I’m tired – the disability reality that people don’t talk about

The day that my golden retriever Cindy died was a really tough day for me. I didn’t want to have to tell people about it and have the same conversation over and over again, so I posted it on Facebook. Just to get it done. However, as the day went on, I was really touched by all the kind people who left comments and kind words, or things that they remembered about her. I wasn’t particularly looking for interaction when I wrote the post – I just wanted to get the conversation out of the way. But I was glad that I did it.

My blog isn’t the kind where I really open up online.

Some people do, and I don’t want to judge them. If it helps to write all the emotions down and get it out there, and even better to get support from others, then why not? That’s cool. But if I’m having a bad day, generally the last thing I want to do is tell other people about it!

I think a lot of this has to do with me as a person, and nothing to do with having a disability. If anything, I don’t share because in the past I’ve been the person that other people go to when they’re not ok, and then I got myself the reputation as the one who gets things done, finds solutions, and sorts out problems. Somehow people expect me to be positive, coping, and to have my sh1t together all of the time. Like some kind of superwoman – which, by the way, I’m not!

Things have got better since I’ve been with my partner. I do open up more now, but not usually on my blog or social media. I think live and let live – if people want to reveal so much of themselves it’s their choice, but I can’t relate to what motivates people to do it. So I don’t.

There’s a problem though. Not sharing means other people don’t know when things aren’t ok, or why.

Sometimes it’s not as clear-cut as just one thing that’s gone wrong. Generally people can understand a specific thing. I had a bad day because something went wrong at work/I have a headache/my car broke down or whatever.

The thing is – sometimes I get really tired. Not the kind of tired after you’ve been reading a good book till 3AM and still have to get up for work, but weary of having to do twice as much work as other people just to get a job done.

It’s not all of the time. Many things that I do at work are just as easy for me as anyone else. Learning when I was 5 means that now, I can type faster than a lot of sighted people, which is great when you need to make detailed notes or get an accurate record of meetings. Thanks to my screenreader, I can read, write, work with spreadsheets, find information, and manage pretty much all areas of my business myself. Working in two languages isn’t more difficult for me than for anyone else. I’m organised, so my systems work well, and working for myself has eliminated a lot of inaccessible practices that I had to work through in other jobs.

Sometimes people seem amazed at some of the things that I get done as a blind woman, whereas for me, they’re just normal things that aren’t particularly difficult. They would be hard for someone who suddenly lost their sight, but I’ve got strategies to get them done, so it’s not a big deal and I can do them on autopilot.

But then there are the other things that leave me feeling exhausted. And it’s not just one thing. It’s the knowledge that often I have to work twice as hard to do something that would be really simple for someone else. That is frustrating at times.

When I lived in London, it wasn’t so much my job that drained every bit of energy from me, as the trek across London each day (3 hours in total). Yes, I enjoyed reading my book on the train and chatting to the friends I made on the commute, but it was the careless tourists, the terrible drivers, the people who nearly trampled on my dog, the roadworks that appeared in a different place every day, the lack of audio announcements on the trains, the people with pushchairs who thought that everyone else was a second-class citizen and should get out of the way – preferably into the road, the cyclists who thought the red lights didn’t apply to them, and the religious or drunk people who thought that the woman with a guide dog was a captive audience. They stole my energy. One on its own would have been fine, but it all adds up, like putting more and more in your shopping bag until it’s so heavy you think it might split and you are sooo glad to get home and lock the door behind you!

Does that make me a less capable or less independent blind traveller, or just a more honest one?

It was hard. Some days were fine and I didn’t experience any of this. Others weren’t. If you’ve already had a tough day at work, things like that can wear you out!

When I ask my partner for help on my laptop – sometimes it’s to draw on his vast IT knowledge, but more often than not, it’s to do the simplest task that I can’t do because some unhelpful person or organisation has designed their site in a way that I can’t use it independently. So it takes longer.

I’m not going to get into the discussion about whether it’s a result of blindness or society not being accessible – because I think on a day-to-day basis, it’s often a mixture of both.

The fact that I can’t find my keys because I wasn’t organised and didn’t put them in their place is my fault – not the society around me. And the fact that it takes me longer than someone who can easily see where they are is definitely related to the fact that I can’t see them.

The fact that if I want to go somewhere new on my own, I need to do more planning than someone who could just show up and follow a map is just something I need to factor in, as is the fact that we sometimes need to do a bit more work beforehand to make a group activity with friends accessible to me as well. It’s not a reason not to do these things, but doing it takes time and sometimes energy.

The fact that, in order to take part in a course, I have to write several emails, make phone calls and chase around till I get an answer about accessible materials is definitely a case of the organisation in question not making it easy for me. I can’t just sign up an go.

