Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
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Sight Loss, Stress and Depression

May 4th, 2017 / View in own page?

Today’s post is from disability blogger, Sass. We are very excited that Sass is part of our look blogging team.

In this post she talks openly about her battle with depression, and how sight loss can cause stress.

 

Sass blog logo

 

Did you know that 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness?

Were you aware that there is a positive correlation between sight loss and depression?

I’ve been diagnosed as clinically depressed since 2015

Through the support of my partner Gary and my GP, I sat and talked candidly about my erratic mood swings, lack of energy, motivation and my constant exhaustion. We talked at length about my symptoms and the options available to me.

I opted to go on antidepressants as I have previously had counseling.

Antidepressants aren’t for everyone, and that’s ok. However, for me they have been invaluable; they have improved all the symptoms I mentioned above, and, most importantly, it’s helped me focus on the bigger picture.

My deterioration in vision since the age of 14 has been a source of vexation and frustration for me.

I hated relinquishing control, having to ask friends and family for help, needing things like worksheets adapted and continuous hospital appointments.

I just wanted to be normal.

But I wasn’t.

I walked into people and inanimate objects, I would knock things over, not be able to read anything without a magnifying glass and so many other things.

I’ve always been a perfectionist so asking for help or embarrassing myself publicly, always sent me into a spiral of stress.

Over the years this stress manifested into rage and, because of this, I pushed people away or pushed them to breaking point.

At the time I genuinely believed my outbursts were justified and acceptable. I believed I had to fight: fight for support, fight to be heard and fight to prove myself.

There was always a reason, an excuse, a situation. I couldn’t see that my behavior, thought processes and even actions, were out of control.

It wasn’t until I was at University studying psychology and having a truly fantastic network of friends around me that I recognised all of my grievances and anger were due to me losing my sight.

I still had my moments but they were fewer and far between. I would get riled up by the little things; dropping something on the floor and spending 5 minutes looking for it, tripping up kerbs or spilling my drink everywhere.

I learned to laugh it off, reminding myself that in the grand scheme of things they really weren’t such a big deal.

Yet as my sight deteriorated further and these menial things seemed to happen more frequently, I realised I needed some support.

And that’s when I rang the RNIB counseling support line, and registered myself on the waiting list.

I wanted to talk through my problems, how to acknowledge my frustrations but not let it control me.

I wanted to know how I would manage with my impending sight loss and what techniques I could use to make my life and mental state healthier.

The waiting list was so long that by the time my first counseling session happened, I had already lost my remaining vision.

My counselor was fantastic. Although I had lost my sight, and the worst had happened to me, she listened, empathized and talked through my anxieties and frustrations with me.

The counseling was invaluable to me and it wasn’t until the beginning of 2015 that depression decided to rear its ugly head again.

It took me a long time to acknowledge that I was changing and becoming angry all over again. It was always the small things: walking into doorways, pouring the kettle and missing my cup, dirty dishes and not noticing I wasn’t holding my cup straight so hot tea spilled over me and my furniture.

All those little things added up to one big thing: dealing with my sight loss.

That is why I started antidepressants. I was chemically imbalanced, so why not try chemicals to restore my balance?

I still have my down days, and that’s ok. It’s about acknowledging my stress levels and doing something about it.

Constant stress can lead to depression so make sure self-care is at the top of your priority list.

Depression is an illness, a brutal thought process that truly can take over your body and mind. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Establish your stress points and find a way to combat them. Only you know your triggers and only you can save yourself from stress.

Think positive, stay positive!

 

Useful link:

RNIB Counselling Service

 

Sass has written a post on her personal blog about sight loss and depression, some of you may find it of use:

Let’s Talk About Depression

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Stress Stress Stress!

April 27th, 2017 / View in own page?

Harriet is one of our fabulous LOOK members. Through our mentoring project she has been matched with a mentor who is supporting her to achieve her goals.

She is currently preparing for her GCSE’s and deals with the added pressure of having both a visual and hearing impairment.

in this video she talks about the different types of stress and gives tips on how to cope with it.

Make sure you check out our other posts on stress! If you would like to know more about the mentoring project please email mentor@look-uk.org

 

 

We’d love for you to get involved in our theme of the month. Why not answer our questions:
What stresses you out?
Does your sight loss stress you out?
If so, how and how do you deal with it?
How do you deal with stress?
What do you do to de-stress and relax?
Let us know in the comments on the above YouTube video or contact us on Facebook or Twitter

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Blog of the Month: Stress

April 27th, 2017 / View in own page?

Don’t Miss Our Blog of the Month….

