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Chapter 5 - Emotional Assistance Options

Options for Emotional Assistance in Southern California

When faced with a diagnosis that includes permanent vision loss it is understandable that emotions can take over. Fear, anger, sadness, anxiety and eventually depression are very common. The upsetting concern of what the future holds can be debilitating. All the plans, expectations, and intentions you have for the future are suddenly gone. All dreams of travel, reading the great novels, learning and enjoying new hobbies, attending theater, movies or sporting events evaporate. Those enjoyable thoughts are replaced with the fears of how I’m going to live, to eat, to dress myself, and to maintain my independence. Some even fear being distanced from one’s spouse, family, and friends. In this chapter, I hope to shed some light on the emotions you may encounter and how you can best handle them.

Depressed woman

Understanding Your Emotions

It is common for people who lose vision to go through periods of abject fear, anxiety and depression as they adjust to a new way of life. For some, it’s a short period. For others, a prolonged period of depression becomes unhealthy to the body and must be swiftly treated.

Most people do not understand that depression under these circumstances is neither a sign of weakness nor psychological difficulty. It is a biochemical issue that requires medicine. It is common and important to seek help from loved ones and professionals.

Common Signs That Point To The Need For Treatment

Here are some common signs that point to the need for treatment. Place a check next to those you feel:

  • Frequently feeling apathetic or unmotivated
  • Frequently feeling agitated, empty or numb
  • Feeling negatively about yourself or frequently pessimistic
  • Withdrawing socially
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too little or too much)
  • Losing or gaining more than 5 percent of your body weight in a month
  • Noticeable decrease in energy
  • Unexplained episodes of crying

Those who develop macular degeneration usually develop enormous feelings of frustration which can lead to rage. They feel isolated, lonely and bored from inactivity. They feel out of control. Those that lose their drivers license are susceptible to even deeper feels of loss and fear.

Anti-Depressant Medications And Other Treatments

It is not necessary nor is it healthy to live with depression. It is not something that will go away by itself. Depression is physiological, not psychological. Research has shown that stressful situations and significant losses in our lives affect the production and regulation of chemicals in our brains that influence our emotional state and our immune system.

When Depression Occurs

When depression occurs, you will remain depressed until the chemical imbalance is treated. You need professional help. You must talk to your physician and act on their advice. You may need anti-depressant medications, dietary changes, and physical exercise to speed your recovery. You may benefit from a vision rehabilitation program or a macular degeneration support group. You may even find that professional counseling allows you to let go of the emotions that are demoralizing you.

Silhouette of man in depression
illustration of neurotransmitters

Antidepressants work by balancing chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters that affect mood and emotions. These depression medicines can help improve your mood, help you sleep better, and increase your appetite and concentration.

The neurotransmitters allow cells to talk to each other. They pass information about your emotions, behavior, appetite and many other functions. There are many neurotransmitter chemicals but two are associated with depression and sadness. They are serotonin and norepinephrine.

Each type of antidepressant works on brain chemistry a little differently, but they all influence how serotonin and norepinephrine work in the brain.

Do Not Allow Yourself To Think That

struggling with depression is a sign of weakness. Your frustrations, anger and other emotions are not a sign of failure, but rather can be seen as an opportunity to grow. Communicate with the loved ones in your life and do not be afraid to ask them to listen to you. Listen to sound advice and know when it is time to seek further help.

When To Seek Medical Attention

Understand that depressive feelings are common and can be overcome. Sometimes seeking professional or medical attention is necessary to begin emotional healing.

  • Seek help for emotional or psychological trauma if you are:
  • Having trouble functioning at home or work
  • Suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression
  • Unable to form close, satisfying relationships
  • Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • Avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma
  • Emotionally numb and disconnected from others
  • Using alcohol and/or drugs to feel better
picture of eye doctor

Change Your Lifestyle

No matter what treatment you seek, changing your lifestyle is a must. Changing your diet, starting an exercise regiment, and adopting news hobbies will help make the transition into a new life much easier and even enjoyable.

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Get Active

You must do activities that require physical and mental exertion to clear your head, burn calories and produce feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins. Certainly, check with your physician before you undertake these types of activities to be on the safe side.

Illustration of people at a party

Be With People

The inner voice that all people have is not your friend. That voice in your head will take you toward all those things that are a problem in your life. That voice will drag you down a difficult path without strong, loving support. Being with people who know and love you can especially offer the verbal support we all need from time to time. Be with those people. Don’t be alone.

Man fishing in a lake

Find A Hobby

Keeping your mind occupied and your hands busy will keep your mind away from unhealthy thoughts and emotions. If your vision is insufficient to do those hobbies that interest you, call your low vision doctor and discuss what options are available.

Enrich Your Spirit

Some find comfort in their religion. If that is you, lean on your religious leaders for comfort and support. That’s what they are there for and that’s what their lives are committed to. Use whatever enriches your spirit and allows you to feel better. It allows you to avoid self-pity and the “why me” syndrome.

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