Please excuse the pun-intended, inappropriate title, and I apologize that the corresponding story is not as funny as the title!

I must admit that my sister’s post, Flying Balls and Other Memories, while completely funny and moving, brought up some baggage for me…. those nervous stomach-aches I would get as my 3rd grade class marched down to the gym for PE class.  I never knew what lay ahead for me and the anxiety this produced is probably similar to kids with dyslexia right before they are asked to read aloud– the impending doom of knowing without a doubt that you are about to be humiliated in front of other kids.  And so begins my 3rd grade hockey unit in PE.

Take a moment to imagine the risks involved for a child without peripheral vision playing hockey.  Getting hit with the puck, maybe?  Or with a hockey stick?  I had the privilege of being smacked with both, one after another, right in the nose.  (Parents of children with RP– take note– get your child excused from PE during hockey, or at least a face mask!)

Fortunately, since it was elementary school, the sticks and pucks must have been made of plastic, although they still hurt.  The impact was enough to pop a blood vessel in my nose that caused quite a gusher.  I remember Mr. Houk, our PE teacher, taking me straight to the nurse’s office.  But when we arrived, the nurse was not there, so he left to look for her, leaving me sitting in a chair pinching my hose to stop the bleeding.  It was bleeding so much, however, that pinching it with the one kleenex he had handed me in the gym just wasn’t enough.  The kleenex was soon soaked, so I just cupped my hands under my chin as blood pooled in my palms (apologies for the disgusting visual– kind of a necessary part of the story though).

Mr. Houk returned after several minutes, and I remember feeling relieved to see him, thinking that he would surely feel bad for me and help me.  But my relief soon turned to confusion as he yelled, “What are you doing?!”  He quickly grabbed a box of kleenex that was near me, though out of my line of vision, and shoved it on my lap.  “Why are you just sitting there? Use these!” he barked, clearly angry that I was making such a mess and that I hadn’t seen the kleenex.  Hot tears streamed down my small face as I realized what I should have seen.  I felt embarrassed and ashamed and remember thinking to myself, “Why am I so stupid?”

Like Jenelle said in her post on PE class, I can’t believe that something that happened 24 years ago still causes me to tear up as I write about it.  I guess it’s one of those memories that I just pushed to the back of my mind, hoping it would disappear (what are those called, Psych. majors, repressed memories?)

As soon as I thought about this incident after reading Jenelle’s post, I decided to bring it up in counseling to figure out how the heck I can forget about it for good.  My counselor, of course, pointed out that I can never “erase” my memory, but she advised me to sit down and write about the incident, recount the emotions, but then to think about the truth regarding the incident.

All these years I have been thinking, “I should have grabbed the kleenex.  I am so stupid!”  And those are probably reasonable thoughts for a 9-year-old to have.  But I’ve grown up, and I need to put a “grown up” filter on the situation in order to see the simple truth.  The truth, of course, is that the box of kleenex was not visible to me.  An adult teacher should not have expected me to see it on my own and should not have shown anger or irritation.  I was not inadequate or stupid.

The funny thing about counseling is that some of the things you end up realizing are completely simple and obvious to others but remain a blind spot to the one person who could benefit from the truth.  So visually impaired persons are definitely not the only ones with blind spots.

Unfortunately, when you start believing lies about yourself at a young age, they tend to start building on one another– and eventually they catch up to you.  If you consistently perceive that you are inadequate and stupid, for example, you begin to believe that’s who you are and sometimes even act that way.  So as adults, we need to do some major deconstruction to maintain a healthy view of ourselves.  It’s hard work, and I must admit that I still have a lot of work to do.

Even walking into my daughter’s elementary school brings up a fair amount of anxiety for me but has also motivated me to deconstruct more stories from my childhood to find the truth.  My goal is to unravel the lies I believed about myself– all the messages that said, “You’re stupid and inadequate” so that I can both be and feel like an adequate, intelligent adult who does not allow vision or perception to define who I am.

I have read several comments on our blog that say “RP doesn’t have to define you”, and it’s an expression I am familiar with– I even wrote it confidently in a college essay about RP.  While I think this statement is true, I also think it can be misconstrued.  For example, at times I have worked so hard to NOT let it define me that, in so doing, I accomplished the opposite. If you’re constantly trying to hide something, you oftentimes end up revealing it even more.

Perhaps you have something in your life that you try to keep hidden.  Perhaps something from your past that you constantly try to forget?  Consider trying the process I went through above with your own past.  Recall the incident and fully go there– emotions and all.  Then deconstruct it as an adult.  What really happened?  What is the truth?  I hope you will find, as I did, that the incident says a lot less about who you are than you thought it did.

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7 thoughts on “Flying Balls Part 2: Totally Pucked

  1. Great post. I went through a similar technique with a therapist a few years ago. I am amazed at the impact my past has on my present behavior. I still have a few things to work through. Thank you for the reminder to really think about the truth of those past situations.

  2. As your childhood friend, “you’re stupid and inadequate” is something I hated for you to feel and I hated for others to feel about you. I feel glad, proud, hopeful, privileged, relieved (perhaps an odd combination of feelings!) to read your blog today, so many years later. I’ll try not to fret about what “could have been” if we had known it was OK to talk about it…and instead to celebrate that it’s OK to discuss now! Lots of love and good memories…

  3. Dear Joy and Jenelle,
    I am SO glad I found your blog! I have Usher Syndrome, Type 2…which, as you know, is both hearing impairment and RP. My sister, three years older than me, also has this. Our stories, though, are very different from each other – in terms of when the RP was diagnosed, how slowly or quickly it progressed (over the past 22 years for me, but only three or so years for my sister), and how we cope with it.

    My sister created a Facebook page called Usher Me In – she is sharing her experiences. I have not decided to do anything yet, but after reading your blog, I am inspired to do a blog of my own – or perhaps ask my sister to do it with me, just as the two of you are doing!

    I cannot even tell you how many of your stories resonated with me! And I laughed at many of them, even though they caused such embarrassment and tears for you…and for me in my own life…but I laugh because I thought “yes, exactly!” and recalled my own experiences that were so similar – I sometimes thought you were writing MY story, even your word choices were perfectly applied to me at times! 🙂 So I laugh because it’s more cathartic than crying, most of the time anyways. And I feel your pain, your shame, and your strength to write about it and hopefully laugh about it, at least after the fact.

    I look forward to reading more – and I’ve sent your link to my sister. Please check out her Facebook page, if you’d like (Usher Me In).

    And also, you’ve given me the “lingo” and the joy of calling myself another VIP….we may be visually-impaired people, but I think we are also very important people, very inspiring people, very independent people…and I’m sure I’ll come up with more!

    Thank you and keep writing please!
    Roberta Giordano
    (Massachusetts)

    • Not sure of the time difference….it says I’m posting this at 4:49 AM…that would NEVER be the case for me! Though here in Massachusetts, I am writing this at 12:49 AM…so off to bed for now! 🙂

      • Thanks so much Roberta! Your comment came at the perfect time, as it was a tough night for me “vision-wise” at a party I was at– I just felt so impaired and alone in my struggle! So it was a wonderful, refreshing reminder to find your comment when I got home!

        I love the other VIP adjectives you came up with– very encouraging! We started this blog for you and others with RP, so it’s completely rewarding to know that the people we intended to write for (others w/ similar stories as us!) are reading and relating to our experiences.

        I will definitely check out your sister’s FB page, and let me know if you start a blog so I can follow that as well! I just met a good friend on FB with Ushers type 2, so I will share the page with her as well!

        Again, thanks for your inspiring words and for laughing alongside us!

        Joy

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