Loss of Confidence

A Message to the AMD Community
from Dan Roberts

I have experienced a symptom of vision loss, and I wonder if anyone else can relate to it. It is not physical, and it is not emotional. This is a much more subtle psychological symptom which seems to lurk in the background and affect nearly everything I do.

My wife, Chris, has been trying to get me to fix our refrigerator’s ice maker for months. This would normally have been a welcome challenge to me, but after a feeble attempt which took much too long, I gave up.

Our porch light developed an electrical short. A project which used to take me only a few minutes used up nearly an hour, and my half-hearted repair will probably not last.

I am frequently invited to do acting workshops for schools and businesses–something at which I have always been successful. But a session which I did two weeks ago kept me awake all of the previous night wondering if I was going to ruin a hard-earned reputation.

I have been rationalizing this new personality of mine with thoughts like “I don’t have the time,” “I don’t need to prove myself,” and “I’m semi-retired, so I don’t have to work so hard.” Then, last Monday, I began to admit the real truth: that I am starting to give in to my slowly-decreasing vision. I am losing my self-confidence.

It started when I went to the computer store with Chris. I had not been in that store in quite a while, and it all looked slightly different to me. Everything was more askew and unfocused than the last time, and I had trouble reading the displays on my favorite software racks. I displaced my frustration with surliness, and Chris (bless her heart) decided to not take it personally.

When we left, and I got into the driver’s seat (I still have one eye which allows me to do that), I was feeling a little shaky. Of course, I didn’t tell Chris, because she already worries about whether or not I am fully capable of driving safely; and if I were to admit my nervousness, that would only concern her further. Anyway, I had already lost some Brownie points with her earlier by narrowly missing a concrete divider in the parking lot.

I needed to go to a computer store on the other side of town, and Chris had other things to do, so I dropped her off at home. She offered to go with me, but I told her it was not necessary and set out on my own. This was the first time in a long while that I had driven any real distance without her, and I felt a twinge of loneliness as I pulled out. Loneliness? What a strange thing to feel, I thought.

Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the parking space at the store. As I got out, I berated myself for parking over the line and too close to the vehicle on my right. I have never understood people who do that, and I considered correcting it before going inside. Deciding, however, that I would probably not do any better the second time, I left the scene of the crime.

The store, of course, did not have the computer hard drive I needed, and the salesman recommended another place west of there. He gave some vague directions, and I headed out. As I drove away, I was immediately disoriented. This made no sense, because I knew the area. So I drove carefully and paid extra-close attention to my surroundings–a totally foreign way of thinking for me.

As I headed west, I avoided the highway. I had driven that stretch a week earlier with only my nine-year-old granddaughter and me in the car. It was dark and raining then, and I worked hard to see through both the distortions on the windshield and the distortions in my eyes. Driving slowly in the right lane, I got us home just fine, but the fear I had experienced then was now flashing back at me, so I took the city street instead.

After a while, I began to wonder if I was going the right direction, so I decided to pull into a convenience store for a phone book. I turned left at the next intersection, into the wrong side of the median, and ended up facing oncoming traffic. They stared at me as if I were some senile old man while I inched my way along, and–thanks to one gracious driver–I was eventually allowed to turn across the lanes into a parking lot.

I phoned the store and was put on hold for ten minutes. Trading my 35 cents for my pride, I finally hung up and decided to push on to the west.

By now, the overcast day had turned into a very bright, cloudless one. I had not brought my sunglasses, and the afternoon sun was shining right through the windshield. I knew that I was going to have to read every street sign along the route, but I also had to drive in the left lane to be ready for my turn. How was I supposed to see those signs? And even worse, how was I supposed to look out for the traffic in that busier lane while I was doing all of that squinting and blinking?

I felt helpless. I considered stopping and calling Chris–something I always promised I would do. But it’s not time for that yet. She would never feel safe with me again, and she would worry even more than usual whenever I go off alone. I still have one pretty good eye, and I’m not ready to give up yet.

Finally, I found the store I was looking for. I followed my nose instead of my eyes, and I was pretty proud of myself. I had set out to buy a hard drive, and that was one of the hardest drives of my life. Pretty funny, huh? Anyway, by the time I had paid for it, I thought, “How am I ever going to install this thing?” Ten years ago, that thought would never have crossed my mind. But something had happened to me, and it was made worse by the past hour. I hated that.

Just to see if I could do it, I took the highway all the way home. I made it. Then I wrote to a friend on the Internet and–thinking that my computer would probably go up in flames and I she would never hear from me again–I said “I’m going to install a hard drive. Good bye.” Well, it took me three hours, but I did it.

Yesterday, Chris asked me if I could replace the posts on our granddaughter’s canopy bed. She was very kind, saying, “But you don’t have to get to it right away.” (She remembered the ice maker and the light switch.) Okay, I got my tools, and those posts are not only in place, but they are almost vertical, by gosh.

On Monday my confidence was gone. By Wednesday, I had it back. That’s all I know. I still haven’t figured out what happened, because I’m still riding the roller coaster. I just want someone else to know that this is happening so that–if it is happening to you, too–we will both know that we have company.

I have learned one thing this past week: there is something in me that will try to give up when things get tough. But there is also something in me that gives me strength to do what has to be done. It looks as if I am going to have to keep that in mind from now on.

Now I’m going to go give that ice maker another shot.