What Do You See?

I am asked this question many times and it is difficult to answer. Often, I do not know what I see…for what I am looking at does not declare itself readily. The world through my eyes is a shadowy, ill-defined place with uncertain shapes and colors. I am losing the ability to detect light and color in increments as if the world around me is a watercolor scene fading into the canvas. At times, I see nothing, only darkness and danger; other times the world is brilliantly washed in diffuse light and a soft blurriness which is almost beautiful… like a Monet… Almost…

Currently, I see life through a very small aperture. This creates lots of challenges as anyone with RP can attest. I cannot see above, below or to the sides of my field of view. It is as if I am looking through a keyhole or straw. And the view is very blurry in addition. My level of vision varies depending on lighting, glare, time of day and fatigue to name just a few factors. I recall once that I was riding in a car with a friend and she wore a black dress. I casually reached over and picked a white string off the fabric. In the next moment, she said “Oh look at that beautiful old house,” directing my attention out the window. I turned and saw nothing but a hazy white-out. “I cannot see it,” I replied. Perplexed, she asked me “How is it you can see the white thread on my lap but you cannot see a big old house?” “I don’t know,” I replied, “it is confusing to me too.” I can see some things some of the time. Many times, I run into doors, tables, windows, trees and other things in my path. I have walked off curbs and fallen down stairs due to a lack of peripheral vision and depth perception. I have sustained a variety of wounds and injuries, including broken ankles requiring surgery. bloody knees and shins, cuts and bruises to my face, and a dislocated shoulder.

The thing is I cannot rely on my vision. It is faulty in the way it presents a scene to my brain. It cannot handle darkness…or too much light. I can only see bits and pieces at a time and my brain has to put the puzzle together. So my world has become constricted, unsafe, unknowable and inaccurate through my eyes. It is a confusing place to be…almost blind but not quite. And I realize it is confusing for others to understand this landscape in which I move and live.

But there are other ways to know the world in which one lives. And a little bit of vision does make a difference sometimes. Color, contrast, and light can help orient and clarify objects. In the same way, smell, taste, sound and texture can tell us about our environment. We only need to learn how to use these senses to gather information and clues that will keep us connected to the world. And what a kaleidoscope of sensory experiences awaits us if only we will gather our courage to learn, explore, and do things in a new way.

Yes, the world is an uncertain and confusing maze for someone with RP. As I was getting older, the falls were getting uglier and scarier. I began moving slowly and shuffling my feet with my  eyes on the ground all the time, concentrating so hard on trying not to trip, fall or run into an obstacle. I became afraid to go out.  Learning to use a cane and a guide dog gave me back a sense of confidence, freedom, and safety which I had gradually lost. Now I can walk with my head up and  enjoy the surrounding environment. The world does not seem as dangerous now and I have learned to accept what I see as my reality without questioning it all the time. I am on-the-go once again!

9 thoughts on “What Do You See?

  1. +Audrey, I loved reading your blog today. Thanks for writing it and informing us about your world today. Keep it up!!.
    Joyce D. N. ( Mom and Gramma in case you know more than one Joyce)

  2. Thanks for sharing. I remember asking you this once. The answer you gave then and the description you share now both make me shutter. I am so dependent on sight that imagining a world without it scares me.

  3. Oh Audrey, you continue to amaze me! This is such a wonderful thing to be doing. Never have you let your “handicap” stop you. Thank you for your refusal to stop living – you are an inspiration to us all.

  4. Hi I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your blog, I am an officer at a prison here in iowa & 4 years ago we started with 4 puppy’s & now have on daily average 65 that we raise for LD, it was awesome to hear what takes place with the dogs once they leave us, having the dogs here is a win win & it sounds like you have a winner too.
    Thanks Pj

      • Parry-Jones, Belinda (DOC)

        Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

        Seeing Possibilities wrote:

        > a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; } /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ WordPress.com audreydemmitt commented: “Thanks PJ for your interest in the blog. Stay tuned for more highlights from guide dog school and keep up the good work!”

  5. My daughter who presented your blog on “Vision through Words” also has retinitis pigmentosa from an early age. Her eyesight is gradually being lost in the same way that you lost your sight. She , too, is legally blind. She amazes me in regard to her determination to continue on. She also has times when she can see certain things and others which are blackouts. Nevertheless, she continues to learn more about her condition. She is married and has three grown children. She manages keeping house, cooking, and working on her art work. She also volunteers for “Second Sense” in Chicago. At present she depends on her white cane to be able to get where she wants to go. She also has been given equipment from the state such as magnifiers, a laptop, and a few other devices.

    I admire both of you for how well you have adapted to a different way of life. Continue on and God Bless You.

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