On another self-study course that I started recently, I got part-way through module one before hitting the roadblock of a question called “label this diagram”. The content was easy. The diagram made it impossible for me to complete the task. So the options were find an alternative course, have a lengthy discussion about accessibility, or give up! I am not a fan of giving up, but I have learned now to choose my battles wisely, and focus on the things that will really add value.

So, sometimes nobody is at fault. Also, finding someone to blame doesn’t make the extra work go away.

On some days, all this extra work builds up. If I’m tired anyway – because life happened that way, it can make me feel exhausted. Most of the time I just take it in my stride, but each of these things saps a little bit of energy, and when you add them all together, it accumulates.

I don’t want to whine about it. I don’t want others to feel sorry for me. I don’t necessarily need people to come up with solutions because chances are I already have one.

The other problem is that people are often not that good at listening. They’d rather tell you about how something similar happened to their neighbour’s best friend’s spaniel, or about the vaguely-related article they read, whilst I sit there trying not to get bored and disengage because I don’t see the relevance to the thing we’re actually discussing. People want to contribute something, or at least not to admit they have no idea what to say – I get that. But listening is such an undervalued skill nowadays!

So I often don’t share, because having to listen to lots of words with people trying to fix problems that I’ve already fixed is also kind of tiring. I just want people to understand that because I’m not openly losing it on Facebook or crying in a corner somewhere, it doesn’t mean everything is easy or fine.

I get on with things. I’m not an emotionally needy friend. I’m maybe a difficult friend to have because my first thought isn’t to share when things aren’t going well. But sometimes I’m not looking for comfort – just for someone not to try and get me to carry their shopping bags as well whilst I’m struggling to carry my own (I mean the shopping bag analogy from earlier in the article).

It doesn’t last long. A good night’s sleep, a good distraction – and the next day I’m ready to face the world again with new energy. But on a particularly tough day a couple of weeks ago, I did ask the question as to why we never talk about this.

Are people who live full and happy lives despite their physical disability not allowed to say “I’m so tired today because of all the extra energy and concentration that I have to put in?”

When I was younger, I would never have admitted it. “I can cope! I can do anything!” I still believe that I can cope and do anything I want to, but just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that there is no cost involved – whether that’s material cost or cost in terms of effort. Sometimes it’s the same amount of effort as anyone else would need. Often it’s more.

There is no better time to have a disability such as blindness. Technology makes so many things possible. There are aps on my phone to read things, tell the colour of things, and help me to shop online without ever having to navigate a shop on my own! My laptop gives me access to find information or communicate with friends and customers across the world. I have a supportive partner, family and friends.

But sometimes, just because I can make things look easy, it doesn’t mean that they are.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this – other than to say I think we should have the freedom to be real. I think people with disabilities often put ourselves under pressure because others believe that we can’t do things, or are amazed when we can do things that aren’t that hard. So we don’t want to admit any sign of weakness, because it somehow reinforces the stereotypes or a “can’t-do attitude”. Sometimes we get tired of people who always see the problems and never the solutions – and the worst thing would be to be seen as the same as them. And yes, I don’t have much patience with people who are unwilling to try because everything’s sooo hard!

But going back to the original point – admitting you find something hard and doing it anyway isn’t weakness. Doesn’t that mean you’re a stronger person than the person who pretends the hassles aren’t there?

I am still positive, determined, driven, and passionate about finding ways to get things done. But sometimes I get tired because of all the extra work that goes in behind the scenes – work that most people aren’t even aware that I’m doing – and today I decided admitting that this extra work wears me out sometimes is perfectly ok.

If you’re looking for other articles about blindness and life as an adult, you might enjoy these

  • My riding story – horse-riding with a visual impairment
  • More from Unseen Beauty

    If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

    The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

    “Too many words were happening” and sensory sensitivities

    For many years, the people around me, and even I to some extent, put some of my quirky behaviour or reactions down to my blindness, or just my being a bit unusual. It was only when I started doing some research because I was working with a learner with autism that I began to discover things like sensory sensitivity, which I never knew were a thing, and really relate to them.

    The thing was, I started reading articles to be a better teacher, but I think one of the reasons I seemed to have more success communicating with this particular learner than some of the others around me was that some of the things I was reading made sense on a level that was deeper than just understanding the text. I got it!

    That didn’t mean I related to everything – I didn’t have the learner’s difficulties with social interactions that set me off on my quest for knowledge in the first place, But other things came up that automatically made sense before I read the explanations.

