LIVING WITH STARGARDTS
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Mike, who lives in the UK

Mike’s story

Hi, I am a 46 year old male, living in the UK and proud of it!!

I was diagnosed with my sight disorder when I was 17 years old (1984) and given the “good news” by a private practitioner at a BUPA Hospital in Birmingham. This was done in front of my father who was a very experienced Policeman of some 25 years standing in the CID. To say it was a shock to my system was an understatement but I look back now, and what I realise is that it was a bigger shock to my father. It was in the age of ‘men don’t cry’ and “man up” and get on with it. Not told, I might add, in a sympathetic manner, with compassion or concern, but in a matter-of-fact way by a horrible, abrupt doctor whose name and face I remember as clear as day, even some 29 years on. Gone in an instant were all my dreams of joining the Royal Marines and following in my Dad’s footsteps as a Policeman, driving a car that I had saved up for or playing football. My family was then, and still is, a very caring, loving and supportive one, people I am lucky to have been blessed with.

I look at my reaction and the years that followed in my life, both with regard to my life and my parents. Lack of control, blame, shame, stress, poor functionality, lack of sleep were all experienced. I literally had no-where to turn and no-one knew what to do to help me.

I have gone through life and dealt with it as best as I could, evaluating myself and placing coping mechanisms in certain aspects of my living that would enable me to function as a normal person. I decided to forget that I had a problem and just crack on with life and live it to the full! I have travelled the world by myself, the furthest being to China, on planes, trains, by foot and still on my mountain bike and go to the gym – I’ve always done it.

I have managed to own and run bars, night clubs, restaurants, property companies, manufacturing companies both here and abroad, always working with a hands on approach. I am self-taught in all I do, even my computer, although I’m not too hot on it, I can certainly get by! Never a problem that i couldn’t deal with or solve, I was High Speed , Low Drag! I thought I was indestructible until I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) some four years ago, much of it relating to my refusal in accepting my condition. My body was fine but the part I couldn’t see wasn’t …. my mind, it had given up. I was told it was mainly due to my eye condition as well as other things, but this was the major factor and, amazingly, some 15 years since the day I registered as a blind person.

Not gradually, but suddenly, tired of all the constant worry, stress, anxiety of how will I cross the road today without getting run over and, more importantly, being too PROUD and STUBBORN to ask, “can you help me cross the road?” because I didn’t know how to. “Man up”, that was what I was doing!

I was fortunate to be married to a loving woman, with two beautiful children that helped me deal with this. I decided to do an F.A. Coaching course as a challenge without divulging my condition, I passed and went on to coach a local football team that my son was playing g for. I live a full life and will never shirk a challenge, never have done, not in my nature. As a father, I worry about my children and not myself, their upbringing and I want to enjoy the life that they breathe into me. For that I am eternally grateful, they are healthy and happy so I have no reason to moan. I try and do all sports with them at all times so they can see their Dad joining in, they both know I cannot see very well, but I never want them to feel guilty of that.

Help is at hand now for people with this condition and it should be taken, not ignored like I did. But we all do what is right for ourselves. We all have skeletons in the cupboard locked away, but one day you will leave the key where someone else unlocks the door when you weren’t ready, that’s when the problems begin. I believe by explaining to people that you will experience many reactions and emotions that you will not be expecting, is half way there. I do not appreciate what happened to me, but I can still remember it, but now I know how to deal with things and recognize the warning signs and triggers. I have learned this on my own and coped quite well.

I love life – it is hard, I won’t lie – I often wonder how it would have been if I could see, my life would be different, but then I wouldn’t have my family or kids that I love so much, so I count my blessings and thank God for what I have got. I’m a normal bloke just trying to get by, one that doesn’t see too well. Some people know I have a problem with my sight but not everyone, why should they? Its a condition not a weakness, don’t let people perceive it as that. Hey, I’m good now, imagine how good I could be if I could see!!!!

Mike
E-mail: mikesturdy8@gmail.com
Story received: 7 September, 2013