Thursday, August 25, 2011
I have bad eyesight. I mean, REALLY BAD. Most people who know me would have seen me in glasses before, or know that I wear contacts in class. What they wouldn't know is that I am functionally blind in one eye, and have only marginal vision (-5.75) in my other. When wearing contact lenses, I wear only one, since my bad eye would probably need a contact lens three inches thick to do any good.
My left eye has amblyopia, or "lazy eye", which means that while there is nothing physically wrong with my eye, the optic nerve failed to develop visual acuity and it cannot transmit visual signals effectively. I see light and very vague shapes and that's it. This is a result of having been laid face down in my crib as an infant for extended periods without movement, when my neck was too weak to lift my head. As such, my left eye failed to develop. I have worn glasses since I was 6 years old (corrective lens only for my right eye), and got my first contact lens for my right eye at 14.
I can do almost anything anyone else can do, except of course seeing with both eyes. Over time I have learned to live with my disability and can drive, shoot firearms, and even do martial arts and other sports. I would never be a professional athlete, but this has less to do with my eyesight than with having other priorities in my life all along.
People with disabilities go through a process I would describe as "Four A's"
We deny that we have a disability, or that such a thing could happen to us, or that there really can be no cure or improvement in our condition. We think the world is unfair, that we have been wronged, and that we are somehow owed the inalienable right to function that we think everyone else has.
We learn that this is not a life-ender, and that it is nobody's "fault", not even our own. We begin to consider strategies for improving our quality of life and possibility. We cannot change the circumstance, so we must change our reaction to it. Here is where we must choose to not give up.
We embark on specific tasks and actions that allow us to do the things in life we want to do. This often requires planning, focus and discipline. We find that we can compensate for nearly any situation we face. In my case, when driving, for example, I need to turn my head very far when changing lanes so my right eye can check for cars. It looks odd, but it works.
Through hard work and task-oriented training, we discover that perceived limitations are not as we expected. We can have a "normal life" and in fact go well beyond not only other people's expectations of us, but our own expectations as well. We prove that our only true limitations are those we place upon ourselves. We plan our work and we work our plan.
My very wise friend Marco told me "God does not give everything to anyone". I have found this to be true. We look at supposed handicapped people and see countless television programs of those people who reach the Achievement Stage of their disability. We are inspired and think "I could never be like that" without even realizing that each of us has his/her own handicaps, and the potential to overcome them. WE ARE ALL ALREADY LIKE THAT. It is the essential human quality to achieve our potential and to overcome obstacles through our willpower and effort.
The only true handicap any one of us can have is a lack of willpower.
I have never claimed to be handicapped, nor tried to receive any social benefits for it, even though I am very sure I qualify. Maybe I have been wrong about this. Pride kept me from ever considering myself as disabled. Rather, my pride should be in the fact that I AM disabled, but like many others have tried to rise above. I hope to be able to help spread the important message that many other achievers share:
IF YOU CAN DREAM IT YOU CAN DO IT
What are your handicaps? Are you aware of them? Have you gone through the Four As? Your willpower will give you the strength to overcome any limitations.
In short, "YOUR WILLPOWER WILL POWER YOU". Let's go there together. I'm IN.