Support groups, no matter what the nature of issue, serve many purposes. It is a chance to learn, to adjust and to heal. Lisa is one of those people who reached out and experienced the benefits of what a support group has to offer. Recently we sat down with Lisa to talk about her experiences with our Monday Afternoon discussion group and what it has meant to her in her adjustment process.
After recovering from eye surgery and losing some vision, Lisa was homebound and feeling lost and scared. “I was in shell shock. I felt isolated and I didn’t have a lot of information.” Lisa went searching for something that would give her some comfort and some knowledge to cope. “I just thought it would be helpful to talk with people who shared similar circumstances. I also thought I could get advice on what to do.”
Because Lisa’s doctors thought her surgery would improve her vision, they did not offer any other type of support. After doing some searching on her own, she found our group at Second Sense. Lisa says. “It was very helpful to listen and share stories. Friends and family are helpful, of course, but they don’t necessarily understand the process.”
Lisa talked about the difference between classes that teach specific skills and a support group. She explained that classes and support groups are not black and white. While she is gaining very specific knowledge in a class, she is getting emotional support as well. Often a support group provides specific knowledge that helps her in her daily life. The major difference is that a support group is generally guided by its members and tends to be more personal. Lisa says, “In a support group it’s a deeper conversation, more personal and more bonding.”
Lisa gained a good deal of emotional support from the discussions in the group and found the courage to try some new things. One of these new things was using a white cane and getting herself into a darkened movie theatre. One time she was a bit late entering after the previews had started. When she went into the theater, she couldn’t see anything and had a moment of panic. “I couldn’t identify a single rail, could not tell where the seats were or what was in front of me.” Sweeping her cane in front of her and using her orientation and mobility skills, she realized she was okay and navigated to an empty seat. “There was the relief that I managed to do it and I didn’t die. Also, there was the realization that it was my own brain that threw me into a panic.”
While Lisa found the support she needed to get her life back on track, she also found the other group members were receiving benefits, too. “We talked about mingling in social situations, relationships with family and friends, going someplace new – these are all issues that others are also feeling. There is comfort in knowing that others know how you are feeling – same medical issues, same frustrations, same triumphs and same fears. Lots of problem solving was going on! Questions like ‘How can I…’ were being asked often.”
Lisa’s advice for others experiencing vision loss is to find a support group. Support groups are a great place to meet others and to help you feel that you are not alone. You can learn a great deal from others who are going through the same things. And she adds, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to spill your guts if you don’t want to. Just come by and listen at first!”