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A woman is running along a path heading toward the sun. Black blurry spots indicate blind spots.

Controlling a New Blind Spot 

With a degenerative disease of any kind, a person knows that things can and probably will worsen over time. But, just because we know something doesn’t mean we want to admit it or even acknowledge it. Knowing doesn’t always help things to feel less scary.

Seeing a new blind spot

I got my first noticeable scotoma when I was 26. I say noticeable because I know from images taken in my retina specialist’s office that I have many that I thankfully just can’t ‘see’. I’m pushing 38 here in a few weeks and... I think I finally see my second one. I say I think because I only spent one moment in time trying to determine if it was another scotoma or not. And, I say finally because it has been a good 13 years since I saw my first. I'll call that one a win, all things considered.

The object in my vision just disappeared

I was driving down the road when I noticed my new little friend. I have a guitar pick hanging from my visor with an inscription of one of my favorite song lyrics etched into it reminding me that ‘life is short but sweet for certain’.

Well, for some reason I noticed that the guitar pick was only ‘there’ sometimes so I started paying more attention. I’d look at it and then move my eye a little bit in one direction or another...and when I got to a certain spot, the pick would simply not be there any longer. It just disappeared.

The emotions of progressing vision loss

That guitar pick is still hanging from my visor, but I haven’t taken a close look at it since that day. I’m just too scared to. I shouldn’t be... I already know what’s going on. This isn’t my first scotoma rodeo. I don’t need a doctor to tell me that I have another noticeable blind spot. I know with every single fiber of my being that I do. I just haven’t wanted to admit this to myself fully, so I thought I’d be vulnerable here with you.

This one blind spot isn’t going to be a big life changer for me. If I’m being really honest and raw, I’m lucky that it took 13 years for my second scotoma to appear in my line of vision. Really, it’s just the fact that there’s another and that there is a possibility of more in the future that’s trying hard to bring down my spirit and sink my heart into my stomach.

Focusing on what I can control

Years after my first experience with a scotoma, I can confidently say that right now, my mental health is where I need to focus my attention. No matter what, I cannot change the fact that this blind spot is rearing its ugly head. But what I can do is make sure to check my feelings about it and care for them accordingly.

I’m coming to realize that a diagnosis of something like macular degeneration is a lot like running a marathon. Some of it hurts and is messy, while some of it is cathartic and allows for extreme growth and evolution of self. But, after so many years of practice runs, I know that if I just keep going, I’m going to make it. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time.

Running the marathon of mental health

In the past, mental health has often been labeled as something mentally unhealthy people do. I’m here to do my part in tearing down that grossly incorrect stigma. Here’s one way to look at it...when a person runs a marathon, they're already extremely healthy. But, they still have to practice and get even healthier in order to reach their BIG goals. They eat well, they lace up their shoes every single day... even when it feels hard and especially on those days where they want to do anything but run another (often painful) mile.

If you want to run a marathon, you don’t have much of a choice but to train and put the work in. You’re not putting the effort forth because you’re unhealthy, you’re doing it because you want to get even better than you already are.

Striving for better mental health

The same goes for anyone working on their mental health. Putting work into your mental health does not mean you’re mentally unhealthy. It just means that you want to practice getting better. Without working on our mental health during our difficult moments in life... say moments like getting another permanent blind spot in our line of vision. It can become too much to handle.

Protecting me from my fears of vision loss

Am I scared about this new scotoma? Yes. Angry and feeling sorry for myself? Sure. Worrying about the future of my vision? Absolutely. But, since I have a grasp on my mental health, I have this under control. No matter what. And there is nothing more freeing and peaceful than that.

What I do to stay mentally healthy

I have tools in my back pocket for times like these. I've practiced self-love. I know to surround myself with people and experiences that bring me great joy. I go to therapy and I meditate. I listen to music, dance, and sing as much as I can. I focus on eating healthy and exercising, doing all the things I can to help my eyes keep working to the best of their ability. If I may, I'd like to encourage you to find what helps you to feel better during your tough moments in life too.

Focus on what you can control,

Andrea Junge

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