Mike, one of our volunteer counsellors, found out about MyVision Oxfordshire 13 years ago when he was diagnosed with Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.
“It’s taken me a long time to get to grips with it,” he said. “I feel that now it’s not so much of an issue, although it still does cause me frustration and other feelings from time to time. I think that after having counselling here, receiving support, and being able to talk to others who have been affected by it has been rewarding and reinforced those ideas that I’m not alone. Other people find these issues the same as me.” Mike found that for him, connecting with other people is what was most rewarding and interesting.
“I wanted to volunteer to give something back to people like me that are affected by vision loss. To me it’s important to use the counselling to help others, and that’s when I thought of MyVision.”
It took Mike a long time to figure out exactly what he wanted to do. After having to leave his previous job as a mechanic Mike spent several years figuring out the right path. He came across counselling during lockdown. “I did some courses and thought, ‘this feels quite good, and it could be something worth pursuing further.’ I then did more training and eventually it led me to where I am now.”
“It’s been nice since I started [at MyVision]. Everyone is friendly and talkative. People are understanding and things are catered to those who can’t see very well. It’s considerate in that sort of approach, which I was a bit unsure about because I haven’t had much of that kind of experience. It’s nice that others seem to understand.”
What sets our counselling service apart from most others is the fact that our counsellors have lived experience of visual impairment, and they therefore bring an additional level of connection and understanding to our clients. Mike believes that his visual impairment has given him a closer connection to the people he talks to. “I think most clients appreciate the fact that I have a visual impairment, even though it is a different experience to theirs. It is an experience that is hard to connect with if you do not have a first-hand understanding. I have recognised that my clients have felt a sense of reassurance.”
Mike’s visual impairment has given his clients a deeper connection to him and made them feel that they are not alone. They did not feel like they were talking to someone who doesn’t understand what they are going through, and Mike felt that this made it easier for them to talk about the difficulties they experienced due to their sight loss.
Mike described MyVision as an organisation that is “dedicated to helping people with vision loss directly or indirectly in whatever way that suits them, and to help them live the best life that they can.”
“It’s a good place to be,” said Mike. “It’s nice that [at MyVision] visually impaired people can help others who are affected by vision loss. I think it’s that joint, shared experience that makes it quite unique.”