Have you ever lost something that was both very valuable, near and dear to your heart? Maybe it was something of material such as your phone, wallet or purse, or your keys. Maybe while out at a park, or some place else, where there are many things happening all around – you lose your dog, younger sibling, or even your child. At first, you try and remain calm as you reassure yourself that you know your something has to be around here somewhere. You look in all of the places where it should be only to come up empty handed. You become slightly more worried. You begin asking others if they have seen what you are looking for, and their lack of knowledge only adds to the worry and frantic, which is beginning to consume you. As the search continues to no avail, the fear of having lost this item becomes a reality; sadness, grief, and hopelessness wash over you like a wave.
For most, this search ends positively. Your wallet was at the restaurant you had eaten the night before, or your child was playing hide and go seek with others the whole time. But for a select few, no matter how much time, energy, and resources have gone into locating this item of utmost importance, there are still no answers.
This experience of losing something of high value began for me a little over a year ago as I progressively lost my vision due to a rare hereditary disease known as Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON). From June of 2014 to November 2014, I went from never visiting an eye doctor and having 20/20 vision, to having what I describe as now having 10 percent of my vision and being legally blind. All of those emotions, which are associated with losing something, were very much a part of my life, but this was not something that was easily replaceable. Along with this, I am reminded on a daily basis of what I have lost, not only through how I physically see, but also in the ways in which my life has changed. Getting around, watching movies, and interacting in social gatherings are all things I still do but are just a few of the numerous ways in which what I do now looks and feels very different. Now, do not get me wrong, different is not always bad. This year has been the most difficult experience of my life. My adaptability, my supportive friends and family, and most importantly, God, have allowed me to have and participate in every activity I would with full vision, and possibly, even more. I am employed, participate in Crossfit, go running (with a partner and a tether), read books (audio books are awesome!), cook (I make a mean stir fry), and even go on hikes. Although these outward events and activities have, for the most part, been unaltered, my inner being has changed dramatically. I have become much more mature as often happens when one goes through something traumatic. My view of myself, others, and life in general has shifted. Overall, I am emotionally stronger than ever before.
Part of me wishes I would have began blogging, or at least journaling, about this experience the minute I was made aware of what was happening to me. To have captured the raw emotions of someone who was progressively losing their vision, and the struggles and triumphs that came along with this identity-changing experience is the stuff that makes pages turn. But as I think back on all of the reflection through writing that has not occurred over the past year, I am reminded why. Writing down any of what was happening would have forced me to come to terms with all of the emotions that came with it. It would have reminded me that this was not a nightmare I could wake up from.
So why have I chosen now, over a year since all of this began, to start reflecting and writing about this experience? There is a small possibility that the thing I lost – the item I searched everywhere for, the thing I asked others if they knew of it’s location, and which I eventually gave up on ever finding – could be found once again…