I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to write this post. The
challenges I have faced, whilst not huge when compared to the challenges
faced by those suffering a more terminal condition at times felt
insurmountable to me. They are also so numerous this will not be the only
post on the subject. In attempting to avoid a dark and hopeless tone to
this post I have tried to add all the ways I have found to adapt to each
challenge. I am still learning, I have made many mistakes whilst
attempting to come to terms with my condition.
I have never been a fan of night clubs which is fortunate as every time I
have set foot inside one I have been as good as blind, the darkness with
intermittent flashes of light do just enough to prevent my eyes
compensating even in a small way. Add this to the gaps on my peripheral
vision and a large number of people in a relatively small space and its a
recipe for disaster. things like being able to see what money I have in my
wallet, finding my friends and not spilling my drink everywhere took a
long time to find adaptative strategies for even in bars and pubs. I have
grown up with a close circle of friends all of whom know my condition and
are aware I have significant limitations when out and about at night, They
keep and eye on me and several of them knew how to alert to me a situation
without making me feel embarrassed. Lamp posts and bollards caused me a
lot of grief, walking into these wasn't just painful it was embarrassing,
have a friend with a keen eye to alert you when he feels you haven't seen
an obstacle is extremely useful. I carry a torch at all times however
walking down Southamptons high street late on a Friday night with a torch
can result in some undesired attention.
I always prefer to arrive at a bar with friends or before them. If I am
there first then they have to find me, it makes things far less stressful
just being a few minutes early and you don't get a phone call from a
friend after youve been walking around the pub for twenty minutes saying
"you've just walked past us twice". In regards to know what money is in my
wallet I have found coins are easy enough to feel and identify(however
every now and then some foreign currency will find its way into my wallet
which will confused me. Any coppers I received I removed from the main
part of my wallet and saved at home, this kept the coin part of my wallet
light enough for me to be able to find a correct value fairly quickly.
Notes proved a problem, some pubs and bars have just enough lighting to
allow me to make out what note I had, however there are many that don't. I
have gotten into the habit of folding my five pound notes horizontally, my
tens vertically and my twenties diagonally, this allows me to feel and
identify. when i collect a new note at the bar I tend to stuff it all in
my pocket and work on identification and folding discretely at the table.
There are several bars I frequent which make it extremely difficult for me
to find my way too and from the bar without knocking over several people.
I usually as a friend to come with me to that bar, I find it much easier
to let someone go ahead of me and I can follow their back, very much like
walking through a minefield. At the bar I pay it being my round and
usually ask my friend to wait at the bar for the drinks whilst I use the
toilet (the bars in question have toilets at the end of the bar). Toilets
I have found are almost universally well lit. I step back out, grab a
couple of the drinks and follow my friends back, back to the table.
This largely seems like babysitting not friendship and I resisted it for a
long time, again feeling embarrassed. However many of my friends are
insistent on helping, seem genuinely not to mind and I make sure I always
express my deep appreciation. A large part of trying to have a normal
social life with this condition seems to be knowing who to trust.
I tend to have a problem with bouncers a lot, my pupils don't dilate quite
normally, it could be my first bar of the night, I could be stone cold
sober however a bouncer seeing me approach after tripping over the
pavement and then seeing my well dilated eyes....well its perfectly
understandable he thinks I am drunk and refuses me entry. This largely
goes away when I talk. If I was drunk enough to have fully dilated pupils
and severe balances problems I shouldn't be articulating like I am sober.
Generally explaining that I have an eye problem in conjunction with clear
speech causes the bouncer to reconsider and let me in. Its a shame there
isn't some sort of medical id system for bar entry.
The final trial at the end of a night out(at which point I could be drunk
or sober, alcohol isn't always required on my nights out) is getting off
the bus at the right stop, I am entirely unable it seems to see through
bus windows when it is dark outside and the buses interior lights are on.
Asking a bus drink to notify you of the stop is largely unreliable,
through no fault of their own(its simply not their job). Fortunately my
phone has a pretty sound GPS system on it that allows me to ensure I am at
very least on the right road for my stop. Even if I do get off a stop or
two early once I am back in my village there are fewer security issues
with me using my torch.
As far as final words of advice go - Don't drink excessively on nights
out, you are vulnerable and getting absolutely wasted will only limit you
eyesight further. Remember to be security conscious, like most when I am
in the dark my hearing is exceptional, don't walk around with headphones
in or anything like that, you already have once sense down don't make it
two. More than a few times I have not seen someone, walked into them and
spilled their drink, they often assume I am drunk and say things like
"watch yourself mate", just shrug it off, offer and apology and a
replacement drink, don't dwell on it.
I am sure I shall be writing a second part to this post however I feel
this has probably covered the basic problems I encounter, I am not sure it
covers much in the way of solutions.