It’s another in a long string of beautiful days. What’s more remarkable than the weather is my attitude Like the skies above me, I feel cloudless and sunny, much different than my state of mind ten months ago. That’s when I lost my sight.
I woke up one morning, a day like any other, and we went walking. As we went down the street, I noticed the world seemed to be blurry. I dismissed this as a temporary aberration, but when I backed the car into a wall because I didn’t see it, I knew there was a problem. My right eye was experiencing what had happened to my left eye some years before. I was losing my remaining vision, and there was nothing I could do about it. Doctors confirmed my diagnosis. I was going blind.
At first, I was in disbelief. This wasn’t really happening. I would go to bed at night, welcoming the darkness as it minimized the impact of my diminished sight. I would open my eyes each morning, expecting that my vision would be restored. When it became obvious this would never happened, I began sliding into depression.
I was suddenly aware that most of my daily activities were sight dependent and now, without sight, my ability to engage in these activities by myself disappeared. What had been a full and vibrant life was now a dark hole into which I fell deeper and deeper each day. I was in shock, which slowly deepened into depression. When I convinced my doubtful mind to get up in the morning or, more often later in the day, I would stumble around the bathroom,, fumbling for the shower, staring into a mirror I couldn’t see, and groping around for clothes to wear. Eventually, I found my way to the studio and shut myself away from the world. With the lights off, I listened to music while my thoughts ran wild in the darkness.
At first, I thought about all the things I couldn’t do anymore, then all the dreams I’d had which now seemed impossible. I wasn’t angry at God or some unseen force for the dramatic change in my circumstances. It was more a matter of fact dialogue with myself, considering my new reality and culminating in one thought.
What the fuck?”
I couldn’t come up with a happy answer. Compared to the bliss of my previous years experiences, when my wife and I filled our life together with travels and delightful adventures, the possibilities now seemed non-existent. I became increasingly isolated, a condition accentuated by the fact I was then living in a foreign country where no one around me spoke English. I sank farther and farther into the quicksand of despair, and began thinking about suicide.
Believing my life would never be wonderful again, killing myself became the only thing I could think about. Fortunately, being blind limits one’s options for suicide as did my local circumstances.
I thought about jumping off a bridge. Two problems, there wasn’t a bridge high enough nearby to do more than break my leg and, even if a suitable structure existed, how did I get there? Walking wasn’t an option, as I could barely get around the house without hurting myself. Which brings up another point. I’m a pain wimp. The thought of doing something to myself that was going to hurt wasn’t happening. Then there was the mess factor. It didn’t seem right to end my existence in such a way as to leave a mess for others to clean up. This eliminated ideas such as blowing my head off or standing in front of a train.
What’s left? How about poison? Blindness kept me from surfing the internet for the poison de jour, Since I couldn’t read labels, fumbling down to the local store and picking up a bottle of something poisonous didn’t seem too logical either. Sure I could ask for help, but that didn’t feel right.
“Excuse me. sir, I’d like to kill myself and wonder if you have something poisonous off the shelf that would do the job.”
Sure, I could’ve done that, except I’d have to translate my request into Spanish. With my luck, I’d probably say something like:
“Pardon me, I’m having a problem with tapeworms, Do you have something that would kill them?”
Which would be interpreted as:
”Your dog has worms. Sorry, you need to see a veterinarian.”
No, killing myself was not going to be easy. Perhaps narcotics? No problem, I’d just make an appointment with a doctor and ask for sleeping pills. Sounds simple. But again, being in a foreign country derailed this plan. I didn’t know any doctors and it’s not like I could ask my wife to take me to the doctor so I could kill myself. This is where my thoughts of suicide always ended up. My wife, whose love for me has been endless and unconditional. Her heart is the purest I’ve ever known. The thought of hurting her was more painful than the blind emptiness that I was struggling with.
Slowly, I began to drag my mind from darkness and open to new possibilities. I rediscovered ice cream and found simple pleasure in our daily walk to the small store where we humored our frozen fantasies. I began to pay attention to my other senses, noticing increased awareness of scents and hearing a new variety of sounds in my surroundings. I realized that since I could no longer read my To Do Lists, I now had nothing “To Do.”
Eventually, we returned to the States and I began receiving help with my disability, slowly discovering I could be functional again. No, I can’t pretend my life is wonderful again but, I now have hope I can make my new life meaningful in new ways. My loving wife, family and friends, are sources of constant encouragement. Once again, each new day is a blessing. And it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about suicide.
I end this post with a plea to anyone who may find themselves in the grips of depression, please reach out for help.Sadly, I’ve had friends who didn’t do this and ended their lives. While I respect personal choices, I know from experience, that depression narrows our ability to see our personal realities clearly. Again, please ask for help. Call friends, family, hotlines or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is someone out there who cares and will listen to your story.
I believe every life is precious, especially yours.