Independence and impairment: the fight for survival

I have expressed the need for a greater understanding of the psychological aspects of sight loss many a time - or any other restrictive impairment for that matter. Sadly, my efforts have failed to yield the inclusion of emotional or psychological support services for those with such impairments and on a recent trip abroad I was reminded of why it isn't only the practical aspects of disability that matter.

When I'm home in London or when I travel to other Western countries where the cultural norms are fairly similar, I seem to find any emotional vulnerabilities around my visual impairment to be negligible, and I have managed to work out some pretty good coping mechanisms over the years. However, whilst away on holiday in a not so Western country recently, amidst a catalogue of mismanaged mishaps - from sewage issues to insect infestation and leaking light fixtures - my sense of physical security rapidly eroded, returning my now calm and easygoing demeanour to the nervousness and anxiety of old.

Suddenly, I my mind and body began to close ranks; things I normally feel quite comfortable doing became the objects of abject fear. The world I felt happy navigating around was now not at all a friendly place and in trying to explain this all to Mark, he unknowingly hit the proverbial nail on the head. Although he was trying his best to empathise, he said that it simply would never be possible to fully understand my experience for he only had himself to rely upon for his physical security. Indeed. That was it.

I still agree with the inimitable Alan Newell that independence is not about being able to do everything yourself, but about being in control of your dependencies; however, there is an aspect of independence that I am unclear about, which I believe needs serious investigation if those living with restrictive impairments are ever to be truly socially included.

The little I do know is that us human folk are wired to fight for our own survival and we're constantly working, both consciously and subconsciously, to achieve wholeness, so even though the practicality of being in control of our dependencies is vital, there is a need to understand how this affects the psyche and what can be done about it. If we're physiologically geared for survival and are intended to have all of the working parts to facilitate this, I question whether it is ever possible to be in complete control of our dependencies when we must rely on other folk for our physical security, which is one of the most fundamental aspects of our survival.

And so it goes that this little blog post will be without my usual neat little ending, as until this aspect of disability is understood, my question shall remain open.

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