Support and advice needed. How do I overcome feelings of self consciousness when using a white cane? — Scope | Disability forum
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Support and advice needed. How do I overcome feelings of self consciousness when using a white cane?

Gadget9616
Gadget9616 Member Posts: 12 Listener
edited December 2021 in Sensory impairments
I am a young woman of 30 with ushers. I have night blindness and recently accepted this emotionally. I have just got a white cane and very uneasy about using this, I know it's for the best but how do I overcome the feeling of self consciousness? I will not be defeated by my eyes, I have so much I want to see(in daylight of course!) But first I need to win this pity battle with myself. Any advice or tips from those out their who can truly relate to this? I am the only one in my family, so they have no reference or true understanding of what I'm struggling with emotionally or physically...thank you for listening xx 

Comments

  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 8,295 Disability Gamechanger
    Took me years to appreciate that it was all very well that I had internalised the idea people could not see what was wrong but there were opportunities to make the invisible visible and it was on me and no-one else to do that. I had to have a series of quite nasty incidents/accidents before I got to the point where I realised I had to try a cane.

    You have several complex issues wrapped up here though. The first is that others, largely through ignorance, believe that a cane will make you more vulnerable; that it will make you a target. This is untrue. A cane is the best protection you will ever have. However, because other people don’t understand that we tend to take on board their anxieties she that feeds into and amplifies our own. 

    The way to manage the anxieties of others is to get over your own and then talk to them about it. Repeat the fact that your cane protects you enough times; give examples and that penny does drop. Others will never be entirely co,for table but if you can show them how it protects you then you’ll be in a much better place and they will relax a little too.

    It has to be said that the female experience is very different to the male. Read social media and you’ll soon become obsessed with the idea that every person who offers to help will next grope or assault you. It does happen but equally social media likely overstates the frequency and you should not let it become another barrier to using what will eventually be your best friend. 

    In terms of not being self conscious the first thing I did was to go out in broad daylight on the weekend on a straightish off road path. Only the odd other walker, cyclist and horse rider and I could get confident in my walking/holding style largely without others around. Whilst I was nervous when others passed I was mostly taken aback because strangers started to wish me good afternoon. Making the invisible visible made me visible too. 

    Bearing in mind that for most cane users a cane is initially a choice the. Where you use it is a choice. I slowly learned that idiots in a rush are everywhere. If I’m indoors shopping then I need to go slow than normal else one of them will not see me and in attempting to bypass me will try to step over my cane and snap it. Happened twice and both people were horrified and effectively ran off. I got over my anger and learned to always carry a spare. Now my confidence is so high I’ll happily yell after people “are you going to walk off without even apologising for breaking my cane”. I’m obviously more careful with speed but the last person came back sheepishly and thrust £20 into my hand. I’m not about to complain. 

    I continue to make choices about where I use the cane. I do appreciate some people don’t have that choice but whilst you still do then make those choices and explain to others why. 

    The biggest thing I have found was the number of people willing to offer help and the stark stupidity of those who don’t. My local coffee shop slowly understood that I really appreciate their offer of help with my tray. I will usually turn that help down but there are bad eye days when I really am at risk of dropping a tray or colliding with chairs I’ve seen but still can’t seem to negotiate. Getting used to thanking people for their offer of help and appearing to be inconsistent on your responses is quite difficult but the more you do it the better it feels. 

    I’m sure people will pip on here and point out the experts you can go to for help with this but ultimately it’s in your head and your own self you have to win over. 
  • Gadget9616
    Gadget9616 Member Posts: 12 Listener
    Thanks for your reply, it's greatly appreciated. I know its just my anxiety and confidence that needs boosting and with time this will help and improve. For me it's about the beginning of this journey, I am just adjusting to this. You have raised a point in your message which hasn't even entered my thoughts process of a broken cane.. this is what I wrote the message for, to find out them hints and tips... 
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Posts: 7,049

    Scope community team

    Hi @Gadget9616 :) Welcome to the community! I'm glad that you've been prompted to think of something you hadn't considered already. I hope that other cane users will see your post, and be able to share their own experiences.

    I'll tag @Ross_Scope in here, as he may have some insight to share with you. 

    @Chloe_Scope also has a series of blog posts called 'Cane Adventures', which I'd recommend you check out. 
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  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,566 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you for tagging me @Tori_Scope!

    Hi @Gadget9616, thank you for taking the time to share this with us. I've only been using a long cane for a few years. It's definitely taken time to get used to. I personally found writing a good way to express how I felt and to accept this change. Has this ever been something you've thought about?