    I’m not an expert on this, and other people have done a much better job at describing them such as in this post from the Musings of an Aspie blog on sensory sensitivities and atypical sensory processing. Read it if you want more information – I certainly identified with a lot of it and was glad to realise that other people have these issues, not just me.

    I mentioned it briefly in my post about Lush products. the reason I hadn’t been able to use dissolvable bath products was a texture thing. I don’t like how they feel, particularly when they’re wet, and I don’t like the bits of them that are in the water. It’s not just an “I don’t like it reaction” but an “I physically pull away from this texture and don’t want to be where they are”, and it would stop me enjoying the bath, even if it smelled wonderful and had loads of great ingredients. I don’t like body scrubs either. Some things can’t be fixed and I just avoid the textures, but I found by putting the bar or bath bomb in a little cloth bag that floats on the water, I don’t have to touch it and no stray bits get out! That makes it ok.

    However, there are some things that I can’t fix. I remember telling my mum, very definitely, with all the conviction of a grumpy 5-year-old, that I would NOT be having lace on my wedding dress when I grew up. I was going to be a bridesmaid and didn’t like the feeling of the lace on my skin. I didn’t just not like it – I was constantly aware of it, like the thread of cotton in the post I linked above. My school jumper was no better, and I wore long sleeved blouses, even in the summer, so that when I had to put the jumper on, it wouldn’t touch me. I’m still not good with wool now. It doesn’t freak me out like the thing I hate the most, but if I wore it next to my skin, it would take up too much brain space because I’d be thinking about it all the time, and how it was scratchy, and if I moved I would feel it, that maybe it wouldn’t bee too cold if I took it off and…what did you just say to me?

    . There are some other textures that I can’t do, and I avoid them at all costs!

    It applies to sounds too. It’s not the same, because I don’t feel the same urge to run away, but I am hypersensitive to noise. I can follow conversations in loud places, or people competing with each other and talking at the same time, but it saps my energy in the same way that your phone’s battery would run down faster if you streamed video content instead of reading articles. If the background music is too loud, it’s not background music, but a constant assault on my ears, demanding my attention, and making it harder for me to concentrate on what I’m supposed to be listening to. I have no filter to tell my brain that those sounds aren’t important and can be ignored!

    Some things are definitely related to blindness – having a really loud drill going on makes it difficult for me to orientate myself. I don’t like loud bars because I can’t lip read or even figure out if someone is trying to talk to me. But it’s more than that, and I’ve discovered it’s not just blind people who are hypersensitive to noise, or particular sounds.

    You don’t just hear things – you hear everything – and your brain is trying to tell you that all of these things need to be taken notice of. It could be the dog barking and traffic sounds that were mentioned in the Musings of an Aspie post. It could be something that other people don’t notice, like a neighbour’s wind chime, that you can hear even when the windows are shut. It could be someone driving you to distraction by tapping their pen to the point where you want to grab and make off with it just so it will stop! It could be the clock that has to be taken out of a friend’s spare room where I was staying in the middle of the night and put in the hallway because it WOULD NOT STOP TICKING! Yes I did that and yes the friends did ask about it!

    It could be water dripping on something in the neighbour’s garden every single time it rains. When I pointed it out and S started listening for it, he could hear it too, but it wasn’t the same for him as the thing that was bugging me, like a constantly pulsating heart that would only stop when the rain did! I am so glad that the thing – whatever it was – has been taken away now!

    The title of this post came from a blog post that I was reading, and I feel bad now because I can’t find it again. It wasn’t the heading or anything – just a phrase that was used “too many words were happening”. As an English teacher, this is an unusual use of language – words don’t usually happen. They’re spoken or said or yelled – but they don’t just randomly happen. And yet I knew what the author meant . Saying that they were happening sounds like they take on a life of their own and are not under control, and it does feel like that for me, too, when I’m in a room and too many words are happening – all loudly and at the same time! I love the expression!

    So the words and sounds keep happening and bashing my ears. If it gets too much and becomes overwhelming, I withdraw in sensory self-defence. It’s like a way of shutting down till the thing has passed. People just think I’m a bit quiet, but I’m really the tortoise who’s gone back in his shell till it’s over because I can’t function properly with so many audio stimuli fighting for my attention!

    I can see why people might think this is blindness-related. After all, people generally assume that blind people have super-powerful ears. I think the truth is that we learn to use our sense of hearing more and hear the things that other people miss, because those things could be really useful in the absence of all the visual clues. It’s true, I sometimes hear parts of friends’ conversations that weren’t meant for me (I guessed a friend was pregnant before she told us because of a quiet comment to her husband), and I try not to abuse that! I hear the conversation on the next table in the restaurant without trying to listen to it – really funny when they notice that a colleague tried to kiss me and I clearly wasn’t happy about it! Yay! It was all I could do not to start laughing and then have the embarrassment of explaining why. But I’m not intentionally listening to everyone else’s life happening alongside my own.

