Living alone as a visually impaired person

Text by Reddit user Blind Insider

I want to share my personal experience living alone since my divorce. I do this as catharsis but also to help others find their way and to know there is always a solution.

I was together with my ex-husband for 18 years and our last four years were the hardest for both of us.

In 2019 I lost my sight and that completely changed our lives.

I lost my job, confidence, and independence. I must admit that my sense of joy and motivation went away too.

My ex-husband also lost some of his freedom. He began burdening himself with obligations and responsibilities and without realizing it, became my caregiver. I think that contributed to our love life becoming stagnant.

He wanted to do everything for me so that I would not suffer. I think this was his way of protecting me and I did not know how to show him appreciation. Still, I didn't leave my comfort zone and let him take care of everything around the house and I only took online courses on everything but cooking, cleaning or using the cane.

I never gave real importance to learning these skills because having him by my side I had no real need to prepare my food, wash my clothes or even read a document.

One never imagines that the person with whom you have shared half of your life one day will leave and then you will have to face the music.

When I decided to leave him, I wasn't thinking rationally about all the things I would have to face from that moment on. Taking care of my own expenses, dealing with two dogs and a rabbit that depended on me, a house that needed to be cleaned, the meals I would have to prepare three times a day and all the appointments I would have to go to and all the things I would have to buy without anyone's help.

The first day after he left my house was a mess. I couldn't find anything; everything was scrambled, and I didn't know where to begin.

I had never used the stove on my own and that morning I would have to make breakfast, the greatest challenge I had experienced until that moment because I was terrified of burning myself and having an accident.

At that moment, I remembered the blog I had written some time ago about cooking blind and I read it again. I had to start with simple things like making scrambled eggs and black coffee.

Luckily, I had a measuring cup that helped me with the portions of chopped vegetables I added to the egg and I also used it to measure the water I had to pour into the coffee maker.

It took me half an hour to learn where things were on my stove and what knob turned on which burner. I also needed to find a pan stable and deep enough so that the food would not fall out when stirring it with the spoon.

Emptying oil into the pan was also complicated because the bottles are not designed for blind people. The first time, too much oil came out so I had to return it to a container, from then on, I emptied the oil in containers to take the amount I needed with a spoon.

Something important I learned about cooking is that all your senses should be focused on what you are doing, you should never let go of the handle of the pan and if it is easier for you, you can use the furthermost burner on your stove so that you have enough space between the handle and your stomach to avoid burning yourself.

I also had to learn to guide myself by smell and listen to know when the water is boiling, when the meat starts frying and when the eggs are no longer raw.

Some things I measure with time and others I need to constantly check.

Finally, for practicality's sake, I cook portions for several days, thus avoiding wasting too much time. I make a full pan of scrambled egg for breakfast and keep portions in the refrigerator for the following days. I do the same with the soups or broths; I make them in extra quantities to use them little by little.

Washing my backyard was also a big challenge, one of my dogs goes potty there in no specific place. To deal with this situation, I had to guide myself with the broom and the dustpan doing a sweep like I do with the cane and using baby steps as I collect everything I find in the floor.

Washing clothes was not so complicated, I called a plumber and asked him to set the washing machine in automatic mode and put a direct water connection to the hose so that I did not have to connect it every time I used it. In this way I only had to stick a piece of tape on the home button and move my finger down to the start button to make it work. I positioned the cleaning products in the order they are required.

Of course, to sort the clothes in colors and black and white I must make a video call to a friend or family member because color-recognizing applications are never accurate.

I also learned that you can have 2 baskets and, when you fully identify your clothes, you can separate them by colors in each of the baskets and wash them accordingly.

I also had to order the clothes in my closet to identify them. To do this I asked for help the first time because I needed to be told what color was the item of clothing I was holding while I touched it to recognize its shape and texture.

Keeping everything in your house organized, neat and tidy will save you a lot of time and effort because living alone no one will move your things out of place.

Sweeping was complicated. Like I told you, I did not take an introductory course to the use of the cane, so sometimes I would turn and I would no longer know in what position I was and that made it difficult for me to find the spots I had already swept.

With the help of a friend who is also blind and also lives alone, I found two techniques that can work for you: one is to sweep barefoot so you can feel the dirt and dust. The other is to always carry the dustpan in your hand and sweep with your back to the front door of the house. By doing this you will be pulling all the garbage and putting it in the dustpan while taking small back steps. Maybe this method takes longer but my house is small and this technique worked for me.

Now, a vacuum cleaner is also an excellent option as long as you are very careful not to trip with  the cable and fall.

Now I will tell you how I have solved my health and medication issues. I am a diabetic and I must inject insulin. This is hard on a blind person since one cannot fill the syringes with insulin without help because this is a purely visual task.

I talked to my doctor, and he told me that it is possible to have prefilled syringes with the right dose of insulin inside the refrigerator for up to a month.  I asked a family member to help me load doses of insulin into the syringes and that is how I keep them refrigerated for later use.

