Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Increased Senses

A common question I get asked is whether since losing my vision my other senses have increased. Generally I would answer no, but lately I've noticed that my senses have been changing and adapting. This is probably due to being more aware of what is happening around me and being more accepting of the need to use my other senses more in every day life.

I would not describe myself as having good hearing, quite the opposite especially since I had ear problems as a child which have continued into adulthood. Since learning how to use a cane to navigate, I have had to tune into my hearing more to help me cross roads. I think in the past I just didn't pay attention to what was going on around me on an aural level. The first time I tried to listen to determine whether it was safe to cross I felt overwhelmed and had no idea whether I should wait or go. I was also not accepting that I needed to be using a cane and my ears, and this also played a role in having so much difficulty tapping into the sense.

Another big help to me learning to tune into my other senses is practising mindfulness meditation everyday. I started learning about mindfulness to help with anxiety and I was instantly hooked on it. I was always interested in meditation, using it infrequently, but mindfulness really resonated with me. It teaches you about being in the present moment and to be aware of your body and your surroundings. 

My favourite way to practice mindfulness is to listen to the sounds around me. I was shocked when I first tuned in and heard at least five different birds, all in the middle of a big city! I had totally forgot the existence of the wildlife around me! I also can hear the traffic (which is surprisingly relaxing), the trains which are about a five minute drive away and the bats squabbling constantly. This probably sounds lame and like I have no life but I actually enjoy just listening! I've always been a person constantly on-the-go and always engaged in an activity but I've actually learnt to stop and just be, and it has helped with accepting my diagnosis and also in aiding my adaptation.

It truly is incredible what goes on around us and within us, and tuning into it has been a rewarding experience. I'm learning to embrace just listening, not having to rely on my eyes, to experience the world in a different way. You don't need to see every detail, you can combine what you see, hear, feel and smell and that is just as satisfying as being fully sighted. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Living with an incurable, degenerative disease which leads to permanent disablement and blindness is one of the hardest challenges a person can face. Doubled with the fact that the process usually begins in early adulthood when a person has discovered who they are and figured out their life goals and aspirations can make the situation even more confronting and distressing.

Hope can be a strong and powerful feeling that helps anyone going through this situation, and other situations, get through the day. But is there such thing as 'unhealthy hope'?

My main concern is when hope for a cure dominates everyday thinking and finding a cure is the only way someone can accept their diagnosis or find the will to continue on. 

The one thing for those who have Stargardt's, and any other inherited retinal disease, is that we may be losing our sight, becoming 'disabled' and 'legally blind' but we still have amazing, fulfilling, satisfying and successful lives. Our lives may be different from what we expected them to be, but I guarantee we will look back when we are older and think we wouldn't change a thing.

In saying that it won't be a walk in the park, but in life what ever is? I know myself struggling through another uni degree determined to complete my third degree as a 'legally blind' person and then ultimately completing my PhD will be one of the most satisfying moments in my life. People always ask me how I manage, and to be honest, I don't even know! It is literally pain and tears to get me to where I am and I still have a long way to go. 

I really want everyone to remember that a cure isn't the only answer for us, while it would be fantastic, our lives are still worthwhile and filled with incredible opportunities. 

Always stay positive and remember, no matter what the goal is, you can always get there, you may just have to take a different path to achieve it.