How did you go about explaining your condition (prosopagnosia) to your children and how did they respond/react? –Haley McMenamin
My children were not told about me being face blind for quite a while. They were one and two-and-a-half when I had my stroke. It was obvious and unavoidable to let them know “Mom has trouble seeing things”. This is all they knew for years. I lost half of my eyesight. Fifty percent of my world is missing with hemianopia. When I couldn’t find their teachers, ”Mom can’t see where Ms. Smith is. Can you help me find her?” This was a very typical conversation.
Australian 9News asked that my daughters be on a live interview with me in 2010. I opposed this idea at first. After the producer explained they wanted to create a Mother’s Day segment highlighting how even moms with limitations can be great parents, I decided it was the right thing to do.
I took the girls into separate rooms. I told them each that I had a problem recognizing faces. I let them know I could not recognize them by their faces, but I knew their pretty eyes and loved their smiles. To my surprise, they both responded in the exact same way, “Mom, I know you can’t. That’s how you’ve always been.” I was shocked. How did they know this? How? Kids just do. Children are more perceptive than we ever give them credit for.
My kids have taken this all in stride. Some children have moms who are horrible cooks. Some moms can’t sing a tune to save their bedtime. My kids? My daughters just happen to have a mom who can’t recognize people. It is their unquestioned normal. My children love me because they know I will always be there to take care of their needs and offer an immeasurable amount of love.
How has “face-blindness” impacted your relationships with friends and family? –Ryan Terrebonne
I generally gravitate towards people who have distinctive characteristics. I jokingly say I have the United Nation group of friends. One of the first ladies I made friends with when we moved into this city was a super tall, super slim lady who always wore a light blue ball cap. She was easy to recognize no matter where I saw her. I need something unique in a person, so I can find them again and again in crowds. My friends are generally outgoing. These people have usually approached me often during the initial stages of our friendship.
I don’t lead off conversations with, “Look I have this problem with knowing which person you are next time I see you….”. Many people have difficulty comprehending this within an initial conversation. I am certain I’ve lost many great friendships before they were even given a true chance to get started. Even when I do explain my face blindness, people don’t realize the extent of my condition and think I am ignoring them or shying away from conversations. Truth is, half of my world is black due to my eye sight loss, and I see every face as a complete stranger. My limitations do not define my relationships with people, but, sadly, I am sure prosopagnosia has ended some of them way too soon.
As for my family, prosopagnosia has never effected these relationships. My husband wears a brighter ball cap when we go out and my kids stay close by me, but this is the extent it plays into our lives. You do not have to know a face to be able to comprehend the love contained within that person’s spirit.