Each month, on our blog, we will have posts relating to a specific theme. This month’s theme is stress. For many of you it’s a very stressful time, whether you’re preparing for exams and spending most of your time revising or writing dissertations or assignments. There’s no doubt that May and June are two of the most stressful months for students.

That’s why this month our blog will be focusing on stress. From personal experiences, tips on coping with stress and maybe even a playlist for you to make things that bit more bearable!

Here at LOOK we know how stressful these next few months can be, so we want to help in any way we can. Keep an eye on our blog page and social media where we will be sharing our posts for this month’s stress theme. There’s also a chance for you to get involved as well!

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Am I Inspirational?

April 13th, 2017 / View in own page?

In her first blog post for LOOK, our Project Worker, Holly Tuke, discusses whether she sees herself as being inspirational. Holly is blind due to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), and knows first hand what life is like as a young person with sight loss.

I’ve often been called an “inspiration”, and when that happens I feel humbled. But to be completely honest, I don’t think I am inspirational at all, I’m just an average blind girl who is trying to get to where she wants to be in life, and, along the way, achieve her goals. I stuck to these goals when I went through mainstream school. It was tough at times, and I didn’t give up without a fight when things went wrong, which they often did. But that’s just the person I am. I’m now in my final few months of university. I believe having a degree will present me with better life opportunities and help me find a good job. I want to do well in life and make my family proud. I am currently balancing my university work with my part-time job with LOOK, and other commitments too, but I don’t think any of these makes me particularly, ’inspirational’. I do these things because I enjoy them, but also to achieve the best I can in the future and to improve my life chances.

Picture of Holly

If anyone wants to call me inspirational then I am honoured. Personally, I think there are far more inspirational people than me, individuals who have, for example, saved people’s lives and have a positive attitude about everything.
The word ‘inspirational’ can be a funny one. I know a lot of disabled people absolutely hate being labelled with it. They don’t understand why they’re perceived to be inspirational when they are just trying to live normal lives. But the truth is, non-disabled people will never fully understand what it’s like to have a disability and, in all likelihood, never will.

I’m at a point in my life where I am happy with the person I am, I know what I want to achieve and where I want to get to, I know my strengths and weaknesses and I like to think I am a good, positive and caring person.
I’ve done a lot of charity work and volunteering over the last few years and recently started my first job as a Project Worker for LOOK. It’s just the sort of position I’ve always wanted. I believe that I am not only gaining experience for my future career but I am also helping others. I am keen to help others in the same situation as me and facing similar struggles to me, because I know how hard it can be to live with a disability every single day. I know how hard it can be when all you want is to see the beauty in this world but you can’t. I know how isolated it can make you feel. I know what it’s like to constantly fight for equality. But I also know the beauty having a disability can have. I believe that having a visual impairment has made me a stronger person, it’s most certainly made me who I am today. Would I be doing what I am doing now if I didn’t have a disability? I don’t know, but if you look beyond society’s perceptions, having a disability isn’t all bad. If you think about it hard enough, the positives can actually outweigh the negatives.

I’ve been blogging for over two years now and my blog, ‘Life of a Blind Girl’ is going places I never thought it would. I started blogging in the hope to raise awareness of disability and to help others that might need a bit of support. That has been the aim of my blog and blogging for LOOK has helped me reach that goal even more. Whether I help one person or 200, I don’t mind. Helping others, passing on my advice and providing people with some support or motivation is so important.
Blogging has also given me the chance to make new friends, some of whom are blind and visually impaired like myself.
If anyone is interested in starting a blog or writing a guest blog post for LOOK then I would encourage you to do so, it’s so important to get your voice heard. Blogging is one of the best decisions that I have made.

When I graduate from university I want to continue blogging and working for LOOK or within the sight loss sector to support as many young vision impaired people as I can. I want them to know that having a disability doesn’t have to be a barrier. Does this make me inspirational? I’ll let you decide.
If you enjoyed Holly’s post then head over to our useful links page where you can check out her blog!

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Thrilled to be Working for LOOK

March 28th, 2017 / View in own page?

I am Megan Barker, the new mentoring project co-ordinator at Look.
Photo of Megan

I have spent most of my time working in theatre and community arts, as a freelance writer, and as director of my own theatre company. I have also worked as a creative writing teacher at various colleges, including here at RNC in Hereford. I live in rural Wales and have three children.

My whole life I have been interested in – even obsessive about – imagining what the world is like experienced from someone else’s perspective. I love imagining myself inside other people’s shoes and asking questions. This is what fuels my interest in writing plays and making theatre. It is also what drew me to counselling and related fields such as coaching and mentoring. I love having ideas and making them happen. Mentoring is a way of facilitating others to explore their ideas and then figure out how to put them into action.

