Two questions always asked when I am speaking to people about my limitations are: “When you have lost so much vision, how hard is it for you to cope?” The other: “Since you have lost most of your visual memory and ability to recognize faces, do you still have dreams?”
Now, I am fully aware what is being asked, “Does it bother you, you can’t see as well as you used to” and “what fills your mind at night”. I know these are their questions, but I hope the real meaning is never misunderstood by people I am trying to educate and inspire. My answers in short: Yes I would like to see more. Yes, I still have thoughts that fill my sleep but not images.
The longer answers: In the recent post A View of My World, I showed a picture of the way I see the world with left homonymous hemianopia. I do have a lot of sight missing, but vision is not always a definition of what you see in front of you. I have goals for my future. I have a plan designed to guide me towards achieving great things. I am not lacking vision.
Dreams are not always the images and pictures your imagination creates. Sometimes a dream is what you hope for in the future. I do have hope. Regarding the night dreams people are referring to when asking this question, my imagination still fills my sleep with stories at night. With prosopagnosia, these dreams are limited but still very realistic. I no longer see pictures of people running. I no longer see the cliff I am stepping off, but I still wake with a falling sensation. Yet, I still have dreams that leave me uneasy in the morning or can cause tears to come in the night. Like my waking hours no images fill my mind. With closed eyes, I experience only darkness. My dreams are remembered in a mind that no longer sees pictures.
Have you ever read a really good book? This book was so good you could not turn the pages fast enough. This book had you full of anticipation, and you refused to put it down until you finished the last page. Have you ever read a book that caused tears to stream down your face? This book may have left you stressed and saddened for the rest of the day. These are similar to my dreams at night. I do not see images, but I understand the occurrence through words I think and sounds I hear.
How does someone without much visual memory and prosopagnosia dream vividly at night? Here is an example of a nightmare that haunted me: I remember singing with my two children in the car. (I could hear the wind blowing fast and felt movement. My daughters were asking if we were going to be there soon.) I screamed as the shattering glass sliced my skin open. (I could hear the screeching of brakes quickly followed by the sounds of metal scratching. I knew there was pain. The song my children sang was replaced by haunting screams and sounds of horror and pain.) The ambulance came and first took away my children leaving me behind. (I heard the sirens. Someone was telling me to stay calm. My girls’ voices were becoming fainter as they cried out “Mommy” and said they did not want to have to go without me.) I woke after that. I had no memory of seeing anything. Regardless, I did not need images to get me out of bed and go check on my children. I did not need pictures to feel the pain and fear that lingered throughout the day. As an avid reader, I have always known the words can be just as powerful if not more as watching pictures pass across a screen.
I do not need sight to have a vision. I have enough words, memories and hope to always have dreams. Yes, prosopagnosia and hemianopia have certainly altered the way I see and feel, but I always believe I have gained more and understand more now. This outweighs all I have ever lost. I love the vision and dreams that promise an exciting future.