As for the pills, I must take different medications and doses in the morning and evening. I kept them in two separate bags labeled "morning" and "night", and  this is how I always take the right medication.

Every 15 days, a family member goes with me to the supermarket. Of course I could have the groceries brought home but I like to go myself to check prices, make sure the products have not expired, and that the produce is fresh because sometimes, in Mexico, supermarkets and stores will send you lower quality products.

There are things that I do order at home, especially food that is not perishable and cleaning and personal hygiene products.

As for my dogs' daily walk, I had to hire someone because I do not know how to walk alone in the neighborhood, sometimes things that we can not handle alone are better entrusted to other people.

By the way, I have my dogs' food delivered to my doorstep, so that is one less thing to worry about. I recommend that you try to get vendors who deliver to your home, just look for honest and trustworthy people who will not take advantage of your condition and deliver things in poor state, give you higher prices or even try to steal or abuse you.

Other cleaning chores such as dusting-off furniture or cleaning the bathroom have been the easiest. Touch helps us know when something is dirty or dusty and smell will always let us to know if something is clean or not. I would only insist that you keep all your cleaning products in the same place and in the same order.

What has been the hardest thing about living alone? First, the different emotional states I've gone through. A separation is always a painful event and even more so when you have spent so many years of your life with a person you loved so much.

I think that no one is ready to handle such grief, even if we are the ones who decided to call it quits; the truth is that sometimes your emotions will overwhelm you.

During this process you are likely to experience sadness, grief, loneliness, disappointment, fear, and hopelessness.

You will miss the things you had, the comfort, the company, and the security. You wonder every moment if you will be able to survive another day and if you will be strong enough to make it.

You will also face people who do not believe in you, who tell you that because you are blind you will not be able to do things alone, that you should have thought things through and, that you made the wrong decisions.

From the get go I can tell you that many people will not be on your side, most will try to convince you not to live alone and not take that big step, but you know what? Don't listen to them!

In my case I made a hasty decision and I had to learn all this the hard way but I encourage you to learn from my experience and that of others so when you decide to take the plunge, whatever the circumstances may be, you will be better prepared.

The first thing you must do is plan your finances. That is, know if you can support yourself and pay for rent, services, food, transportation, and any extra expenses.

If you are a home owner, then that is one less expense to worry about, but your income will always have to be greater than your expenses.

You also must learn everything you need to run a house. I am talking about cooking, cleaning, shopping, doing paperwork and requesting services.

You will have to create a routine so that everything is done well and in an organized way. Try not to do many things at once, do only one thing at a time and put all your attention on it and when that chore is finished, move on to the next.

Learn to manage stress and do not despair. Let me tell you that due to my emotional state, at one point my body collapsed and I was left with facial paralysis because I didn't how to manage my stress. Many times, we think being relaxed is not that important but believe me, it is a huge deal. Remember that you will be living alone, and you will not always have someone who can rush to help you. Your physical and emotional health is the most important thing now.

Create a Support Network with neighbors, friends, and family who can get there quickly if you have an emergency. You living alone and being independent doesn't mean you will not need help from time to time. Remember that if there is something you can not handle by yourself it is best to ask for help.

Learn to identify your space and the environment you live in. Knowing how to move using the cane or some assistive technology device is very important. Just like with your house, you also have to know your neighborhood so you have a good idea what is near you and you can go buy things or run errands or whatever else you need.

Take care of your safety so that you do not become vulnerable. Unfortunately, not all the people around you are good, there are some who look for the opportunity to take advantage of you. Do not allow any stranger to enter your house, do not share your personal information beyond what is strictly necessary, install security devices in your house that alert you of any danger and if you are going to leave, tell someone where you will go.

Organize your house and your things. Buy utensils, devices and electronics that make your life easier. Always keep an order, put marks or labels that help you identify things and when people go visit you, ask them not to move them out of place.

If you need it, also ask for the help of a professional. Whether for psychological therapy, mobility training or for household chores. It never hurts to surround ourselves with people who can guide us.

If you already live on your own and still have questions or if you wish to share your experiences with others, join a group on Facebook that gives Support and Advice. Sharing our experiences will always give us a clearer picture and lighten our burden.

By the way, this is the link to my group where you will always find interesting things, people willing to provide support and share their experiences.

Finally, I want to close by telling you not to repress your emotions. If you want to cry, do it. If you must scream, do it. If you are anxious, stop what you are doing and calm down a little. Repressing our emotions can affect our physical and mental health. Maybe when you are done crying, and screaming you will wake up the next day and you'll be calm and see things more clearly. Remember to take thigs one day at a time. Taking deliberate baby steps will lead you to achieving your goals and objectives.

You got this; I trust you. Many people told me that I couldn't do it, but I did not listen to them. I was definitely the underdog, but I am willing to bet on you. Be brave, be strong, be happy.

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