In a split second, in a freak accident, I lost much of my sight. The reaction and adaptation to the trauma and my new disability taught me some key lessons about going through a major life change. A set of life lessons that helped me to survive and thrive. And since most of us go through changes in our lives, some drastic, some minor, these lessons are applicable to you.
1. It's okay to be emotional. It's natural to have feelings of sadness, to grieve over the loss of something, to feel angry about your situation, or to place blame. You have permission to feel that way, but only for moments. You can have your pity party, but only for a day or two, and then you have to move on. If you spend too much time in that place of anger or pity or blame, you end up not being able to adapt to your change. It keeps you in a place of helplessness. And what you need to be is in a place of hope and of growth.
2. You can give yourself permission to be vulnerable: Some of us like to project an image of being strong and fearless, but sometimes it's not the truth. The truth is that we're scared, vulnerable, weak and in need of help. We need to allow ourselves to rely on others. And showing that vulnerability is OK. It may feel like you are exposed, but being completely exposed is not always a bad thing. There is always learning and growth that can come from it. You allow people to really see you and when they can see you, can know your stress or pain, they can help. Vulnerability is just part of who we are as people.
3. You are never alone: Sometimes when we go through major changes we think we are dealing with something no one else can understand or no one else is going through. But there are others that can empathize with you. You're not alone. Even if you don't ask people to be around you, family and close friends will come to your side. You're also never alone because you always have yourself to rely on. And ultimately none of us are separate from the Creator or separate from the universe. So the idea of being alone is a false one.
4. You have to ask for help: Often people don't know what to say or what to do. After I had my accident, there were people that didn't call me for several months, and these were people close to me. Some people get stuck because they don't know what to say or what to do. Sometimes people are natural caregivers. They jump right in to help. But these are the minority. So it is your job to tell people what to say and what to do that will be helpful. What I've learned is that I've had to ask very specifically for what I need and for even, sometimes, what I need to hear. Being able to clearly articulate what you need gives people a sense of relief. In the end, people really like to be told how they can help you in very specific terms. They need it defined for them so they can feel like they are helping and supporting you. Left on their own to guess this information, they feel helpless. And when they feel helpless they do not act. So empower them and empower yourself by letting them know specifically how they can help.
5. You can adapt to anything. Our ability to adapt is amazing. As I began to adapt to being a person with limited sight, I was continually amazed at how quickly I could figure out how to get around problems and obstacles. Necessity is the mother of invention and you will naturally find ways to solve your problems and do things in new and different ways when you're presented with challenges. The adaptability and flexibility of our spirits and of our beings is a given. Those who cannot change and adapt have convinced themselves it is not possible. If you trust that you can adapt, then you will. And if you believe that you can change, then you will, no matter what the challenge.
6. You have to have hope for the future: I've been given news that there is no hope for a change in my sight and have been through two surgeries that did not improve it. Despite these setbacks, I have to believe that there is hope in the future. A belief I will get my sight back. Having that hope and having the positive perspective is what keeps me moving forward every day. If I gave up that belief it would be like letting go of a rope that pulls me forward. Believing that things can and will be different, and that you will see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can't see like me, is the most important thing in getting through a change process. Knowing that there is an end in sight, knowing there are possibilities, and having hope that things are going to be better. And, ultimately, things are going to work out.
7. You will grow as a person, but you are still the same: Going through a change, especially one that is traumatic, changes you forever. It changes how you see life and deal with things. You're never going to be the same again and that's a good thing. Because in the midst of change is a great deal of learning, if you are willing to have vision and perspective. And if you are willing to continually ask yourself the question, "What am I supposed to be learning from this?" "How am I supposed to grow?" "How will I become a better person because of this?" In any change process, you can become stronger, and a better version of you. Just because something changes about you, even something radical, doesn't change the core of who you are as a person. I, as now a visually impaired person, have my same mission, my same purpose, and my same values. So having something different about you doesn't make you a different human being. If you are strong and centered and grounded, that is still who you are. Sometimes you have to remind yourself of that.
An excerpt from my manuscript Finding the Light Switch in the Dark