    Hope you have a lovely weekend. :)
    Scope

  • Gadget9616
    Gadget9616 Member Posts: 12 Listener
    Hi Chloe, I really enjoyed the cane adventures. It gave me a little insight and was a delight to read! I'm more of a crafty person than a writer, currently doing a few projects! X
  • Ross_Scope
    Ross_Scope Posts: 5,742

    Scope community team

    Hi @Gadget9616

    Welcome to the community, and Merry Christmas to you :) 

    I hope the previous replies on this thread have been helpful, do you feel any better about the prospect of using a cane now?

    I think it can be quite common to feel a bit self-conscious when you first start using a cane, I certainly was that way when I first started using mine and I've seen others post similarly on here in the past.

    It can be difficult to start using a new mobility aid in front of your friends and family when you're so used to not using one, and when they're used to you not using one, but I think a good way to help you feel better about it is talking, and highlighting to them the benefits that your cane is bringing you.

    I also find too that having a bit of fun with the situation relaxes me a bit more, for example I started calling my cane Michael Cane and that became a bit of a joke between myself, my friends and my family, and all in all helped me feel easier about using it in front of them. 

    I still have moments where I feel a bit self-conscious, but nowhere near as often now, and I think it's due to getting used to having the cane as part of who I am now, and I'm sure you'll get there too.
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  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 8,295 Disability Gamechanger
    I would echo every word of that @Ross_Scope. Been using mine for about half a decade and I'm very comfortable with it but I would absolutely acknowledge that there are still "moments" when it becomes awkward. I wouldn't necessarily joke about it but that's just me. Just use it when you're alone; get used it and it will all come in time. 

  • Ross_Scope
    Ross_Scope Posts: 5,742

    Scope community team

    Joking isn't for everyone of course @mikehughescq, I just think humour can be an avenue of relieving some of that tension that you might feel, and bring other people into the conversation about your cane in a light hearted way.

    That's helped for me but yes may not be the approach that works for the OP. I'm glad that you're very comfortable with yours at this point, they most certainly do reduce anxiety when out and about, that's what I've noticed most since getting mine in September 2019.
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  • Gadget9616
    Gadget9616 Member Posts: 12 Listener
    Hi, sorry for the late reply. its been a long day, roll on christmas day when i can crack open the wine!! 

    Me and my son use humor a lot, we dont let things get us down, including this (much!) My son called it a gadget at first, but lately hes been calling it the social distancing whacker.  i know i shouldnt laugh, but we live in harsh times and a giggle is whats needed at times.. 

    i can say that im most self consious around people that know me, they all know me for one side, the happy go lucky woman who knits and paints. i didnt fully realise until earlier this year, i would make excuses not to venture out in the dark. now its time to embrace all that is me, whacker included. i just get filled with anxiety at this, showing my true self in front of my friends and family. 
    on the street alone, or with my son, i feel a bit uncomfortable but nothing extreme. im still trying to adjust to the weights and movements etc. 

    does that make sense? sorry for the essay, i think i need that wine now!!
  • Libby_Scope
    Libby_Scope Posts: 736

    Scope community team

    Hi, sorry for the late reply. its been a long day, roll on christmas day when i can crack open the wine!! 

    Me and my son use humor a lot, we dont let things get us down, including this (much!) My son called it a gadget at first, but lately hes been calling it the social distancing whacker.  i know i shouldnt laugh, but we live in harsh times and a giggle is whats needed at times.. 

    i can say that im most self consious around people that know me, they all know me for one side, the happy go lucky woman who knits and paints. i didnt fully realise until earlier this year, i would make excuses not to venture out in the dark. now its time to embrace all that is me, whacker included. i just get filled with anxiety at this, showing my true self in front of my friends and family. 
    on the street alone, or with my son, i feel a bit uncomfortable but nothing extreme. im still trying to adjust to the weights and movements etc. 

    does that make sense? sorry for the essay, i think i need that wine now!!
    Hi @Gadget9616 :)       

    It's great that you and your son can speak so openly about your situation and find the humor in things. As @RossScope mentioned, it's not a coping strategy for everyone, but if it works for you then that's great :)

    I don't use a cane, but I can relate somewhat to feeling anxious and self conscious around my friends/family when I first got diagnosed with my chronic illnesses. I also wanted to live up to the identity of being that busy go getter, who was always socialising and being active. However, my body just couldn't keep up and I had to start cancelling plans and let go of my former identity. What helped me, was communication and speaking to my friends/family openly and honestly. I would tell them about my symptoms and explain why I couldn't socialise as much. This definitely relieved a lot of the anxiety about not being able to live up to my 'old identity.' Do you feel as though you can be honest with your friends and family about how you're feeling?

