in the car when you get a hunger for your favorite local restaurant. We don't want to be a burden on others and certainly don't want to live completely dependent lives.
At the same time, being visually impaired can be scary. Traveling to new places, trying to cook a meal or determining what to buy at the store are all times where fear and anxiety can rise up. It is much easier to simply have a sighted person with you to help you out. The hard part is that while it may be easier it isn't always better.
Let me give you a real world example: If you have read my blog or listened to my podcast, you know that I have been with my wife since we were 15 years old. She has been with me when I was sighted, through the sight loss and as a visually impaired person. She truly knows me better than anyone else. She understands what I need, how much information to give me when describing something and how to best help me. I feel so comfortable around her and would love for her to be with me everywhere I go.
Let me take a moment here to say that I would love for my wife to be with me everywhere because I love her. She is an amazing person and wonderful to be with. She is so dependable and a huge asset in my life. That being said, it is easy to get to a place where I become extremely dependent on her. I don't think I am at this point, but I could certainly see how I could be.
But, how would I know if I was overly dependent? Well, I've got a few questions I ask myself and you can ask yourself to get a feeling for your level of dependence on those around you.
1. Can I go out by myself?
This is what we typically think of when we think of being independent. Can we travel alone? Can we go to a store alone? Can we go to a doctor's appointment alone? There are lots of things involved here, like good traveling skills, confidence in the area you are going to and so forth. But, if the thought of being somewhere alone terrifies you, that might be a clue that you have some work to do.
There are obviously some reasons you might not like to be alone that are actually very valid. For me, I like being with other people. I am extremely relational and simply like to travel with others. It's not that I CAN'T be alone, it's that I don't WANT to be alone. Secondly, there may be a reason to take someone with you. For example, if you are going to a doctor's appointment, it might be nice to have someone to listen to the doctor to help remember what they said.
The point of this question isn't to suggest that you need to travel by yourself everywhere all the time. It is just to gather whether you have the ability to travel independently when life calls for it.
2. What would I do if left alone for more than one day?
What would happen if your loved one was gone over night for an event? Would you be able to handle yourself for that time? This may include emotional stability, physical needs, mental state, etc. If being alone sounds unbearable, that might be an indicator of over dependance.
You might think that living alone makes you automatically ok. But, you have to ask how much assistance you are needing on a regular basis. If you can't get through a day without someone coming to your house for support, that might also be an indicator.
Again, this isn't a matter of whether you like to be alone or not. Some people love being alone while others would shrivel up and die with human interaction. This is more about how you would function without someone there to tell you what something said or how you looked.
3. What would I eat if left alone?
This one might seem odd. But, think about it for a second. Would you be stuck eating cold hot dogs and breakfast cereal if you didn't have someone else? It's not so much about your eating habits, it is about the complexity of what you make. Could you read a recipe, prepare the items and then cook the meal? Or, does the thought of cooking alone bring anxiety and fear to the forefront of your mind?
Again, you may love cold cuts and Doritos. I know I do. It's not a matter of what you LIKE to eat. It's simply a question of what you COULD eat if left alone. And, I'm not suggesting that you need to be a world class chef and make a three course meal every night. I just know that the kitchen can be a scary place and sometimes, it can be easier to just let a sighted person handle it.
Regardless of your food choices, would you be able to handle yourself in the kitchen if no sighted person was available?
Dependence Isn't Evil
So, what if you find, after asking yourself these questions, that you might be a little too dependent on those around you. Well, let's take into consideration a couple of things.
First, how long have you been visually impaired? A week? 6 months? Timing is important. No one expects you to be totally independent after a few months. After all, your whole life is changing dramatically, so take it one day at a time.
Secondly, that fact that you have people in your life to become dependent on isn't necessarily a bad thing. It means you have people on your side willing to help you out in any way they can. Having support like that is invaluable. Be grateful and say thank you!
Finally, there are so many things you can do to work towards being more independent. You could take a class on daily living skills. You could do some Orientation and Mobility training to travel more confidently. You could find ways to be more successful in the kitchen and other rooms as well. You aren't a failure for being dependent on someone. You just have an opportunity to learn so many new skills that will help you work towards independence.
And, at the end of the day, being around people, sighted or otherwise, can be a really good thing. It can really boost your morale and help you to take those next steps towards living a life that is just a little more independent.
Where do you fall on the dependence scale? I'd love to hear about it, so leave a comment below!