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Taking Charge of a Crisis

Editor's Note: Irene Lambert is Program Director and Past President of the Low Vision Self-Help Association, as well as President of the Greater Montreal Chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC).

I am not sure if it was synchronicity or just dumb luck that the day before I was to deliver a speech to the Low Vision Self-Help Association, I came across an article that I had written over four years ago, in 2002, on the structure and goals of this very same organization. The message I wanted to deliver was how important it is to be able to take a calmer look at the crisis situation in which you may find yourself. No one goes through life without experiencing various numbers of crises, and hopefully we learn some lessons from them.

My speech to Low Vision members was about the wall one hits when the medical world has done all it can to correct, or even arrest, the vision problems but is still forced to inform you that your sight will no longer improve, and may even continue to deteriorate. What do you do with the fear, worry and uncertainty about how you are going to live the rest of your life with low vision, or even blindness? What has worked for me is as follows:

Sit down in your most comfortable chair with no radio or TV on. Let the peace and quiet soak in. Relax those shoulders and hands and enjoy the down time. You may find those fears and worries spinning wildly into your consciousness, but that's ok--let them.

Whenever you feel ready, you can start unravelling those worrisome and scary thoughts. Ask yourself what specific fears and anxieties you feel. Make note of each thought as it becomes more specific. There is no telling how long or how many times you will be able to enjoy the quiet times before you start on this journey, since you may not find the answers to your questions the first time around.

When you think you have specific questions concerning your fears and worries, you can start taking charge of finding the answers. As you begin taking responsibility for yourself, some of the tools you will find at your disposal may be making changes in your lifestyle, acquiring aids and devices, learning coping strategies, getting professional rehabilitation services, joining a peer group, or searching for more knowledge about your diagnosis.

Knowing your personal drives and tendencies can help you make the necessary changes. During those quiet times, take a look to see if you are a "go with the flow" person, a giver, a peacemaker who shies away from conflict, or some one who is not used to making key decisions. Perhaps you are a "take charge" kind of person, assertive, a problem solver, a "need to know all of the options" person, or just plain opinionated or judgmental. It has long been my quest to understand why some people seem to make a relatively smooth transition in dealing with sight loss, while others never get beyond searching for a cure. My observation is that a great deal depends on your personality type.

The final message to the Low Vision group was that the very fact they were at the meeting indicated they were "taking charge", that they knew they didn't have to face things alone, and that they realized we are a community with knowledge, experience, strengths and weaknesses, that is ready to share and give or take as the need arises.

The same qualities can be found in the AEBC community.