In the final part of our interview, Maribel talks about friendships and encourages with upbeat advice.
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In terms of friendships, do you have more vision-impaired friends as opposed to sighted ones? Does it matter?
This is an interesting thought because I can count on one hand my vision-impaired or blind friends. I love the relaxed nature when we exchange tales of our adventures and the fact that we truly understand how hard it can be to function in a sighted world. I treasure these friends but it is true to say, that I would be lost without my sighted friends and family who are the backbone to my life. My children have encouraged me to never give up: my family have learned the fine art of knowing when to let me try things by myself and when to jump in to rescue me. My blind friends are my comrades, my sighted friends are my fans!
What advice would you give someone who has been newly diagnosed with RP?
To anyone who may be diagnosed with RP, it is natural to expect that you will grieve for the loss of sight. Share this grief with a close friend or partner who can truly listen to what you are going through. You may initially feel your dreams and aspirations have all been taken from you and it will take time to adjust to a different way of being. The key in dealing with such a daunting future, regardless of age, is in accepting the limitations and reaching out to others so you can feel really supported on the challenging road ahead.
Be proactive in seeking out technology and other aids that can help you maintain a sense of independence – you might be surprised at the amount of helpful gadgets out there. Approach agencies that specialise in helping people with vision loss, because they are there to offer support and valuable information – my little motto is ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’ and believe me, it really does!
Finally, be kind to yourself because you will most probably be your hardest critic. Write up a list of your strengths and acknowledge your achievements. Trust your ability to be resourceful, even triumphant, as you face the challenges to see your life in a different light.
And as my son, at the ripe old age of four, once advised me, “Don’t ever give up.”
“The liquid drops of tears you have shed, Shall come again, transform’d to orient pearl”
© Maribel Steel 2012
Maribel is a writer, blogger, speaker, mother and vocalist. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her partner Harry, and teenage son, Mike – her sighted guides who are almost as well trained as her retired guide dog, Nev.
At the age of fifteen, Maribel was diagnosed with an incurable eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) but it is the journey towards blindness she is grateful for, learning to trust her other senses: to hear, to touch, to smell, to intuit, to love and to laugh.
Currently, she is working on a collection of short stories – fiction & non-fiction, with a view to publishing them in the near future.