Saturday, March 17, 2012

Between Two Worlds

I sometimes feel as if I'm living between two worlds.

When people ask me, "So, are you blind?" or, "Are you sick?" I have to answer, "Well, yes. And no. Sort of. It's complicated."

Am I blind?

Yes, I am. My visual acuity—which cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses—falls roughly within the range of 20/600. This places me squarely in the "legally blind" category; meaning that, according to government records, I am classified as blind and am eligible for certain services offered only to individuals who are blind. I use a white cane when travelling most of the time, the white cane being the international symbol of blindness—recognized the world over as indicating that its user can't see. I am a fluent braille user, another tool which is practically synonymous with blindness. Before braille's invention in the early 1800s literacy was virtually inaccessible to those who could not read print. I continually depend on paying close attention to my other senses to give me information I miss visually.

But, I'm not really blind. At least, not in the way that most people think of the term.

Unless you see me using a white cane or reading braille or holding an object two centimetres from my face to see it, you probably wouldn't know I was blind. In fact, even if you did see me holding an object two centimetres from my face to see it, you might not know I'm blind. The most common comment I get when people see me doing that is, "Did you forget your glasses?" I have to tell them that, no, I'm visually impaired and glasses (and surgery) don't help correct my vision.

The truth is, although my vision is quite low, I do have a great deal of usable vision when compared to someone who is totally blind (those who have no usable vision). And not only do I have usable vision: I greatly enjoy using the vision that I do have. I am a visual thinker and a visual learner. I read large print daily. I rely on visual landmarks when out and about. I enjoy photography and art.

Am I sick?

Well, yes, I am. I have a disease, a process gone awry within my body. A part of my body—the insulin-producing beta cells in my pancreas—no longer function. I perform blood tests on a daily basis to make sure certain values are within safe ranges. If the results drift much outside these ranges I can quickly find myself in a life-threatening situation. I wear a Medic Alert bracelet, branding me immediately as someone who has a serious health condition. I take injections regularly. I carry emergency medical supplies with me wherever I go. I am connected to a medical device day and night. I have had this disease keep me up half the night with monitoring and treatment. I rely daily on an external substance, which if it were ever withdrawn would quickly kill me. I am waiting for a cure.

But, I'm not really sick. At least, not in the way that most people think of the term.

Unless you saw me testing my blood or changing an infusion set or pushing buttons on my insulin pump, you probably wouldn't notice that I have Type 1 diabetes. In fact, even if you did see me using my insulin pump to bolus for a snack, you may not realize I have Type 1 diabetes. The most common comment I get when people see me doing this is, "So, who are you texting?" And I have to explain that I'm not texting, I have diabetes and use an insulin pump.

The truth is, although I rely on external medicine for my daily health and yes, even survival, it does not dominate my life. It does not determine my day, nor does it determine my life decisions. I have not spent any more time in hospitals than most healthy people; in fact, the only time I’ve visited the hospital because of my diabetes was the time I was diagnosed.

I live between two worlds. I live between the world of the blind and the sighted (that grey area called low vision—although I don't mind being called blind, either). I live between the world of the sick and the healthy (that grey area called chronic illness). This blog is about my thoughts, ideas, rants, ramblings, and experiences living life as someone who is legally blind and has Type 1 diabetes. I hope it gives you a glimpse into both of these worlds.

2 comments:

  1. Came to visit you from TuDiabetes. Look forward to more posts and learning more about your life. Congrats on starting a blog.

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  2. It's funny, but for years many people treated me as if I were blind because of my very thick glasses (+25D), when in fact I could see pretty well. Now that I am nearly blind (20/1000 or worse; these numbers don't mean much now) I find that people get annoyed because they think I can see and am just not watching where I am going. Now when I bump into someone and he says, 'watch where you are going', I reply that I would love to be able to watch where I am going. I guess I am moving from one world into another...

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