28 May

By Stella De Genova

Denial.  What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word?  The alcoholic, addict, over-eater?  Yeah, the person who can’t see the reality that is obvious to everyone around them.  I thought I knew all about denial.  I was in a relationship with someone who was in denial of an addiction and I denied my co-dependence.  It took a long time to see the truth, and it was hard to move forward.  But once I did move on with my life, I knew how to detect denial and its many disguises.  I was wiser – or so I thought.

I have had retinitis pigmentosa (RP) since childhood.  I’ve never been able to see in the dark.  I’d hang on to a family member or friend in dark, unfamiliar places and wore glasses for myopia, but besides that, I was self-sufficient.  Through time, I’ve lost my peripheral vision, colors are fading and there is no corrective lens strong enough to give me clear vision.  I was diagnosed as legally blind 16 years ago.  For me, it has been gradual adjustments.  I still ran a household.  I held a detail-oriented, high-responsibility job for 17 years – I was in control.  My family was getting concerned though.  I was having more trouble accomplishing visual tasks – picking out matching colors, reading, seeing who was coming up the walkway or seeing where I was stepping.  I needed assistance at work.  OK, more adjustment.

Then, one year ago, I fell into reality.  I was at work, carrying some glasses into the kitchen.  I tripped over the open dishwasher door.  I broke my arm and got stitches in my hand.  Upon discussion with my husband and employers, they, and I have to admit now, thought it was time to apply for disability.  Until then, I only used a cane occasionally.  After that, my family wouldn’t let me leave home without it even though I still didn’t think I needed it in daylight hours.  I wasn’t going out much alone, mostly to physical therapy for my healing arm.  I felt useless.  I needed to figure out what came next. 

One day, I was web surfing and saw a support group starting for people with RP.  I wasn’t sure how Id like it, but what the hell, I wasn’t busy with anything else.  At my first meeting, I mostly listened and saw people that were already completely blind and definitely worse off than me.  I felt like this might not be the right place for me.  Yes, I had lost my job due to my vision and I was apprehensive walking into this new building for the meeting, hoping I wouldn’t fall and kill myself but I could see much better than a lot of these people.  I listened to the others in the group and started recognizing what they were talking about.  Life wasn’t always easy but they knew who they were and they had accepted their disability.  Sitting in that meeting, it suddenly hit me, I was like the addict.  I was in such denial.  I went home and cried and thought about who I really was and the deck of cards I was dealt.  And I thought about the people I met and how moving they were.  They had experienced things that I experienced.

I started feeling better and I stopped trying to hide that I can’t see.  I use my cane regularly now and noticed that people can be pretty helpful.  I’m not working but my days are full.  I’m doing all kinds of new things – this blog is just one of them. 

I used to have two disabilities.  Now, I am still visually impaired but I’m cured of the disability called denial.


3 Responses to “Denial”

  1. Stella De Genova May 29, 2011 at 12:41 AM #

    …and through it all, then as well as now, you are still one of the strongest and bravest people I know.

  2. Al DeGenova June 6, 2011 at 5:16 PM #

    You’ve always found your way, and now, with being able to say what you did in this blog, you’ve open up your way to a wide four-lane highway.

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