“Oh well, time to get on with it.”
That’s what Teressa Andrews told herself when a sudden deterioration of her vision left her with just light perception in both eyes in her 30s.
Teressa was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a child and long lived with the knowledge that the degenerative condition would likely worsen as she got older.
“I was diagnosed when I was about nine. With the level of vision loss I had the doctors said I was born with it. Up until 2002 I was just using glasses to help me with my vision, but then it went pretty much overnight,” Teressa said.
“I’d sort of anticipated that happening and I’m pretty resilient, so it didn’t really hit me for six or anything like that. It was more me just saying ‘oh well, time to get on with it,’” she said.
Teressa’s self-resilience and the support of her family played a major role in helping her through that period, but she also said some skills learned in childhood made a big difference.
Despite her vision yet to really deteriorate, Teressa’s first contact with Vision Australia came when she was around 12 years old and living in Melbourne.
“I went along and had some training about how to use a white cane and some other things. It was sort of in anticipation about what might happen down the track,” she said.
“That made a huge difference and I think it really put me in good stead for when my vision did deteriorate.”
[PD: Teressa standing next to a tree trunk with a face drawn on it]
Now living in Western Australia, Teressa is putting those skills and plenty of others to use as she continues to establish a counselling and therapy business she began 18 months ago.
“I’ve never been one to sit still. Sometimes other people will try to hold me back, but I’ve never let my vision stop me from doing anything. I don’t let other people’s expectations give me limitations, I make my own targets.
“After it really deteriorated I went back to working full time in the public service before being made redundant. After that I went back to uni and studied counselling and that was something I really enjoyed.
“The counselling I do is a holistic approach. I practice Aroma Freedom Therapy, which uses essential oils and I also practice things like reiki, Bowen therapy and reflexology.”
Along with starting her business recently, Teressa has also connected with the Vision Australia team in Western Australia, which she says had a huge impact in her life.
“The Vision Australia team over here have been brilliant. They helped facilitate the NDIS process for me and that made things much easier.
“I’ve been getting some orientation and mobility support to help me be confident getting around and the occupational therapists have really helped me with some things at home.
“Some bits of technology have been really good too. My husband is in the military and my children have left home, so I’m often home by myself and the Google Home has really made a difference there.”