Boxes . . .
No matter what the circumstances are, when you find yourself continuously floating between two worlds never being quite being accepted or rejected by either, it can test your resilience, no matter how great your courage. Ultimately it can simply leave you feeling less than whole and at the worst of times utterly and hopelessly alone.
In my personal experience, being registered as ‘severely sight impaired’ or ‘blind’, as a label, box or ‘disability’ (a word I detest for it’s overuse and convenient society-pleasing application), is in direct conflict with how I have chosen to live my life, due in part to society’s own somewhat impaired vision and thoroughly outdated way in which it views how a blind person should be.
As a consequence of being proud to be an anomaly, for 30 odd years I’ve found myself never quite being accepted by either others similar to me or those with regular vision.
I wonder why this aspect of having a difference to the majority or ‘disability’ to use the detested word is something that hardly ever seems to be discussed; if at all. The ‘no-man’s-land’.
On the one hand it is an undeniable compliment when people are genuinely unaware until it may have to be discussed. On the other it can be hideous and on occasion honestly soul-destroying when people accuse you of being a fraud and a fake and ‘putting it on’!?
My eye-sight may be impaired but my vision is not! Not fitting a stereotype or a convenient box and conforming to a societal ideal and consequently generating at times negative attention is nothing new. In this circumstance however, my ability to remain passive is itself becoming impaired! It seems increasingly that empathy is no longer an emotional capacity, but a dying art form.
The focus in my experience, has in the main appeared to be on what I may be unable or am actually unable to do. There still seems to be a fixation on a ‘can’t-do’ attitude rather than ‘can-do’. Subsequently I believe this contributes to the outdated stereotype of being blind and in turn when you don’t appear to fit this box, you are simply therefore a ‘fraud’.
After nearly 19 years in full time education, with all its associated challenges and possibly a few extra in my case, I jumped through these traditional hoops with a fair amount of success and collected all the relevant pieces of paper to show for it. Following this I’ve also been blessed enough to acquire further and more colourful skills in music, fencing, riding and dance to name a few.
However, this has all come with a cost. Knowing always that seeded amongst all the incredible love, support and encouragement from so many, there are those that would and will continue to evoke the spectre of that stereotype. The almost bitter ‘well you’re not really blind then are you?!’ comment. It steals and degrades any sense of pride. It erodes self-worth and most soul-destroying of all is the crippling sense of guilt. You find yourself smiling calmly and ignoring it outwardly and yet screaming inside “Where. Do. I. Fit?!” With a condition that is degenerative this is doubly painful. I’ve always lived with the attitude of ‘do it NOW!’ That’s not to say I couldn’t find ways to continue or try new things with no sight, but the little I have left is so precious and not to push this gift to its limits and respect it while it remains, to me seems a crime. And yet the crime appears to be being different from said societal ideal.
Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but I am literally in all but a few exceptions blind to ‘disability’. I can’t usually physically ‘see’ if someone is ‘disabled’. To me, they are a unique person.
My name is Ruth, I am a person and I am not defined by my level of sight. Just like you, I am defined by one common ground that unites every single one of us; my difference. Don’t put me in a box!