Woman standing on a path holding a flashlight surrounded by darkness.

Taking Control of Macular Degeneration

As I write this, California is burning. Tropical storm Laura has great ambitions of becoming a hurricane. The pandemic is ending its fifth month in the United States. There is rancor and conflict in Washington. And, by the way, most of us reading this page have a progressive disease that could rob us of much of our sight. Good grief.

Let's talk mental health

Given the current circumstances, I don’t think it’s surprising I am irritable and miserable. It is not surprising that business at the psych center is booming. Depression and anxiety reign along with their children, helplessness, and hopelessness.

Angst and living in the modern world

Generally, when people come in with the angst associated with living in the modern world, I ask them, and myself, two questions: "What can you control?" and "Is this a hill you are prepared to die on?"

Is this a hill you are prepared to die on?

I am going to take the second one first just because there is slightly less to it. “Is this a hill you want to die on?” is an old military adage. How important is taking that position to your current situation? Do you absolutely need to win that position, or can you go over, under, or around it? If you must take that position, what will it cost you in time, effort, and resources?

Many people make their decisions with their emotions when they are upset. As I said in another post, emotions make great motivators but very poor navigators. To not drive yourself off a cliff, you need to put in a little thought. Is this a hill you want to die on?

What can you control?

The next question has to do with what you can control. So, what can you control when all about you is in turmoil? While you cannot stop a raging forest fire or a hurricane,, you can evacuate, save things of importance to you, etc., unhappy about politics? Write to your senators and representatives. Vote. Write letters to the editor. You get the idea.

How about in your personal life? Last week I was not sleeping well... too many people with too many problems that we could not control. After work, I MADE time to swim myself into (a good) exhaustion in the pool. Solved the sleep problem because exercise was something I could CONTROL.

Making choices for your health

What do you have to control? Sitting in the sun instead of a dark room? Eating more healthfully? Reaching out to a friend? Just choosing what to have for dinner or what to think about are acts of control and can help you feel less helpless and hopeless.

Taking control, being resilient

In his book, The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel von der Kolk talked about a little boy who had been in childcare at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The expectation was that he would have been traumatized, but that was not the case. This little guy was fine. He had a strong feeling of self-efficacy and showed no signs of trauma. The difference was this: his father had come for him, and the two of them were able to do something. They ran. 1

This ability to be an agent in his own rescue was what made the difference. That little boy controlled what he could control. He ran. Being able to run made all the difference in his adjustment to a horrible trauma. 1

There are still things we can control with AMD

Dry macular degeneration like mine (and yours?) is a condition with no treatment and no cure. However, there are still things we can control. Watch your diet. Exercise. Eat better. Reduce your blood pressure. Stop smoking.

Those are things almost all of us can do. Many of us can also become instrumental in our “rescue” by joining a clinical trial. It is sort of surprising what is actually within our power to do.

No matter how tough the situation, there is always something we can control, too. Ask yourself what it is, and take control. You’ll feel better. So what do you want to take charge of in your VIP life? What do you want to do about your situation?

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