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A woman walks forward, with the image of an eye and several dark spots, a broken heart, and an eye closed and crying trailing behind her. She is walking toward a small, full heart.

Macular Degeneration Isn’t My Only Hardship

Life can really be brutal sometimes. Macular degeneration is hard enough on its own... but the harsh reality of life is that this diagnosis won’t be our only hardship. Macular degeneration doesn't prevent other difficult things from popping up in life even though it may feel like it brings enough hardship on its own to last an entire lifetime.

The importance of emotional and mental health

This is part of why my passion for the mental health aspect of fighting severe vision loss has grown so much in the last few years. Without a strong sense of emotional wellbeing, it would be so incredibly and monumentally difficult to work through life’s most difficult days. Grief: sadness, fear, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, shame, are stressful emotions that can take their own toll on the health of our bodies and eyes.

Struggling with life's hardships

With full disclosure and vulnerability in mind, I haven’t been motivated to write for a little while now. Which is really strange for me because I usually find writing to be cathartic. It’s just that when I write anything I feel it deep within the depths of my entire heart and soul. When I write, I write with purpose and conviction... and lately, I just haven’t felt strong enough to piece together what I want to say. Life has not been easy on me these last few years, especially in the last few weeks. I've been struggling with life's difficult 'things'.

Finding inspiration

After going to a weekly support group called Al-Anon (a community that supports spouses and family members of alcoholics) and listening to one of my favorite sermons by Sara Jakes Roberts titled ‘Keep Digging’ this morning, I began to scroll through Facebook. One of my dear friends had tagged one of her friends in a comment under an article I wrote about intentional happiness (of all things). The comment read, “This is my friend I was telling you about. Such a great writer and inspiration to so many!”

Self-care for my mind and my body

Annnnd BAM! Those small words of kindness were all I needed to hear in order to get myself behind the keyboard this morning. These articles carry the words I need to write for my own healing. But, they’re also being written to try to help anyone else who is going through difficult things right now ON TOP of the struggles that accompany a battle with macular degeneration and vision loss.

I’ve been feeling a lot of tough feelings this week that accompany grief: sadness, fear, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, and shame. This morning, as I do every morning, I am putting hard work in... searching for the motivation I need to ‘keep digging’ and keep moving forward with self-love. I'm bubble wrapping myself in the safety of peace. It's been the most difficult week of a difficult year for my family... so my serenity is almost completely intentional right now.

Read that again... my serenity is almost completely intentional right now. Sometimes it has to be that way, even when love and the joys of life are surrounding you.

Coping with grief and other emotions

We lost my dear Grandma Margie last fall. Shortly after that, I made the heartbreaking decision to ask my husband to leave our home due to deep-seated personal struggles he had been wrestling with for many years. That decision left me with a lot of anxiety, fear, worry, sadness, and guilt to say the least.

Becoming a single parent

I became a single mom of two young children and the sole provider of every single one of my family’s physical and emotional needs. Not to mention the feeling of failure that accompanies divorce from someone you care about deeply. Deep breaths.

Life lost

Andrea's ex-husband with her two sons.
Here we are, ten months later and my now ex-husband has just very tragically lost his life due to the complications of the disease of alcoholism. My children have lost their father, and I have lost a dear friend along with the battle I fought by his side for over a decade. Deeper breaths.

Add all of this on top of the complications of macular degeneration and there was certainly the potential for mass destruction and total devastation in my life... Mayday!

The Importance of emotional healing

While all of these hardships are trying to knock me down, I’m fighting to move forward in my life in a healthier, more peaceful, and more joyful way. You see, I haven’t gone through all of this difficult stuff to just roll over and throw up that white flag. That isn’t who I am. I’m a firm believer that we go through life’s hardships to learn lessons so we can find our way to living our best lives.

Even though some of my most difficult life lessons are trying to creep in to steal my joy, I know that I am strong enough now to not let them. Macular degeneration has given me the permission I needed to live my best life and you know what... I am. In spite of these hardships. I have SO MUCH to be thankful for and to look forward to... I just have to be extremely careful about how I handle the hard things so they don't continue to steal my joy as they have so often in the past.

Life enjoys a challenge

I don’t know about you, but I feel like life enjoys a good challenge. Like, as soon as I feel like I get my hands around one difficult ‘thing’, something else rears its ugly head. You know, to test all the hard work I’ve been putting into my mental health and emotional wellbeing. This isn’t going to stop... life will always have ups and downs, so it’s important to not let the downs keep us stuck in unhealthy patterns.

Why does this mental-emotional health matter for vision?

You may be wondering why I’m writing about all of ‘this stuff’ for our MacularDegeneration.net community. Here’s the deal... our mental health, or emotional well being, is one of the biggest and most important aspects of this disease. We can eat healthily, exercise, take our vitamins, and even get injections in our eyes in order to preserve our vision.

But, if we don’t also work on our emotional selves, two things can happen. One, we can’t keep our eyes as healthy as they could potentially be. And two, life FEELS harder than it actually is. Simply put, macular degeneration has the ability to make anything else in life harder if we aren’t educated and aware of our emotions and mental health.

In the second part of this article series, I’ll tell you how I move forward in spite of my hardships... in healthy ways.

Andrea Junge

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MacularDegeneration.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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