If you have ever found yourself in a tough spot, no matter what it may be, do you know where to turn for help?
When I lost my sight ten years ago, not only did I not know where to turn, I was scared to even turn to it. Firstly, because it was an admittance of the issue I was facing and secondly, because the deep state of depression I was in caused me not to want to do anything. I didn't want to get out of bed, I didn't want to eat and I certainly didn't want to go out and find support. I ended up pushing everyone away that I loved - my girlfriend, my family, even my cats. It was a truly terrifying prospect that I was going to be blind for the rest of my life and I wasn't even twenty years old at the time.
I was sat at home one day with one of the support team from the sensory team who came out to make sure I was 'safe at home'. Me, safe at home, looking back I see the difference it made. Not the fact that I potentially wasn't safe at home, but the introduction to my local sight loss charity. At the time known as Gloucestershire County Association for the Blind (GCAB), it was them that gave me the first bit of advice and equipment that I needed to start my recovery.
I did have a telephone conversation with the RNIB and Guide Dogs. This is fine, but being that it was over the phone, for me wasn't very inspiring. The person on the other end didn't seem sympathetic and just seemed to be gathering information. This is not a dig at either of these organisations, who both have good points, but to know that you have a caring organisation on your doorstep that can provide all of the support and advice you need is a priceless lifeline and one that I took full advantage of.
Now known as Insight Gloucestershire it is still supporting me and three thousand other sight impaired people in Gloucestershire. It was Insight who gave me the confidence to start rebuilding my life, it was them who pushed me to go to the disability job advisors and it was them who gave me the opportunity to do the job that I still love doing to this day. I am the low vision technology advisor at Insight, a job that I have been doing now for nearly nine years. My role is to assist others with equipment and training with any device that can assist independent living.
Through my time working with Insight I have been able to form many friendships and even founded the Gloucestershire Visually Impaired County Cricket Club. A quite simply amazing bunch of friends who are all sight impaired, all enjoy sport and have a great time whilst playing.
I strongly believe that having a local organisation that you can drop in and see for any advice at all is vital in recovery from any type of life changing news. It doesn't have to be a disability, it could be grief, it could be debt support or simply needing someone to talk too. Just knowing you can pop along to speak to someone face to face who isn't going to judge you, someone who has a vast amount of care and compassion and someone who will go the extra mile to help you is something that is rare and quite incredible. Insight Gloucestershire has certainly provided that comfort for me and for many others.
The importance of local sight loss charities for me is not explainable in a short blog. It is something that if you have any degree of sight loss, you should access. Use the services and seek the advice. The staff at any of these organisations are there not just to help, but to care.
So, if you have sight loss or if you know anyone that does, then get in touch with your local sight loss charity today and see what difference they can make.
Insight Gloucestershire is based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, you can check them out at http://www.insight-glos.org.uk and if you would like to know more about the Gloucestershire VI Cricket Club, you can find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GVICCC