As I sit down to write this post I’m not entirely sure how its going to go but here goes….
I think its time to admit to myself, and other people what life was actually like BF (before Fable).
Its been an interesting few weeks with a lot of soul searching, some honest conversations and a few tears but think I’m finally able to put into words something which I hope will help everyone who is truly interested to understand why I decided to contact Guide Dogs just over a year ago and why Fable has made such an enormous difference to my life.
I’m not sure really what the catalyst was for calling Guide Dogs: A few weeks before a car had pulled in to ask directions, I had said sorry I don’t know and they threw a liquid out of the window at me. It turned out to be a sugary energy drink but obviously it was really scary. I can remember a couple of days later running into a friend just after I had done the same walk and getting upset as I felt I was already stressed enough about being run over, walking into people and things or falling over and now I have to worry about idiots throwing stuff at me! Around this time I had a conversation with a colleague who is also a Guide Dog Owner and asked what his dog did and how it helped. I then made that call and the rest as they is history.
I think the process of applying for a Guide Dog, learning to use a long cane, training with Fable and integrating her into my life has not only been a massive change for me but it has also affected those around me too. Some people have found it difficult to accept that I do have a significant visual impairment, which previously I kept well hidden and now I have a very visible symbol of that. I think that this is probably hard for some people as they didn’t really know how I managed before, after all my vision hasn’t deteriorated; why do I suddenly need Fable now?
I don’t think I even realised just how narrow my life was and how many coping strategies I had in place in order to function. Now that I can go out on my own without asking someone to go with me, or go somewhere new without asking someone to do the route with me beforehand, or get help to cross roads instead of taking a leap or faith, or see which shops I’m passing while still walking safely as a reasonable pace, or not have to worry that the sun might come out making my sight virtually useless, or worry I might fall down some steps that aren’t properly marked, or simply go out for a walk just because I want to; now I realise just hoe limited my life was.
When I had my first mobility assessment with Guide Dogs the Mobility Instructor asked me 3 questions which really made me realise that I wasn’t happy with the quality of my life;
- How confident are you to live independently on your own? My answer was I think 8 out of 10 (DIY is not my strong point but that’s what Dads are for) 😉
- How confident are you doing familiar routes? About 6 out of 10 I think (if its sunny, raining hard, icy or snowing then I wouldn’t do it as all of these conditions mean I can’t see very much at all, and every time I went out I use to worry about road works, crossing not working, basically anything different on my route);
- How confident are you to do new routes and go to new places on your own? A definite 0; I never have and never would.
If I were asked these questions again now question 2 would be a 9 and last week I achieved my objective and actually did a completely new route with Fable and google maps – that was an amazing feeling I can assure you 🙂
Looking back now I think I had done a very good job of constructing a life that meant I only ever did things I could do without help, or at least I only ever asked for help from very close friends and family, and I think I was very resentful and angry about this deep down. I didn’t want people to know I had a disability and I certainly didn’t want it to be the first they knew about me. That, I have to say was one of my biggest fears about becoming a Guide Dog Owner. Fortunately, for the most part, finally being able to be open about my visual impairment, and the difficulties I have as a result, has been a massive advantage. I have leant that most people genuinely want to help but unless they know you need help how are they going to offer this?
There are some things that are perhaps slower with Fable or that I don’t absolutely need her for: For example I have worked in the same place for many years and know the building well but I have chosen to work Fable on harness when I move around the building as it does make me feel safer, (there are definitely less near misses with people). I’m also future-proofing my life; if I don’t give her the chance to practice these skills then if I changed jobs or locations for instance she wouldn’t be able to do it. Lets face it none of us know what the future holds and for me a little time and effort invested now is worth it for the assurance that I won’t be limited in my future.
I didn’t talk about any of this before because I truly believed I couldn’t change it; how wrong was I?! I had to get on with life and make the best of it, and I’m not one for moaning about stuff I can’t change.
So as well as all the other amazing things I have written about Fable, I will always be grateful to her for enabling me to finally accept myself completely; my disability is part of me and it has helped make me the person I am today. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret the way I chose to cope in the past, in fact it was very successful, its just that now I have found a better way that will enable me to not only cope but to really enjoy life, now and in the future.
Team Mable continue to work hard and play hard; there are a few photos attached to prove it.