You’re Not Invited To My Pity Party

I am visually impaired, what the state of Texas considers blind, but with a small field of vision that to most people means I’m not really blind.  This was the result of an act of violence committed against me by a sociopath.  A person who believed themselves entitled to their anger, their grievances, their hurts and most of all entitled to live a life based on the false assumption that nothing and no one counted above their own self absorption.  I have nothing to do with such people these days, something that is actually easier to do in real life than here.

Being a tough cookie I fully expected that I would surmount this newest obstacle.  What I didn’t know was that my very way of thinking had to readjust in order to make the changes required for making a life as a blind person.  Being tough just frankly was not enough.  I was going to need to find in myself something more than courage and a stubborn insistence on moving forward.

There was no aspect of my life that was not impacted.  I had to learn new ways of doing what I had always done.  There are things, like driving, that I knew I would never do again.  For everything else my only limitation was refusing to learn how to do it without sight.  I would control the outcome, good or bad, completely through the choices I made.

I had wonderful help, I was fortunate enough to be a Texan with the full support of the Texas Commission For the Blind to face all this.  My first hurdle was simply mobility, getting around in a world I suddenly could not see much of.  That turned out to be a three-year-long training exercise before I was fully confident of my ability to go where I wanted when I wanted on my own terms.  But I got there.

The second life-altering change I had to make was to acknowledge all those messy emotions that go along with such an experience.  My first caseworker with the Commission read me like an open book, a disconcerting thing that blind people do and I suspect the reason people are so afraid of us.  She insisted to me that I must grieve what I had lost and I must acknowledge those feelings or I would ultimately undo all the other work I was being so successful at.  Her suggestion to me was that I set a timer for five minutes, be private and have my pity party and then when the bell goes off be done with it for a while.  It was the best advice I’ve ever gotten in my life.

Throwing a pity party for yourself requires some thought.  I found it important to have a plan of action for when it was over, what I was going to do and how to get started.  The most difficult though is the commitment to actually feeling your emotions, not thinking about them, or writing about them, but actually allowing yourself to experience the whole of your feelings.  That’s where the five minute limit comes in, we don’t actually any of us have more than five minutes of original thought and besides that five minutes can get long when our emotions are not what we want them to be.  What I discovered practicing this is that once I acknowledged and welcomed my feelings they became much more trusting that I would honor them in my decisions and they stayed out of them.  By embracing all my feelings, good and bad, I was able to use my rational mind for problem solving.

My caseworker’s point that any one dimensional solution to a multi dimensional problem is destined to fail.  No one thing that I did, or service that was provided to me by the Commission, helped me to survive being blinded; it took many things all working together.

I did not “get over” being blind, although I can say that there are people in this world insensitive enough to say and apparently mean such a thing.  What I did do though was get with, embrace and accept the new reality that is my life.

My feelings about that are addressed, privately, in my own pity party.  What that does for me is to allow me to go forward in action and make choices that are not directed by those feelings.  They get their hearing and they certainly can be a factor, but they damn sure don’t run the show and for that I am truly grateful.

Do I lack patience with people who won’t deal with their feelings privately and use and embrace them instead of inflicting them on the wider world?  In a word-YES.  It doesn’t need to be done publicly and it doesn’t work as well as simply facing and owning our feelings for ourselves.

So, please folks would you leave me off the invitation list for your pity party?  

19 comments

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  1. to a community you may not have much familiarity with, we’re a diverse bunch.  I am hugely uncomfortable with praise for how I’ve “handled” the blinding.  Like the other choice didn’t suck totally.  Seems silly to offer up praise for making a sensible choice.  Your sympathies are better directed to those who don’t even know they can’t see.

     

    • RiaD on August 1, 2008 at 1:10 am

    very wise

    My caseworker’s point that any one dimensional solution to a multi dimensional problem is destined to fail.  No one thing that I did, or service that was provided to me by the Commission, helped me to survive being blinded; it took many things all working together.

    fits so very many situations, imo…..

    thank you for sharing your story.

    no pity…..just admiration.

    • pfiore8 on August 1, 2008 at 1:29 am

    insights. and i will take your advice.

    a big long hug for you, words. . .

    • Viet71 on August 1, 2008 at 2:32 am

    As you know, there are different kinds of disabilities.

    I have a hand tremor, which has limited my physical abilities, but I’ve struggled to deal with it.

    My feeling, FWIW.  You deal with the hand you’re dealt.

    • pico on August 1, 2008 at 2:47 am

    my better half worked with blind kids at local schools, learned braille, attended practical living seminars with them, etc.  The number one question people would ask him (no joke): “Wow you work with blind people?  So you must know sign language?”  Followed by an awkward pause, and a very diplomatic response.

    Thanks for the essay.

  2. said to me when we were a’courtin “pity is the highest form of love’. Damn if that didn’t freak me right out. Thanks for uninviting me. We all have our blind spots and the attendant emotions that go with them. Your a true Docudharmist. A practitioner of the path. Lately at my own pity parties I say to my self ‘thinking’ and let it ripple through or as a bunch of sages once said let it be. Handling your own allows them to become part of the stream we all share and yet face alone. Emotions exist but do not own the situation. Thanks for the wisdom I seem to have to relearn over and over. what a place to be.      

  3. I guess I’ll just have to eat this big pony cake all by myself then!

    • Diane G on August 1, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    but people are also incredibly uncomfortable and unable to find words for things like this. They fumble stumble and do more damage without meaning to.

    I find the best thing to do when someone is undergoing something outside my realm of understanding is just to be there, but generally say nothing.

    So, I’m going to just hang out here in the corner and wave and say “Hi wordsinthewind!”

  4. I have been lurking for a while now, but wanted to make a comment here.

    Your method for dealing with emotions, particularly establishing what you will do at the conclusion of your given 5 minutes was so valuable I felt the need to say thank you.

    I went looking for info on the Commission for the Blind in TX and found their site.

    “The State Commission for the Blind was established in 1931 for rehabilitation of blind people by physical and vocational training.”

    Now the great state of Texas might be different than other states, but it is hard to imagine people in the government saying, “Gee, who could use some assistance to participate in the society more fully? We should do something for the blind.” It is very difficult to imagine such an effort in 1931 as the Depression spread and deepened.

    So how did this Commission come into being? It is much more likely that some blind people, family and friends of blind people, aware members of communities and the Texas School for the Blind organized and spoke up. It is not difficult to imagine the persistence necessary to get the government to take action. It is not difficult either to imagine that some of the people working to get this Commission and services were perceived as “angry” and “with a singular focus – What about the blind?” as they sought support from others by telling their tales, seeking understanding, empathy and recognition.

    Not hard to imagine either their efforts being met with sighs and annoyance; “Oh crap. The blind again.” Or, “Don’t you all realize we have more to think about than you? There’s a depression.” I doubt if those seeking “physical and vocational training” for the blind wanted “pity” – just what all marginalized people want, a place at the table.

    And they were successful. So you, suffering a great tragedy could write: “I had wonderful help, I was fortunate enough to be a Texan with the full support of the Texas Commission For the Blind to face all this.”

    I imagine those services are under challenge, fighting to maintain funding in this time of diminishing resources. All the best to you.

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