    Still, not everything that has to do with hearing is necessarily blindness-related. Whether that’s sensory-related, behavioural, or to do with how people perceive and respond to the world around them.

    It’s not just blind people who struggle with not being able to filter out background sounds, excessive noise, or repetitive noise. Sensory sensitivity or problems processing sensory information are not just me being weird. It feels good to know that and to find that other people identify with these things too, particularly when those people can see, or they can explain a bit more of the science behind them.

    In the past I’ve just made myself get on with it – less so as I have got older and am not as willing to be in environments that I really don’t want to be in. But if sensory sensitivities and atypical sensory processing are real things that have been identified and acknowledged. No amount of just getting on with and putting up with it are going to make it ok. And that’s ok!

    So why did I write this post? Maybe because I’m a teacher and I like to share what I’ve learned. Maybe to encourage parents of blind children that you shouldn’t attribute every behaviour to blindness-related things. Maybe to say if you have friends who have sensory sensitivities, don’t give them a hard time about it because it’s not something you can change. And if you identify with any of these things, you’re not the only one! Knowing this fact helps me.

    More from Unseen Beauty

    If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

    The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

    15 myths about blindness that I would like to get rid of

    Not knowing something is not as bad as thinking you know something that turns out to be untrue. Or maybe it is true, just not in all situations. I’m here to debunk the 15 myths about blindness and blind people that annoy me the most.

    If you have any questions, go ahead and write them in the comments. I usually answer – unless they are too way out, like the random guy who came up to me on a train to ask something really inappropriate. As a general rule, if the question would shock your grandma, it’s not appropriate to ask a complete stranger! In those cases, a stern “why do you feel that you need to know that” usually embarrasses people enough to get them scuttling away! But as I said, if people genuinely want to learn something, I don’t bite when they ask questions.

    So here are the things that aren’t true, or aren’t always true…

    1. All blind people touch people’s faces when they meet for the first time

    Really, for me, that’s just weird. I hate the way that old films portray this as normal. I wouldn’t want anyone getting into my personal space like that. It’s an intimate gesture, and anyway I don’t want anyone ruining my make-up.

    Also, it doesn’t give you that much information. I’d much rather focus on all the other information that many sighted people miss – what people actually say, when their tone of voice doesn’t match the message they want to give, the intonation, the hesitations, or the things they don’t say. That gives you much more information to work with than whether someone is wearing glasses or trying to hide a massive spot on their chin.

    People who have asked to do this in my experience have tended to be a bit creepy anyway, and I would never say yes – so don’t feel obliged to either. Some people just use this as a way to get up close and personal with strangers, particularly those they might fancy.

    2. We have better senses

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “but all your other senses are heightened, aren’t they?” I think actually what’s happening is that we get used to using them more. So it’s not about being born with super-hearing or a sense of smell as good as the nearest Labrador, but if your hearing and sense of smell are what you have to work with, then you work with them.

    If person A just notices the smell of the roses because it’s pleasant, and person B knows that smelling them means he’s nearly home – well Person B is probably more likely to tune into it.

    If person A doesn’t hear the cyclist approaching from behind, and person B does – just because they know that some cyclists don’t care about pedestrians and the sound of the bike is the only clue to keeping out of their way, it’s not super-hearing that helped, but a trained sense of hearing – probably due to previous near-misses with cyclists!

    3. We like loud things because we can hear them

    It didn’t happen to me, but I’ve heard of blind children that were terrified of their Christmas presents because everyone got them something loud! For example, Lego wasn’t loud, but I enjoyed it as much as my auditory toys. So if buying for a blind child, try to find out what he or she likes, rather than just assuming that they would like something because it makes a noise.

    Far from liking noise, some blind people have noise sensitivity and don’t like to be in loud places with a lot going on. Apparently in the infant school I clamped my hands over my ears and yelled “let me out of here” because I wasn’t a fan of the volume of noise in the dinner hall. The adult Kirsty doesn’t do that any more and will find her own way out if it gets too much, but the temptation to do what the 5-year-old Kirsty did is still there sometimes!

    4. We are all good at music

    Just because there have been a couple of famous blind musicians, it doesn’t mean everyone will be good at music. Perhaps music is appealing to many blind people because you can fully appreciate the end result without sight. But there are other skills for which a good sense of hearing can also give you an advantage. At school, I was always good at languages because I really listened. I wasn’t expecting subtitles or visual clues in the listening test and I found it easy to memorise the sounds. But someone else might hate both music and languages, and it’s never good to generalise.

