Dealing with the challenges that blindness and low vision can present is different for every individual, and for some it may mean impact their mental health and overall wellbeing.
With this in mind, our podcast series Don’t Eat the Whole Elephant uses the lived experiences of people who are blind or have low vision to explore the challenges vision loss can have on wellbeing and the strategies that can be used to overcome them.
Whether it’s simple steps to self-care or regaining your independence, each episode of Don’t Eat the Whole Elephant is a relaxed discussion between people who are blind or have low vision around mental health and wellbeing.
In episode one, Vision Australia's Courtney McKee and Quality Living group facilitator Cameron Algie share personal experiences and chat about breaking down a problem and taking small steps towards achieving goals, how to reach out and ask for help and taking time each day for a small pleasurable activity.
Cameron explains how problem solving is a process with many steps.
“You don’t try to eat the elephant all at once and that, in essence and in a funny sort of way, is the image about problem solving and dealing with all related issues of frustration, anxiety leading down to deep depression,” Cameron says.
“It’s such a big thing, you don’t and can’t eat the elephant all at once. If you start at one end and take off little chunks then finally you eat the elephant," he says.
Through his personal experiences and working with Vision Australia clients, Cameron has identified two main responses to vision loss.
“The normal response falls into two boxes which is the stoic ‘I’m alright’ approach ‘don’t worry I’ll be fine’ … which a lot of us do naturally. The second broad stream of responses is what we normally do with responses to trauma and it’s called denial and avoidance. We might want to deny that it’s happening … and this is coupled with avoidance of the problem,” he says.
Courtney believes that accepting the negative emotions you might be feeling is an important first step to making change.
“Don’t beat yourself up about feeling whatever you’re feeling. By allowing whatever’s coming up to come up and making peace with it … it then enables you to become more practical in the way that you cope from there and not let the emotions block what you need to do,” she says.
Over the years, Cameron has noticed that people often find it difficult to ask for help. He encourages people to seek help and support from organisations like Vision Australia.
“What we tend not to do is ask for help," he says.
“It’s key in problem solving. Recognising that we do have to perhaps get other people to assist us. We tend not to ring Vision Australia because we think ‘I don’t know the organisation’ or ‘I don’t know what they provide’.”
You can listen to the first episode of Don’t Eat The Whole Elephant here or on the player below: