Shock and denial
When something first happens, we don’t always believe it straight away. If it was sudden, we might find ourselves unable to take it in – but also it sometimes might be hard to think about anything else. This might have happened when you were first given your diagnosis and told what it might mean for your future. Even the clearest explanation might not have felt quite real to begin with. Even so, you could react by crying or getting angry. Sometimes it feels as if we are watching it happen to someone else. All of these are normal reactions to something that’s a shock. People who care about you might be feeling some shock too, but as you are at the middle of it, it's important to let yourself get support from the people you are close to.
Shock usually dies down after a while as we take the news in. Denial can last a bit longer though. Sometimes we don’t feel ready to admit to ourselves that something is a struggle, so keep on doing things that are difficult until it's just no longer possible. It takes everyone time to take in the news, so don't worry. Once you can admit it to yourself, maybe you can talk honestly about it to someone you trust. It's only when we do this that we can begin to understand the other feelings, and move forward to whatever will help us next in practical ways.
Anger and questioning
As we come out of shock and denial we might feel angry and want to know "why me?" or "what did I do wrong?". Often when difficult things happen we want to know who is to blame. Sometimes the answer is: "no one and nothing – it just happened".
We might also get angry with people around us, thinking "why don't the doctors sort it out?", or "why don't my family, friends or school understand how hard this is for me?" We might get bad-tempered more often than usual or pick arguments with people we are normally close to. This can make us feel out of control and they are a bit scary until we get more of a handle on them.
Sometimes getting angry seems easier than admitting we are scared, or don't know what to do. Accepting that something we don't really like has happened and won't necessarily get better isn't easy – but it's only once we do this that we can ask for help and move on. Again, when you can, talk honestly to someone you trust.
Helplessness, fear, anxiety
When there have been some changes to our expectations and the way we live and we don't yet know how we are going to cope, it's normal to feel these emotions. You might be tempted to give up and think there's nothing that can be done, and that life will never be the way it was supposed to be. Or you might be genuinely scared of going out when you can't be sure you can cross the road safely, or anxious when you think of things you want to do that now seem hardly possible.
The good news is that while you are young you have lots of opportunities to adapt. It will take time, but once you have spent a few months practising that new computer software or learning to use a cane, you'll feel a positive difference. Remember that the feelings are not there to stop you, they're just a reminder that there are a whole lot of new things to learn. Take your time and keep practising. All of us can get a bit scared or worried when we have a lot of big challenges at once, so it's only natural. In time, the fear will go as you realise how much you can achieve despite the odds.
If you get really panicky sometimes, ask a trusted adult, counsellor or a GP for help. There are reasons why we sometimes react in this way and it's really uncomfortable when it happens. You can learn ways to handle these feelings from professionals.
If your vision is changing for the worse, or if it's just becoming obvious that it's different to other people's, you could feel very sad. It's natural to feel this way when you are losing something.
Like the other feelings, sadness can come and go, or be worse sometimes than others. It's okay to cry – and it can actually be good for you! Getting any difficult feeling out in the open gives it a chance to change. Lots of people say they feel better after a good cry. You can do this on your own, or when you're with someone you trust. Talking to someone who cares about you can also be a good way to let sad feelings out.
Sometimes we worry that if we start crying, we might never stop. But that doesn't happen. Once we have let some of our sadness out by crying, our body knows to stop. We release some special hormones (body chemicals) inside that actually make us feel a bit better for a while.
Depression is when deep sadness goes on for a long time (more than a few weeks) without any relief or better times. If you have even one of these things happening for more than a couple of weeks, then you might need a bit of extra help from an adult. Talk to someone if:
- You can't face doing anything that you would normally do,
- You don't feel like seeing your friends and family,
- You've stopped eating properly,
- You can't sleep at night,
- You feel really bad all day every day.
This is even more important if you feel like harming yourself in any way. You should go to the GP (or get someone to take you) and explain what it's been like. GPs should take you seriously and keep things confidential whatever age you are, providing you can understand what they're discussing with you. You might need to be given some counselling help and your GP can arrange this, or you can talk to one of the young people's counsellors at RNIB.
If going to a GP feels a bit much at first, then start by talking to someone you trust or to any of the young people's helplines at the end of this page. They will encourage and support you to get the right kind of help.