    5. We all read Braille/large print

    It’s cool if people offer me a Braille menu in a restaurant, but a large print one would be of no use. The energy company saying that they can’t email me my letter and insisting on sending all future correspondence in large print was not helpful. Some blind people read Braille. Others can read large print. Others only use audio. Assumptions don’t help because everyone has different skills, experience, and reading preferences.

    6. We don’t care how we look

    It’s true that there are some people who couldn’t care less about their physical appearance, and this attitude generally doesn’t serve them well at job interviews! We live in a world where most people can see us, and that’s a thing. Some people may try to rebel against this, but personally I don’t see what good it serves.

    It’s the same with everyone else – take any group of sighted people and you’ll find some care more about their appearance, others less so. Blind people are no different.

    But it’s not true that because I can’t see myself, I don’t care how I look. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a make-up article on my blog.
    I can’t see the end result, but who doesn’t enjoy being told they look good after they’ve put some effort into getting ready for a night out? I like to try and make the best of my appearance – partly because people treat me better, but partly because if you feel good, you give off more confident vibes and really I want to make the best of what I have, whether that’s by using clothes, make-up, or accessories such as jewellery or my owl bag.

    7. We can tell how old people are by hearing their voice

    Just don’t. It’s not a cool game. I refuse to play, but if you insist, you had it coming if someone adds 20 years on to your age!

    8. Everything needs to be huge

    It took me ages to find a nice tactile watch that wasn’t the size of a saucer. It used to be better, and I guess demand has gone down because more people are using smart watches. The one I have now was from a friend in Germany, but if it breaks or stops working, I’m not sure what I’ll do because most of the other ones now are enormous.
    I appreciate that some low-vision aids have to be larger so that people can see the large print, but we don’t all need telephones with huge buttons, clock faces as wide as our wrist or things that are big and clunky just because they’re for someone who is blind.

    9. We all use the same tech

    My phone and my laptop make life so much easier for me, and I couldn’t do anything with a magnifier.
    Someone once commented on my kitchen that it looked normal. I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to look like, but it turned out they meant it wasn’t full of talking gadgets or special things to make cooking easier.

    I have tactile markers on the washing machine, dishwasher, and oven. I have a jug with raised measurements on the inside. But that’s about it. Other people have talking microwaves and all kinds of stuff from specialist shops – and that’s ok.

    Just because something was designed with blind people in mind, it doesn’t mean that all blind people will find it useful.

    Imagine you brought out a skincare range for women in their 30s. Great, I might be interested. But then I discover it’s for people with oily skin and you’ve lost me right there, because I don’t.

    10. We never watch tv or go to the cinema

    This isn’t true. I don’t go to the cinema often, but when I do, I go to audio described performances, where the additional information about what’s going on is given through a headset.
    I don’t watch a lot of tv, it’s true, but I do have Netflix and S and I sometimes watch films together. I’m more interested now that you can filter by programmes, so I only see the ones with audio description, but some blind people really enjoy tv.

    11. The people with us must be our carers

    “No, it’s not her girlfriend, it’s her mum!” My friend, only about 10 years older than me, was horrified. She was neither my girlfriend, nor my mum, nor my carer, which is what people often assume. She was just my friend and we were walking along, arm in arm, because she was guiding me.

    Another friend was stopped when we were in the supermarket by someone who wanted to know about caring for disabled people. It’s kind of insulting to assume that the only reason someone would be hanging out with a disabled person is because you are their carer.

    12. We all know each other

    I was walking down the steps to my train platform, only to be told that my friend was “over there”. Apart from the fact that “over there” wasn’t massively helpful, it turned out the guy talking to me had just assumed I knew, or wanted to hang out with, another guy with a guide dog. I heard the other guy talking to his dog and had no idea who he was.

    I understand that some people who have gone through the specialist school system and attended schools for the blind might know a lot of blind people, but I went to mainstream school.

    It’s like if you meet someone of a certain nationality and are really surprised that they don’t know some obscure person from the other end of the country who happens to be of the same nationality.

    And it’s not just sighted people that make this assumption – blind people do it too, which I find a bit bizarre!

    I think that some of it comes down to the fact that some people socialise predominantly with other blind people – but some of us don’t, so don’t be surprised if we don’t know your aunt’s friend’s next door neighbour from 50 miles away who happens to be blind!

    13. We all have guide dogs

    I loved my golden guiding girl, but I know blind people who don’t even like dogs, and have met people who couldn’t take responsibility for looking after an animal. Guide dogs are fantastic, but they aren’t right for everyone. They’re a big commitment – totally worth it if you love dogs and can make that commitment, but not everyone’s character or lifestyle are suited to having a four-legged friend.

