Tracey, who was born deaf and has age-related sight loss, is 62 and lives in South Wales. She retired to the area following a successful career as a Care Manager.
Tracey’s sight has declined significantly in the last 5 years, and she was finding it harder to get out and about and enjoy the things she loves. Things became particularly bad when her sight began to affect her ability to socialise with her family and friends. With the emotional and physical impact of her sight loss affecting her mental health, she contacted Deafblind UK for help.
“The turning point was realising how isolated I’d become without realising it,” said Tracey. We referred her to our free counselling service, which provides professional, confidential support for anyone living with sight and hearing loss. Tracey spoke with Hayley Headington, a qualified Counsellor who specialises in the emotional impact of sight and hearing loss.
“The first few sessions were emotional and brought a lot of old feelings up,” Tracey said. Working in care for many years, Tracey has always been passionate about helping people. During the sessions, she explained how her sight and hearing loss had changed her self-image. “I’ve spent most of my life caring for, supporting others,” she said. “Losing my sight turned my world upside down – from being independent to feeling guilty about needing support from those around me.”
Counselling also helped Tracey come terms with the emotional side of her sight loss at her own pace. “Talking with Hayley helped me grieve the loss of the precious gift of sight,” she said.
Before her sight loss, Tracey enjoyed an active social life and regular visits from her younger sister, Paula. The sisters have always been close, but Tracey’s sight loss made things harder. “At the start I felt like I had to ‘cover up’ my sight loss, so Paula wouldn’t know how much it affected me,” Tracey remembered. “I didn’t want her to worry about me, so I’d pretend to see things she mentioned or tell her that she looked nice without seeing her. It felt like I was protecting her, but it wasn’t healthy for me.”
Counselling has helped Tracey feel comfortable being more open about her sight loss with her friends and family. She arranged to meet up with Paula and explained the impact of her sight loss, and how it affected her on their outings – such as no longer being able to see where she was. “It was a huge weight off my shoulders, feeling like I no longer had to keep everything to myself,” she said. “When I meet Paula now, I can be more open about what I feel comfortable with.”
In the build-up to Christmas, Tracey was determined to make the most of the festivities and make new memories with her close friends and family. She has always loved cooking for loved ones, especially around the holidays, but sight loss means this might be the last Christmas she’s comfortable doing so. “I cooked dinner for a friend and we had a lovely, relaxing day. I was also really pleased that I could still see the twinkly lights on the tree – a beautifully decorated tree has always been one of my favourite parts of Christmas,” she said.
Just a few days after Christmas, Tracey’s sight deteriorated to the point where it was very difficult to see anything. Although her sight loss is progressing faster than she had hoped, she is hopeful for the future:
“This last Christmas with my sight has been a gift. Yes, I’ve felt low at times, but I’m so glad that I got to celebrate my own way. I’m looking forward to the new year and getting out more with my sister, like we used to.”
Hayley Headington, Counsellor at Deafblind UK, said:
“Our counselling service is a safe, welcoming space for anyone who is living with sight and hearing loss and finding things difficult. Counselling is all about giving you the tools to come to terms with your situation and what’s happening in your own way. Your sessions are for anything you want to talk about. This could be feelings connected to your sight and hearing loss, or it might be something happening in your personal life.”
If you or someone you love is struggling with their sight and hearing, you don’t need to go through it alone. Contact us to find out more about free counselling, befriending and other support.