I am thrilled to be working as mentoring co-ordinator for Look. Being a person who spends most of the time in a soup of ideas, drives, aspirations, dreams, anxieties, doubts and distractions I see the benefits that a mentoring relationship can bring as invaluable. Having someone there to help you unpick the swirl of life, help you recognise the path you want to take, and identify how best to go about following it, is an incredible resource. It is a fantastic opportunity for me to have a role in making that resource accessible to all those who want to participate. So far I have loved helping people from different parts of the country make connections, share experiences and ideas. I also feel honoured to be working with such a talented, resilient, inspiring group of folk.

I very much hope to keep building the project, so that we continue to create a strong network of role models, mentors and mentees. I want to develop a system where mentors are themselves mentored, and mentees eventually become mentors too. The online platform is a great way of bringing people together across the country. It is also secure from a safeguarding point of view. All the messages are moderated so we know that our young people are protected. I am also excited about developing a face-to-face element to the project. The training events that took place before I arrived were, by all accounts, inspiring and energising. I want to create further opportunities for our participants to get together in person, share ideas and have fun. Hopefully our mentors will soon start to get involved in planning these events and making them happen. I also intend to find ways of offering our mentors training opportunities, to further their mentoring skills and equip them to be role-models and leaders of the future.

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A Lack of Vision Does Not Mean Lack of Will or Ambition

March 8th, 2017 / View in own page?

My name is Charlotte Carson and I am the director of LOOK-UK – I hope you enjoy reading the first of many blogs.

I’m honoured to be the Director of LOOK as I have a very strong personal connection with the charity. LOOK was founded in 1991 by my incredible parents, Jennifer and Gareth Bowen, when I lost my sight at the age of 7. I was initially diagnosed with Stargardts disease, which was later re-diagnosed as Cone Rod Dystrophy. They, along with several courageous campaigning parents, founded LOOK in response to a lack of support for families. LOOK’s founding mission was to link families together from all over the UK to share experiences and support each other. Their ethos was families helping families, and we are now so proud to carry on this lineage in the form of our peer mentoring project, youth helping youth.

I’ve been in my role for nearly two years and LOOK’s mission remains as it has always done: to improve the lives of families with visually impaired children and young people. We are doing this through our peer-to-peer mentoring scheme (launched last year), providing support, information, and activities.

We are so lucky to have our office based in the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. I’ve hosted focus groups here, on Skype and networked with different organisations. I’ve been so impressed by the idealism, tenacity, and strength of all the students I’ve met. It felt right to create a project together, where we support each other. No one knows better than us, what we need and what we are going through.

Although many visually impaired people do lead full and interesting lives, they do face challenging times too – school can be tough, accessing an education, dealing with personal sight loss, and overcoming many social barriers too. I faced similar difficulties when I was at school nearly twenty years ago. I have spent my post-education years thinking there must be a better path through these transitional times and I learnt, through experience, that mentoring is the key.

I know from first-hand experience how beneficial a mentoring relationship can be for young VI people – it really can help gain the best outcomes in life and help us reach our full potential.

How do I know?
I am now registered blind and have a degree on useful vision. I can see outlines of objects and people and the rest of my vision is a blurry mess of colours and flashing lights. My sight is deteriorating and it fluctuates daily.

In my teens and into my twenties, I was introduced to a few key figures in my life, who were to have a significant, and long-lasting effect. These men and women became my mentors, guiding me through my tricky transitional years. They helped me believe in myself and to fulfil my dreams and ambitions.
Charlotte and her school friends

The self-respect and confidence I learnt from my mentors remains with me to this day and, importantly, inspired me to launch LOOK’s mentor project last year. I know, from talking to young people, that there is a real and urgent need for a project like this. The benefit of a mentor is immeasurable and long-lasting. Sometimes, what really helps is just to talk to someone who understands what you are going through.

The project is starting online and we’ve currently trained up a team of experienced mentors, who are supporting young people aged 11 – 29 through our secure online mentoring platform. As this is a pilot project we will be evaluating its impact and we already can see terrific results. We have some really interesting projects in the pipeline too, news of which you can find on our website.

The essence of the LOOK Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Project is to provide support and help for young people with a visual impairment from an impartial mentor from outside the family, school, or college, who will neither judge nor dictate and who, most crucially, has been in the same position. It could be for you.

I know that together we can make a difference to many people’s lives. Purely from the power of kindred support. If you are interested to find out more about our project or get involved, then please get in touch.

I’ll be blogging on here again soon. If you are also interested to blog for us then please email youth@look-uk.org

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