    Also, as smart as they are, the doggies can’t read – so please don’t try to give directions to them or show them a map. Yes, it happened to us!

    14. We all sit in the dark

    I can function as well in the dark as I can with the light on, but I don’t sit in the dark because I can see the difference. The light doesn’t help me to see anything else, such as shapes or colours, but it looks nicer than darkness. I love to sea the sun streaming in through my window, and it’s handy that I can see when a bulb needs changing. Also, when I lived on my own with my dog, I wouldn’t have wanted her to sit in the dark all the time!
    I guess it may be different for people who don’t see light at all, but still I think they should make sure they’re not inviting sighted friends into a house of darkness because even for me, it was a bit strange when someone did that!

    If I want something quickly from another room, I don’t bother turning lights on and off as I go, but if I’m going to be anywhere for a period of time, I’d rather put the light on.

    15. When we’ve finished eating, it looks like feeding time at the zoo

    I have a real issue with the dining in the dark experience, but that’s a post for another day.

    I’m not denying that some blind people have more difficulty eating. Some people have dexterity issues. Others lose their sight suddenly or later in life, which means they have to gain a whole new set of eating skills and learn to do things differently. A bunch of fully-sighted people plunged into darkness probably wouldn’t make a very good job of their first meal … but it’s not fair to assume that someone who’d been eating without sight for the last 30 years would have the same problems.

    Of course anyone can drop something or spill something – nobody is perfect. That has nothing to do with whether you can see or not.

    S and I go for meals out as a fun thing to do. We go out for dinner with friends. On average I don’t tend to drop, spill or knock things over as much as other people, partly because I am very mindful about where things are and don’t make sweeping hand gestures, and because I have a thing about not wanting to look clumsy. I’m also a bit more relaxed than I was in my 20s – if the food comes out in a dish in the middle of the table and someone offers to serve me, that’s fine. I know I could do it myself, but don’t need to prove it on every occasion!

    Some things are easier to eat than others. But I don’t approach the task with a sense of dread or leave a trail of food, broken glass and food on my clothes. I’ve learned how to use a knife not only to cut, but to measure how big chunks of food are. I’ve learned how to guess how much food is on my fork by how much weight is on there. Occasionally I underestimate, but that’s better than overestimating and approaching your mouth with something that won’t fit!

    Anyway back to what I was saying. It doesn’t mean I’ll never make a mistake, but I’ve had years of learning to develop strategies for eating without looking, so I don’t have the same problems as someone who suddenly tried to eat in total darkness. It’s not accurate for someone who’s eaten without the lights on to think they know how it is for me.

    Are there any more myths you think we should explore?

    More from Unseen Beauty

    If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

    The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping deals or discounts that I think my readers might like.

    If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in these other posts about visual impairment too:

  • My riding story – horse-riding with a visual impairment
  • The best posts of 2017 and plans for 2018

    I’ve got quite a few new followers this month, so I wanted to show you what else I write apart from Blogmas posts! I also wanted to look back over the first year of Unseen Beauty. So, here are the most popular posts from 2017!

    10. Holly’s story – from a puppy farm to a loving home The story of Holly the Labrador – I want people to know that buying puppies from puppy farms means there will always be work for mothers like Holly, and that’s not fair.
    9. In celebration of grandparents and what we have learned from them This was a collaboration that I did with a group of other bloggers. I wanted to tell all my readers how much I’d learned from my grandparents, and I thought it would be fun to open it up to others too so that we could all share our grandparent memories!
    8. Christmas 2016 This was my first proper post apart from my introduction, so I guess people wanted to check out my new blog!
    7. L’Occitane review – bringing Braille labels to blind customers This was the first post that I did with a brand. I was interested in the idea of Braille labels and can’t tell you how excited I was about my first PR samples. That doesn’t mean I’ll chase any PR samples, but when you like a brand and they want to work with you, that feels really good.
    6. My friend Cindy, the golden guiding girl This is probably the most open I’ve been in a post, and I think a lot of my Facebook friends read it because they knew and loved Cindy too. But I also wanted to give any readers who didn’t meet her the chance to find out about the golden retriever in my blog image.
    5. 10 of my favourite youtubers I guess people were just interested in this one and looking for new Youtubers to follow!
    4. Walking with wolves I really enjoyed writing this post because it was such an amazing experience to get close to two wonderful wolves. I really wanted to share this with my readers because it’s something that had been on my bucket list for ages.
    3. Keeping fit when you can’t see I would get bored if my site were primarily about blindness, but it seems that people do enjoy these articles!
    2. Make-up without sight – how one blind woman does it

    I guess the thing here is write about something that nobody else is writing about, or that not many people know. That makes it interesting. Of course you need to make sure that people actually want to know about it and it’s not something that just interests you, but if you have an interesting or different perspective on a more general topic, it sets your content apart.
    1. How do you apply eye make-up if you can’t see?

