[nabs-l] Blindness, loss and therapy

Bridgit Pollpeter bpollpeter at hotmail.com
Fri Aug 19 20:18:33 UTC 2011

As a former sighted person, I thought I'd weigh in on this topic.

I was fully sighted for 22 years then loss my vision due to a viral
infection compounded by pneumonia.  I drove, loved fashion, had managed
a clothing store, an avid reader, dancer, had been a theatre/vocal
performance major, was raised sighted, lived sighted then pretty quickly
lost my vision.  It took about a year beginning with just a little
haziness to my vision, and at the end of the year, after a procedure
that was suppose to restore vision, I lost it all.  Eight years later,
it has cleared, if you can call it this, to where I can make out
shadows, light and some colors, but I'm basically totally blind since I
can't use any of this to use my eyes visually.

I'm not sure why, and I've come to realize I'm in a minority, but I've
never struggled much with losing my vision.  It wasn't the greatest
thing to happen, but it was not even close to being the worse thing
either.  I can't even put it in the middle of bad things that can
happen.  From the beginning, long before I knew about training centers
or consumer organizations or philosophies of blindness, I discovered
blindness was not a catastrophic event and I was still very capable.  I
knew I was the same person I'd always been, and I knew I could still do
all the same things, I just had to figure out how to do them.  My
biggest problem, and it still is, has been other people in my life.

Once my eye specialist diagnosed blindness, my dad couldn't stop crying,
and my mom said I better get back on anti-depressants, which I'd been on
and off of for years for an entirely different reason.  It was surreal
comforting my father since I never cried about it.  This isn't to say it
has always been easy or wonderful, but my blindness has never struck me
deep enough to feel this way.  And I remember being angry that my mom
automatically assumed blindness would depress me.

For eight years, people, mostly sighted, have tried to project feelings
and thoughts onto me that are just not true.  No matter what I do, what
I say, I still have people assume blindness is life-altering and limits
you beyond functioning.  I don't provide lip service because I've been
brain washed or have an agenda, once I received training, my life's been
normal.  I've actually accomplished more blind than I ever did sighted.
 Once my doctors cleared my health, I couldn't get into a training
center fast enough.  I attended the Iowa Department for the Blind, and I
went in with an open mind, eager to soak up whatever I had to learn.  It
was difficult being around students who were resistant to training, or
who couldn't "cope" with their blindness.  I'm not trying to diminish
anyone's feelings and experiences, but blindness is relatively
permanent, and instead of wallowing in self-pity and refusing to move
forward, why not adopt a positive attitude and learn what is currently
available to the blind to live active, productive lives?

When I discovered the NFB and studied its foundational philosophy, I
thought, finally, others who get it.  I'm a complete human being with an
emotional landscape- thoughts, feelings, desires, and my entire life is
not wrapped up in blindness.  During my first national convention,
during Dr. Mauer's banquet speech, his theme revolved around the concept
that blind people are not broken sighted people.  I cried as he spoke
because I knew this, felt it, for years.  It was comforting to be around
people who agreed.

Yes, I miss visually seeing at times, and I don't like that we are still
fighting for equal rights, and I wish more was accessible to us allowing
for the ease most sighted people experience in terms of information, but
usually, blindness itself has nothing to do with this other than because
people believe sight is so instrumental to doing the most mundane task,
they don't consider how simple being blind can be if certain things

I miss sight, but not the way I miss my grandma who passed away years
ago.  It's a different loss, and for me, no way near the magnitude of
loss experienced with true death.

Left to my own devices, life truly isn't that huge of a challenge.  I
don't struggle mentally with blindness, nor is it a physical challenge
in terms of doing things.  I've found alternative techniques equal to
using sight most of the time, and should these techniques be recognized
as equal to sight and adopted on a large scale, most blind people would
have very few, if any, issues.

I'm not saying I'm happy to be blind, but I'm not unhappy either.  And I
don't pretend life is super easy, but again, more than half the time,
the difficulty is related to attitudes and perceptions and unwillingness
to change that creates the difficulty in blindness.  I still make
mistakes and I have my own personal limitations, but I don't feel my
blindness contributes to intellectual or physical limitations I have.
As a person who was once sighted, I don't think much has changed in my
life.  I enjoy the same things, I do most of the same things- blindness
isn't stopping me.  I should probably mention I'm also stubborn and
rebellious, so when I'm told I can't do something, I more likely to do
it.  LOL

So do I think all blind people require therapy?  No.  And should
training centers provide therapy?  No, and if a person feels therapy
would be beneficial, it is up to an individual to seek that care out.
It's no different than any other medical concern.  If you need a doctor,
you find one and go to their clinic.  The world does not bring you
medical help.  So why should a training center provide it?  As a
diabetic, I wouldn't expect an on-staff endocrinologist.  People seeking
therapy shouldn't be ostracized and made to feel bad for doing so.
What's right for me, may not be so for others, but an individual need,
or desire, does not mean training centers should invest in a therapist.

People need therapy and psychiatric help for many reasons, and if a
person believes this would help them deal with blindness, that's okay,
and they should seek that help out.  I don't think it is necessary for
an institution to provide that care though.  At the end of the day, it
does not contribute to the program.

While losing a sense after once having had it, it is a loss to an
extent.  And there is an adjustment period since you learn to do things
in a new way.  I understand I'm in a minority with my view when it comes
to sighted people becoming blind later in life and how we address this
fact, but I didn't find blindness to be as emotionally challenging as
some believe, nor did it take me long to adjust to being blind.  I'm not
the brightest crayon in the box, so if this is possible for me, I know
it is possible for various crayons- all shapes, sizes and colors!

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter
Read my blog for Live Well Nebraska.com at

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