How My Disability Helped Me Get Through 2020

Thinking back on everything that happened in 2020, one can’t help but wonder. How on earth did I manage to get through this upside-down year? My answer might surprise you. It sure surprised me!

I credit my disability.

Let me be clear — the fact that I am blind is not what’s helping me cope. Being blind is somewhat problematic in a pandemic. Social distancing, for example, can be difficult because it is hard to judge what six feet is, but my Seeing Eye dog Luna and I do our best.

The thing that helped me cope this year is the experience of going blind. Three decades ago, I survived a similarly scary year. 1985 was the year I lost my sight. Like 2020, a year of loss and limitations.

And lessons learned.

Some of those lessons? Slow down. Ask for help. Be brave. Be resourceful. Learn new skills. Help others. Make mistakes, and learn from them. Be grateful. Focus on things you can do rather than fret over those you can’t.

Simply put, allow life-altering events to do just that: alter your life. I wonder…do other people who’ve transitioned to life with a disability feel this way, too?

The skills I learned the year I lost my sight all came in handy when my husband Mike was admitted to the hospital in March this past year with the COVID-19 virus:

  • Luna and I were alone, on our own, for ten days. I wouldn’t have made it through without her, and I’m grateful to the Seeing Eye for her training.
  • People contacted me to see if I needed help, and I answered honestly. I could use some food! Far-away friends and family charged meals-to-go at local restaurants, and neighbors
    volunteered to pick up my dinners and deliver them to our condo.
  • I got more adept at using VoiceOver (the speech synthesizer that comes with every iPhone) to text and answer the phone when Mike called, or when caring doctors, social workers, friends and family contacted me to see how he’s doing.
  • My part-time job moderating this blog for Easterseals National Headquarters saved me from feeling lonely. Public policy, special education, health care, funding – all extremely important issues during a pandemic. My work here kept me engaged, and I am grateful my job continued, working from home.
  • Before he got sick, Mike had been taking Luna out for her nighttime “empty” of the day. Now, just like when I was losing my sight, I had to be brave. I donned a mask and disposable gloves every night, and assumed bad guys were staying home during the pandemic.

As days went on with Mike still in the hospital, I started ending my email and text responses by asking that, “If you pray, please pray for us. If you think, send good thoughts our way.”

They did. It worked.

After ten days away, Mike came home. And that’s when it dawned on me. I hadn’t been home alone at all: all those people thinking about us helped us through. In its own upside-down way, 2020 has taught me what a gift it is to love – and be loved by –  people so much that we ache to be with them in person. I’m hopeful for 2021, a year of good health, happiness…and hugs.


 

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