    You'll definitely get there with time and I guarantee it will feel like a weight has been lifted once you get to a place where you feel comfortable to be your authentic self with your cane etc :)

    Also, you don't need to apologise for the essay at all and I hope you enjoy that wine! :)
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  • Gadget9616
    Gadget9616 Member Posts: 12 Listener
    hello :smiley:

    my brother has been with me through my battles, he is very supportive and understanding.  his kids make me laugh, they dressed the cane up with tinsel and lights! they are 2,3 & 4.
    my mother isnt in the equations.
    my friends are the work crew, whilst they know about my condition, only one of them have seen me with a cane, i havent worked up the courage for the rest of the factory yet. i have respectfully declined the xmas invitation, for the very reasons you listed above.


    haha thanks, i did one better. chocolate liqueurs :smiley::smiley:

  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 8,295 Disability Gamechanger
    I don’t know if it’s still a choice for you but if it is, whilst it is, treat it as a choice. I’ve introduced family to the cane slowly. Friends slower. A night out where I struggled a little but had the cane in my pocket enabled me to quietly show it to people and start brief but focused conversations. I’d have rather used it all night but doing that made it 10x easier next time I was out with them. Being open about it being a choice and a support is also useful. 

    It was useful for me to realise that my local coffee shops slowly clocked the cane and would start to ask me if they could bring my drink and food to the table. Most times I would refuse, which in itself is a education to other people as most see “blind” or “fraud” rather than “partially-sighted”. However, on days where I was tired; knew my vision wasn’t reliable etc. I accepted the offer of help; made sure I said thanks and explained that I needed help sometimes but not all. Things gently progress and move on. 

    Interestingly the people I’m least comfortable with are the people who feel the need to bling their cane; joke about it etc. It seems to me that it’s a way of trying to fit in and address awkwardness and to not acknowledge still not actually feeling comfortable or legitimate with it. Belonging your cane tends to make it less visible to others and under emphasises the fact you need it. It amused, but didn’t surprise, when I sat in on a session discussing cane colours etc. following a social media debate and it became apparent that people with blinged canes didn’t realise they had more issues; got more challenges and had more anxiety than those with plain white canes.

    Getting people to realise that your cane is part of you is preceded by you acknowledging that and not trying to disguise it. 
  • Gadget9616
    Gadget9616 Member Posts: 12 Listener
    youv have raised a couple of interesting points there.. 

    the cane, i wouldnt say its a choice as such, in familiar terriorty ie the walk to the bus stop i can survive without it, im used to the bin being there, i plan for it before i get there. but in other areas, i am dependent on it to stop myself being hurt, i nearly fell into a road once because i didnt realise the curb was a close as it was. my usual walk to the bus stop and then home is lit by street lamps and shops so im relatively okay there, but i do have a collapsable cane should i be exhausted or tired and this is always in my rucksack should i need it or i get sidetracked on the way home. 

    i let my nephews bling the cane because they are only toddlers and they dont understand the full story but as they grow and become more mature this will change, they know the very basics at their young age, and righly so. 

    the coloured cane thing throws me. as someone who is deaf too, i have a red striped cane, the amount of people who ask what thats about amazes me. id never get a coloured one because firstly its an extenstion of me not a fashion item (im not fashionable in the slightest!) and also everyone knows what a white cane signals, but a neon green one? prior to me getting one, i didnt even know coloured canes exsisted! 
    if people dont recongize a red striped cane means deaf/blind, how do you expect them to understand what coloured ones mean?
  • mikehughescq
    mikehughescq Member Posts: 8,295 Disability Gamechanger
    You will fall off a kerb and onto the road. We all do at some point. It’s okay. A cane won’t stop that. Most people don’t realise that one of the hardest parts of having a VI is that their walk 50m is a walk with all their senses whereas ours is a walk with not all our senses fully functioning and this requires a level of concentration which is exhausting. The tiniest lapse and your relationship with things you’ve already seen totally changes. So, yeah, I did see the kerb but that doesn’t stop me falling off it. Yeah, I did see the puddle. Doesn’t stop me putting my foot in it. Explaining the level of concentration to others can be quite enlightening. 

    When anyone presents themselves as a VI expert I always ask them how many canes there are. Amazing how many non experts work for the likes of RNIB et al. If the answer is less than 6 then they’ve no basic expertise. The correct answer is 6

    Symbol cane plus symbol with red markings to indicate dual sensory loss. 
    Guide cane plus guide cane with red markings etc.
    Navigation cane plus… etc. 

  • Gadget9616
    Gadget9616 Member Posts: 12 Listener
    when i was explaining to my brother about what im struggling with, he couldnt fully grasp what i was saying. it was dark out so, i took a pair of his sunglasses and put some stickers on them, headphones in on full volume and asked him to walk shop with me, it wasnt perfect but trying to truly show someone with full vision what it is like with blind spot, dark issues & no hearing. he fell straight over about 5 meters away from his house!!

    i know falls are a real possibility, but having the cane means i can remove a lot of risk. 

    to be completely honest, i didnt even know there was different canes until my condition worsened and it became something i had to know. i knew what a long cane was, in white. i wasnt educated in this but i knew a white cane meant VI. 

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