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Sight Loss and Phobias or Web of Intrigue?


As a youngster I was very uncomfortable around spiders. However, as my sight deteriorated I found my fear becoming less obvious.

When dusting or changing curtains, if anything 'fell' on me I would brush it off and tell myself it was just fluff or my imagination. I think when we lose the ability to use our senses to access the world we can either find we regress and isolate ourselves or decide that we are going to take on the world full on and put our childhood fears to one side. Fear of the dark can become a thing of the past as the lack of light sensitivity will for most abolish the idea that things lurk in dark corners or under the bed . . . maybe with the spiders! Indeed without the visual clues much of the world becomes unrecognisable and touch and hearing – and smell on occasion – will be used instead. 70% of our perception of the world is through our eyes and when this diminishes our other senses do not get better but a new dimension opens and that all evasive 'sixth sense' seems to appear.

So – why you might ask have I called this missive 'Web of Intrigue'? It is because as I went to sit under the gazebo in the garden, I put my arm out and it touched a spiders web and I was suddenly aware of the intricate pattern, beauty and delicate but strong structure and left my arm there for some seconds before moving away and hoping that I had not destroyed the work of the misunderstood and much feared spider which was only trying to do what comes naturally. The memory of that beautiful structure stayed with me (and still does) and I find myself wanting to draw it or to copy it using pins and silk or thin wire but know that my thoughts never match up to my lack of artistic ability and so I keep the picture in my head and try to recreate it in words. Does my sight loss have this effect on all my fears? . . . No, any of my friends will tell you that if a bird flies to close to me I cringe because I can hear the wings flapping and I had a bad experience with my Nans budgie . . . another story entirely! . . . However I would just like to say that lack of sight does not diminish my appreciation of the natural world the sound of the sea or rivers, rustling trees and the smell of the woods and even town centres can create an invisible but magical picture in which I can immerse myself.

So – sight loss in itself will not usually create a phobia but could exacerbate one which had existed previous to sight loss occurring. This does not mean that previously disregarded situations may not become places/objects of fear or anxiety such as railway station platforms or electrical equipment as common as a lawnmower or blender; but with the right rehabilitation, counselling mobility and/or support groups these can all become manageable and even useable pieces of equipment as long as the safety measures are adhered to.

Anyone with sight loss concerns can contact ECL Sensory Service to ask for advice or to request a visit to help assess and support people whether they are newly diagnosed or have a change in circumstances which has affected their independence.

By Terri Sawkins, ECL Sensory Training Facilitator


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