So, here it is my first blog post! I have to say I’m writing this wondering what I’m doing, I’m not a massive fan of blogs but a couple of people suggested that maybe my story might help, inspire or encourage someone and its for that reason I’m doing this.
First a bit of background; I’m a physiotherapist working in the NHS, I’m in my 40s, compete in strong woman and I have a genetic condition called ocular-cutaneous albinism,which basically means I have no pigment in my hair, skin and eyes. It also means that I have been registered partially sighted since birth. Thankfully its not a deteriorating condition and has been stable since childhood.
I first contacted Guide Dogs in December last year, I have no idea why really: My life was pretty full with work, training and socialising but in hindsight I think getting around independently had started to feel really stressful. Over the last 6 months a lot of people have asked why I’m doing this now when my lift is ok. The thing is it was ok but I had this belief that it could be better!
Anyway to cut a log story short I went though all the assessments and have been on the waiting list. During the assessments it was recommended that I consider learning to use a long cane so that if the Guide Dog was unable to work for some reason I wouldn’t be stranded. At this point I had decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into the process and reluctantly agreed.
I will never forget that first cane lesson; my Mobility Instructor, who I now realise is a very intuitive and insightful, said “you just want to curl up in a corner and hide don’t you”? She was right! This is what I had been trying to avoid my whole life; with a cane my disability would be the first thing people would see and I would no longer be in control of who I told about it and when.
Over the last 4 months I have worked hard with my Mobility Instructor and I’m amazed at how much my independence has improved! The cane has enabled me to work to and from work for the first time, I’m no longer walking into overhanging branches, misjudging slopes and steps, and I’m really enjoying walking. I don’t think I realised just how hard I was having to work when walking short distances – life is so much less stressful now.
Another very important lesson I have learnt is how stress affect me; my nystagmus apparently gets worse and I tend to revert to my old frantic ways. Mobility training has enabled me to identify this and manage it, I’ve even got to the stage of going to places I don’t really know with the cane which is something I would have completely avoided before. That old quote; “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”, is absolutely spot on and I’m grateful that I have been working with someone who knew how to do this in just the right way for me.
As I write this today I have so much to thank Guide Dogs for already and the best is yet to come…..
In just 2 days I will start training with my Guide Dog; Fable who is a beautiful and spirited black lab. I am so exited about getting to know her and learning something new; I have never owned a dog before so its going to be a steep learning curve in many ways.
I have learnt so much about myself in the last 6 months and I’m sure the next few months are going to hold many challenges and rewards.
I hope you enjoy reading this blog and following mine and Fable’s progress. I also hope that it might just inspire someone to take that first step out of their comfort zone.