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Ploy’s Story

As if Being a Teenager isn’t Hard Enough….

My Story
Written by Ploy Sirayanyong

Ploy-with-computer

The teenage years, for anyone, are a very emotional, unsettling and apprehensive time and this is especially true for someone who is losing their vision. My adolescent years was a time where all I wanted to accomplish in life was to not be different, to not be limited and to not need help from anyone. This was far from achievable due to the fact that I had cone dystrophy, a degenerative visual impairment that diminished my central vision and left me with only a certain amount of my peripheral sight.

Ploy On Phone

My lack and loss of vision was the catalyst to a smorgasbord of feelings and emotions that I had experienced during my mid to late teenage years; these included sadness, stress, grief, anger, self-pity, disbelief, denial, shame, anxiety and fear. These emotions may be viewed as quite negative by others but from retrospect, I do firmly believe that it was beyond normal for me to feel the way I had. Even now in my early twenties I still experience glimpses of these emotions from time to time; and why wouldn’t I, the pure difficulty of my daily activity (that friends seem to just breeze through), the lack of hope that life would get easier, and the fear stemming from the uncertainty of the future of my vision are just some of the main concerns playing on my mind everyday. Other thing such as friends and teachers not quite understanding me, not being able to drive, finding it fairly difficult to get work and the inaccessibility of many places didn’t exactly help me to feel better about myself either.

A number of factors and events slowly led to me better coping with my condition. Owning a sloping desk, screen reader, cane, magnifier, and much more didn’t exactly assist me when trying to blend into the crowd but I was struggling to perform daily tasks and it had gotten to the point where I couldn’t hide my impairment anymore.

I was given the ultimatum of either do it with the help of this equipment or don’t do it at all.

Ploy dressed in bright orange theatre costume

I’m not denying that there isn’t a stigma attached to my disability and using this assistive technology but the largest hurdle to overcome was me and my own thoughts as opposed to society and theirs. Additionally, I think I often focused on the success story of someone who is blind or has low vision and so I forgot about the long and arduous journey they too would have experienced to get to where they are today, the long and arduous journey that I currently am on now.

Seeking professional help from a third party, when I was 19 and personally ready for it, was one of the strategically wisest choices I have made thus far. It was helpful and comforting to speak to someone outside of my world who could provide an objective perspective and suggest strategies to help me cope. I saw my psychologist consistently for a few months at the time when I was at my worst and now I only see her intermittently when I feel the need to. I made the decision to see her because I was ready to open up and talk and I believe I wouldn’t have attained the same result if I had been forced to start my sessions any earlier. It was a big decision for me to make, especially due to the social stigma attached to seeing a psychologist but I am happy that I chose to see her and would encourage anyone else in my situation to at least try a couple of sessions.

I believe that what has enabled me to emotionally and psychologically get to where I am today is the power of time, and time that was to my own accord and no one else’s. I needed time to come to terms with losing my sight, I needed time to adjust to this life, I needed time to understand that I only have the emotional capacity to take on life day by day and I needed time to realise, on my own, that I needed to seek professional help. This, in conjunction with the unconditional support and encouragement that I received from my loved ones are both invaluable and are what have essentially helped and taught me to better cope with my vision impairment.

I honestly can say that without the help of organisations that specialise in supporting people like me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My family and I were completely oblivious and had no clue as to what this eye condition entailed. We had no idea how I would be able to attend school if I couldn’t see the teacher writing on the white board or how I would move from class to class or to and from school/university if I can’t see classroom numbers or train station signs. Guide Dogs NSW/ACT provided me with the adequate training and assistance I needed to be able to live life like any other person and to this day, I still use their services.