Popular visually impaired (VI) blogger Elin, from My blurred World shares her story around living with Sight Loss and Anxiety.

If you had asked me to narrate my story when it comes to living with sight loss and anxiety a few years ago, I would have replied with a resounding ‘no’. But, in the last couple of years, I’ve truly recognized the positive impact speaking out can have, hence why I’m here sharing my experiences.

To give a little context, I am vision impaired due to a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). My first symptoms were noted when I was three-years-old and I was diagnosed at the age of six. RP is a deteriorating condition and, as my world started to fade before me, I was registered blind/severely sight impaired when I was twelve.

Many challenges stem from living in a world which wasn’t designed for those of us who can’t see, but today I want to shine the spotlight on my personal mental health journey, and how sight loss and anxiety can come hand-in-hand.

Anxious flutters were permanent residents in my stomach from a very young age. Being a natural introvert, I’ve always been reserved in my nature and, when I was younger, I found it difficult to voice my thoughts and experiences when it came to living with sight loss. This meant that I would keep myself to myself, I’d try my best to squash any flutter of anxiety that arose and I wouldn’t voice the worry that I felt so deeply when my eyesight was deteriorating.

It was in high-school that my anxiety started to grip me tighter. The deterioration I experienced aged 14 elicited feelings of fear, worry and loneliness and, as my confidence in navigating the world independently dwindled, I started to experience panic attacks. I grew to feel very skeptical of trying new things, going to new places and spending time beyond the comfort of my own home.

It was a while before I realized that something needed to change. But eventually, I decided to reach out to a sight loss counselling service in order to confront the anxiety that had gripped me for years. This helped me to pinpoint the most anxiety inducing factors in my day-to-day life and how I could address them in the healthiest way.

It was a difficult journey to endure but I really do believe that it helped me to address some of my most prominent worries. Why am I telling you all of this? Well, when I was younger, I believed that I was the only one. I thought that no one could ever possibly grasp the extent of what I was feeling. I let things escalate to levels they shouldn’t have reached before taking the leap and asking for help and if I could go back and tell my younger self just how important seeking support is, I would, because I now know how powerful that can be.

I spent years ignoring the signs; I muddled through my days in a state of discontentment because I was too afraid to reach out; I was scared that my feelings would be overlooked. But let me tell you this - every feeling you experience is valid, I only wish I had realised that sooner. Whilst anxiety is still very much a factor in my life, it doesn’t behold the power it once did.

I think it’s incredibly important to recognize how sight loss and mental illnesses can interlink, and it’s even more important to emphasize that it’s okay to feel defeated, it’s okay to feel worried and, most importantly, it’s more than okay to ask for help.

The affects disability can have on someone’s mental health is a conversation we need to have more of. This has only scratched the surface in terms of my story but if you take just one thing away from it, I want you to know that you’re not alone. There are people out there who can help and so many that are willing to listen.

 By talking, we educate, we raise awareness and most importantly, we help each other realize that we’re not alone.