Where to begin to answer their question. Well, everyone handles a challenge in their life completely differently to the next person. Being presented with a life changing condition whereby there will be limited or no chance of reversal for the rest of your life is not exactly a time when you want to throw a huge party. Then again, a party sometimes is not the worst idea. It’s always good to have a bit of craic. Career, family, relationships, daily life are all going to change. ‘It’s not the end of the world’ I explained. It sounds patronizing and a cliché and it’s easy for me to say as I am well used to it by now; but seriously it’s not the end of the world. You’ll just find yourself on a completely different path.
There’s no point in sugar coating it. It is going to suck big time. And some disabilities suck a lot more than others. For instance, there’s a lot worse visual conditions than mine. Not sure I would have been able to handle losing my sight completely or my hearing for that matter. Imagine not being able to listen to music. I suppose the bonuses for someone who is hard of hearing is they can still see. At the very beginning though you have to learn things all over again, Obviously I’m talking about someone in my case who hasn’t had the condition from birth. I’ll talk about all this again in another chapter but things like reading mail, trying to figure out what things are in the supermarket, or trying to figure out where you are when you fly into a strange airport. And do you know how hard it is to jay walk when you can’t see, especially now with these silent hybrid cars.
Over the years I’ve met people who have lost their sight completely and others who have lost their hearing completely and I ask them how do they cope. They tell you the same thing I’m telling you; they have adapted and gone down a new path in life. It is funny when you have three young men, two can’t see well and one can’t hear, and the topic of conversation is girls. We’re jealous of the guy who can’t hear because he can see girls and catch their eye. We might have disabilities, but we are guys after all. Now I digress.
Let’s get back to basics. No matter what type of disability you end up with don’t break the daily routine, and if there is something you want to do, just do it no matter how hard. There is no doubt the daily simple things that we all take for granted will be a new challenge and have to be learned all over again when a disability kicks in, but you have to remember the daily chores are the easy challenges and they have to remain as such. You cannot let them become a trial, they must remain daily life, routine and easy. It’s OK to ask for help by the way. Believe it or not the latter is probably one of the hardest challenges you’ll encounter. Nowadays the majority of people don’t mind helping you out - we’ll talk about that again. So, to keep things in perspective and the daily routine remains a non-challenge, every now and then throw in something that is a real challenge. As in hardcore, one that will scare the bejebus out of you.
I recently joined a hiking group. I love the hills, but since I left my old job I wasn’t getting out enough. The guys in the group are great. A few weeks back we went to Zipit over in Tibradden Wood. This is all about climbing in the trees, obstacles in the trees, and buzzing down ziplines. Really cool stuff. For safety you are given a harness and you have to clip on to wire ropes so if you slip you don’t end up on the forest floor. It had been a long time since I’d done any form of abseiling or rock-climbing and I'll admit I was somewhat nervous. Everyone else can look up and see the various courses and up there they can make out the runs ahead, but not me. I looked at the carabiner with curiosity and tried to figure out how I was going to make out the wire rope or the obstacles. I explained my case to the instructor from Zipit. He said, ‘what’s the problem, we’ve had complete blind people complete the red course (which is the highest and hardest run)’. “I like this guy” I thought to myself. If a person who can’t see at all can do it then there’s no reason I can’t. He was right. What was the problem - so up we went. The guys, or I should say three ladies, from my group helped me out. What can I say, perks of having a disability. It’s hard to explain some of the obstacles. For example, one was a wooden bridge. However, the rungs were not linked together, so every time you stood on one it would move. And that was an easy one. And yes, it scared the bejebus out of me, but it was great craic and some adrenaline buzz, especially the long ziplines. And it was rather amusing to see ‘able’ bodied people struggling and crumbling under the pressure of being up so high.
The point is that when you are faced with a disability at the beginning everything is a challenge, even jay walking. When you start doing things that ‘able’ bodied people find difficult, or even go beyond that, the things that seemed a challenge at the beginning are now made to look trivial.
More stories to follow shortly.
Oh yeah go to Zipit and scare the bejebus out of yourself. www.zipit.ie