    This was one of my first posts. I’ve tried out so many more products since I wrote this, but the general advice is the same. I think this one got a lot of hits because it was shared in several Facebook groups, which meant a lot more traffic.

    Top favourites post – October – was it the pumpkin art?!

    Top empties post – February!

    Top Blogmas post – Christmas for dog lovers!

    Plans for 2018

    I’m going to keep some things the same in 2018 and also add in some new sections. I want to build on the things that people are already enjoying, so there will be some more animal posts, as well as others that focus on life as a blind adult, as people seem to want that. My favourite type of posts to write are about the products that I’m enjoying, and they do tend to get a number of comments, so I’ll keep up with the empties and favourites posts.

    I’ve recently added a virtual coffee widget to my sidebar, so anyone who wants to support the site by buying a virtual coffee can do so. I saw this on the Emma Edit blog and thought it was a nice idea.

    I have some new ideas about interviews that I’d like to bring you, brands that I’d like to work with, and a new feature on the accessibility of online shopping sites. You may think the reason I post a lot of Amazon links is that I’m just an Amazon affiliate. I am an Amazon affiliate, but the truth is that I do a lot of my shopping on there. Partly because having Prime makes things so quick and easy, but partly because there are a lot of badly written sites out there that I can’t use unless I ask for help from someone who can see because the people who designed the site couldn’t be bothered to label the graphics on their page controls properly. I want to highlight good practice and raise awareness when companies aren’t getting it right.

    I have a lot of new products from my advent calendars, so expect some reviews on those!

    I’d like to finish by wishing all my readers a happy 2018. I hope it will be a good year for you, full of happy memories. Thank you for supporting Unseen Beauty throughout the year. It just started as an idea in the bath and now I’m happy to see what it has grown into after the first year!

    Would you like Unseen Beauty News emails?

    If you’d like me to email you twice a week with information about what’s new on the site, and other things that I have been enjoying, you can sign up using this contact form.

    Is visiting your blog an enjoyable experience for blind visitors?

    I share my own experiences and a list of tips that bloggers can follow to make sure that they create an accessible experience for blind visitors to their blogs.

    Are you doing any of these things that might be making it harder for blind visitors to enjoy your blog?

    Find out in this guest post that I wrote for the Blog Herald website.

    Never miss another post!

    If you’d like me to email you when new posts come out, usually once or twice a week, you can sign up using this contact form.

    Make-up without sight – how one blind woman does it

    Have you ever wondered what your make-up would look like if you did it without being able to check in the mirror?

    I can see the sun streaming in through the window, or whether the light is on or off, but as I have been almost totally blind since birth, that’s all I can see. No shapes, no colours. So when I do my make-up, I can’t check in the mirror to make sure it looks ok.

    When I was a teenager, I never considered make-up as something that wasn’t accessible to me. It was just like everything else – I’d probably have to find a different way to do it, but as long as I could get the results I wanted, I didn’t care about the process and whether my friends did it the same way. That doesn’t mean that the learning process was easy. I was being taught by people who had always put on their make-up using their sight, and if you can’t do that, sometimes you need to be creative.

    The first thing you need is honesty. The only time my grandmother said “You can’t go out like that” was when there had been a particularly bad loose blusher disaster of which I was blissfully unaware (I never use loose powder blusher now because it’s too unpredictable!), and when I ask my partner whether my make-up looks ok, I’m not looking for a “you look wonderful” (unless I do of course!). I want to know if I’ve got the look I was going for or if I missed a bit of foundation near my hairline or had a mascara fail. I can usually tell if I did the latter, but it gives me peace of mind to check. That doesn’t mean I won’t go out the door without asking someone first, but if I’m on my own, I’m probably a bit less adventurous.

    The hardest thing for me is having no concept of colour. I don’t know what my favourite colour is because I’ve never seen them. That makes it harder to decide what look I want to go for. I can make informed choices about the types of product I want to use, but when it comes down to the colours, I have to trust people. Rather than naively trusting anyone though, I do think about all the feedback together, to look for patterns. Some shop assistants are fantastic, whereas others just want to sell you stuff. Even well-meaning friends can get it wrong when they are influenced by what they would usually buy, instead of really thinking about what would suit someone else. You can ask 10 people and get 10 different answers, so I tend to choose people whose choices and suggestions have got me the most compliments and people who can explain their choices.

