Elin Williams, creator and writer of the award-winning disability and lifestyle blog, My Blurred World, shares her journey of coming to terms with using her cane. #LoveMyCane
If you’ve ever felt self-conscious when using your cane then what you’re about to read will likely resonate with you in some way because I’ve been there too; in a position where neglect, frustration and anger camouflaged every positive attribute the cane could bring to my life.
I once felt awfully uncomfortable whenever the cane was mentioned, never mind when I had it in my hand. Bubbles of unwanted feelings were formed, bursting into sensations of despair and self-consciousness, feelings I found myself vulnerable to for so many years before picking my cane back up again.
Meeting my Cane
I was first introduced to the cane when I was eight years old, two years after I was diagnosed with the degenerative eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa, and as I’m sure you can imagine, everything was still quite raw, especially since I was very young at the time. I found myself in a world where I felt different to others and I thought that using a cane would emphasise that further, encouraging more stereotypes to be created and exploited.
Bringing a mobility aid into the equation only seemed to fuel some kind of hatred towards my disability and so I stored my cane away in a box alongside some magnifiers that didn’t prove useful anymore. It didn’t see daylight for eight years after that.
That’s a long time to hold a grudge, I know, but I think I needed that time in order to accept other aspects of my disability.
The cane didn’t seem to serve a purpose in my life and the thought of using it made me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. I’ve never wanted to live in the shadow of my vision impairment and I guess I thought that I’d be sacrificing that urge if I started to use my cane.
Picking the cane back up
It wasn’t until I was in my first year of sixth form that I dug the mobility aid out of the dust covered box. My eyesight was deteriorating rapidly at this time and I felt like I was losing grip of my world. I found it harder to go out and about independently without a sighted guide and I didn’t want that freedom to be taken away from me.
So after a lot of hesitation and some encouragement I received by my mobility officer at the time, I finally picked the cane back up again. But the road ahead was a bumpy one with waves of anxiety and self-consciousness rushing over me whenever we ventured to a busy spot of town, I was convinced that people were laughing, staring, judging; these thoughts retracting me back to my shell on more than one occasion.
But whenever I felt this way, I kept thinking back to each outing without my cane, the ones which were punctuated with falls, bumps and crashes with every bump knocking another ounce of confidence out of me. So when I realised that these incidents could become less frequent of an occurrence if I had my cane to hand, I realised that, actually, there were some positives after all.
‘a more positive mindset’
I eventually graduated into a more positive mindset, slowly seeing my cane in a different light and recognising that I needed it to become the independent person I so longed to be.
I’d go as far as to say that I’m confident when using my cane now, or more so than I used to be. I choose to embrace the positives that it can introduce to my life rather than dwelling on the negatives because I’ve realised that it gives me a lot more than it takes away from me.
It helps me to promote my level of independence and it lets others around me know that I’m vision impaired, something I’m not always confident in disclosing myself. Although I feel like this makes me vulnerable at times, I’ve had a number of positive experiences when my cane is concerned, from train conductors offering their assistance to members of the public asking if I need help with anything. I might not always need it but I value those offers.
Recognising these positives has encouraged me to embrace my cane. It’s been a tough journey and it’s one that I’m still enduring but I’m further ahead than I ever imagined myself to be. There are a few yards to go yet until I reach complete confidence when using my mobility aid but I can guarantee that my cane will be in hand to walk those final steps.
It’s possible to overcome challenges
If you’re struggling with something similar right now then I want you to know that whatever you’re feeling is valid. It’s not always easy but with hard work, determination and a peek at that glimmer of light which lies at the end of the tunnel, it is possible to overcome any challenge, even the ones you once deemed impossible.
This blog was written by Elin Williams, author of My Blurred World, for our Love My Cane Campaign, which is all about encouraging visually impaired young people to think more positively about their canes. Visit our Love My Cane campaign page to find out more.