Bonnie, age 81, discusses the eye examination that led to her macular degeneration diagnosis. It was the first time in her life she had been depressed, and her solution was to face her problems head on. Bonnie started a vision loss support group that eventually grew to 840 members.

Transcript of Video

A Difficult Diagnosis Made Worse

NARRATOR: A gray-haired woman sitting on a couch.

BONNIE: All of a sudden they were taking pictures of my eyes with really bright lights and things like that, and I knew something was up. He came to me and he said, “Yes,” he said, “You are going blind. You have macular degeneration. You’re going blind. You won’t be able to read. You won’t be able to drive your car. But don’t worry, you’ll be able to keep yourself clean and feed your husband.” So that was the way I learned about it. It was a really terrible way to tell me, and many, many doctors do that. They don’t understand that you need to cope with it as well as take care of it medically. Because I just simply could not imagine not being able to read. I just couldn’t imagine not being able to drive my car. It was just beyond my, my… whatever I could do. I just couldn’t think of it.

The Turning Point

BONNIE: I needed help. I couldn’t find anyone to tell me how to cope with this. I… I… just didn’t know where to turn. So I went to my doctor, my regular doctor, and I was in depression. It was the first time I’d ever been depressed in my life. And I was just feeling awful, so I went to him and asked him what I could do, and he said, well, you could see a psychiatrist, or you could see a therapist, or I could come and talk to him. So I went home and I thought, I’m going to do this. I’m… the way I’ve always handled anything is I hit it head on. I’m just going to find a way that I can live with this, because I can’t stand it this way. So that gave me enough of an upper to be actually trying to do something.

Starting a Support Group

BONNIE: We had two meetings prior to the first “support group” meeting. That’s what we thought we were starting. And so we had our first support group. I’d been told, you’ll have five, ten people– that will be quite a lot. Well, we had our first meeting of about 20 people there, and the next meeting we had like 35, 40 people. We have 840 members now. There’s a great need for buildup of self-esteem and that’s one of the things we’re doing, we’re trying to do that.