    I wouldn’t say there is one way for blind people to do their make-up. I know blind women who like short mascara brushes, use powder eye shadow and get their lashes tinted. I don’t do any of these things, but I think you just need to find out what works for you. I tend to be a more hands-on kind of girl, blending products in with my fingers so I know exactly where they are. I avoid powders where I can, apart from my foundation setting powder, because cream products have less chance of fall-out, and when you can’t see the end result, it’s good to eliminate the chance of product landing where you don’t want it to. Until a few months ago, I wasn’t aware of many of the products that are on offer now. I have discovered new things that make life much easier and solve some of the problems I had as a teenager. I’m now eager to see what else is available, both by trying things out in beauty subscription boxes, and working with brands to make their products and services more accessible to blind people.

    My products fall into two categories – ones that I’m happy to change up all the time, and ones that I stick to because I’ve found something that I like.

    I like foundation in a pump dispenser because then I know how much product I have each time and that one pump of it will cover my face. When you can’t see the coverage, you have to be thorough and aware of the areas that you sometimes miss. For example I pay extra attention to my hairline and above my left eye, because these are the areas where I sometimes forget to blend, and the skin under my nose so that I don’t forget it altogether! I then cover it with some fixed powder using the sponge that comes with it.

    When I was younger, I used powder eye shadows, but to be honest, the results were a bit hit and miss. I could usually manage to cover the eye, but sometimes there was fall-out on my cheeks and I wasn’t always sure that I had got rid of it. It was only recently that I discovered two types of product that make the process much easier for someone who can’t see: cream shadow crayons and cream shadow pots. Both of them are cream-based. I either use the crayons or sticks to colour in my eyelid, or I apply the cream shadow to my finger tip and apply it to my lids. Ok, it’s non-conventional, but it is a way to make sure I apply the make-up evenly and exactly where I want it to go. Eye primer can make this process more difficult, because the eye already feels creamy before you add the products, but again it’s about being thorough – going over an area twice is better than missing half your eye!

    Some blind women don’t like applying mascara, but I’ve always found it ok as long as I’m not rushing. The critical point is making contact with the brush. I usually bring the brush up to my eye and blink gently so that my lashes touch the brush. This means that I don’t poke myself in the eye with it or paint part of my face. Once I can feel the lashes with my brush, I can follow round and coat all of them. I always go for bigger brushes that look the same all the way round. Combs annoy me. I’ve found one that I like now and the only reason I would change would be if someone recommended a fatter brush.

    You already know about the blusher disaster that made me hurl my loose blusher to the back of the cupboard. When I was a teenager, I swapped it out for a fixed powder, but as I couldn’t feel it on my face very well, I was never sure about the coverage. Now I have cream highlighter, which I just draw on my face and blend in, cream blusher and cream contour. I love these products, because applying them is a really tactile experience. I can feel where they are. I can feel the shape of my face and where the product needs to be. I can feel if something isn’t blended in properly because of the texture on my skin.

    I know there are blind women who use a lot more brushes than me for jobs where I use my fingers. It’s a matter of choice. The idea that a brush may not be clean or it may have a different colour on it than the one I want to use is a major turn-off for me, and I feel I have more precision with my fingers. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try them, but I don’t feel I need to use them just because most other people do.

    Applying lipstick is not difficult, but I find the traditional lipsticks easier to apply than the liquids, because you have more control over exactly where they are going and they are more forgiving than the extra-long lasting liquid ones if you make a mistake. I have a selection from different brands because they are easy to identify by touch. If I have a number of lipsticks or cream shadows from the same brand, I mark the packaging in some way so I can tell them apart.

    I’m no expert and I know I go for simpler looks than many of my sighted friends. That’s ok for me – partly because I want the make-up to be more subtle anyway and to enhance what’s already there, and partly because I would rather do a simple thing well than a complicated thing badly! I’m still learning, but I wanted to share these ideas to show that this is something that blind people can do if they want to.

    I can’t see the results, but the people around me can, and if I do it well, I feel good about it in the same way that I feel good wearing nice clothes or a piece of jewellery.

    Some of my favourite products

    These products won’t suit everyone, but I’ve listed some of the ones that I like and find easy to use. Also, as I can’t easily get pictures of all the products that I use, linking them means that you can have a look at the images on other sites or get further information.

    Face

    Lips

    Eyes

    Over to you!

    Has reading this article made you want to ask any questions? If it has, post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer! Also, if you’re visually impaired and you want to add anything about how you apply make-up, or any tips for making it easier, I’d love to hear them!

    More from Unseen Beauty

    If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually twice a week, you can sign up using this form.

    The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

    This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.