Daydreams: Live and in Color!

Like most writers I have a tendency to go on about my world, characters, and plot ideas. Given half a chance I’ll fill an entire conversation with fantastical concepts and intriguing character development. I am very grateful to the friends who have listened patiently to my ramblings, and equally grateful for the ones who let me know when I stray into rudeness and self-involvement.

A question that can usually stop me in my tracks, though, is some version of “so, do you have any blind characters in your stories?”

For some reason the idea that my creative hobby intersects with my disability just doesn’t cross my mind very often. It never seemed significant whether I did or didn’t write blind characters. I never wanted my life to revolve around disability-related topics. It is a part of my life, but only a fraction of it.

But it is a part, and all parts are worth giving a little thought every now and again. So I spent a few minutes today thinking about that question, and came up with a. Half-dozen blog posts I could write on the subject.

  • Why I write mostly sighted characters
  • Why I wrote one blind character
  • My interest in all aspects of vision and vision loss in my writing
  • Am I offended by this question?
  • Does this question imply a greater interest in disability representation in fiction?
  • What do I think of blind characters portrayed in currently available fiction

So, naturally, I’m not doing any of those today. Instead, I thought I’d share with you something I wrote featuring a blind (well, formerly blind) character. As someone who definitely wants to have her vision restored someday and not Ashamed to say it, I’ve thought a lot about what I would do when I could see. What would it be like to have full vision?

Most of my daydreams are pretty positive. But every now and again I think about just how weird my life could get…


“I think I’m going crazy” I said, with all the sincerity that most people have when they say things like that. Most of the time that sentence is a request for empathy and validation –- “I think I’m going crazy, did you just see that?” But Dr. Cambridge leaned forward a little and raised an eyebrow. The small gesture dramatically altered the spatial and depth proportions of her face, giving it a sharpness and direction to characterize the complacent expression of interest she usually wore. 

Ok, it probably wasn’t dramatic to most people. But to someone like me who’s never seen facial expressions before six months ago, it felt like a lightbulb switching on. Oh that’s why her voice sounds so different. There’s muscle tension all up the right side of her face when she does that!

I didn’t grin, though, like I did for most realizations like this, because now I saw the eyebrow doing the wave and ending up with the wrong end elevated, like Spock on Star Trek. I totally get every sci-fi author’s fascination with eyebrows now

“What makes you think that?” Dr. Cambridge asked, stylus poised above her tablet. My stomach twitched; I have a genetic history of schizophrenia in my family. I just ditched one disability, was I about to get diagnosed with another?

“I think…uhm…like, I can see stuff that isn’t real sometimes…not like visions and stuff, just…” I passed a hand over my forehead as I groped desperately for an example that wouldn’t make me sound crazy. There wasn’t one. At least her eyebrow looked back to normal now. In fact, it had lowered and drawn a little closer to its partner, but she wasn’t frowning. She looked comfortably interested, not worried. Did counselors practice their expressions so they won’t freak their clients out? 

“Can you give me an example?” Dr. Cambridge asked. She hadn’t written anything down yet. Somehow that made me feel better. She wasn’t making assumptions; she was looking for reasons to not jump to conclusions.

I’d been seeing Dr. Cambridge for almost a year now. Getting artificial retinal implants to replace the non-functional ones I was born with required a minimum of six months’ therapy before and after the operation. It’s a reasonable precaution; as with getting other prosthetic parts, replacing a part of the body can bring up a lot of fears and even a sense of changed identity. Two tiny dysfunctional pieces of tissue I’d been born with were suddenly cut away with a finely tuned laser, and now I could see for the first time in 34 years. 

The whole procedure, still experimental, took five different surgeries to hook up light-processing computers to my optical nerves. It’s a huge change, both to how I live and how I think about myself. As prepared as I thought I was, Dr. Cambridge had been right when she told me no amount of therapy could truly prepare me for what would happen when I opened my eyes for the first time after surgery.

Depth perception was the hardest thing to get used to. Without the white cane to explain my clumsiness, trying to get my credit card back from an obviously patient cashier was more embarrassing than I’d expected. Television scared the life out of me for the firs month, too, but it’s ok now. And I’m still amazed by how many people are offended that I don’t instantly recognize their faces, even though I was born blind. I went from being a superhero who amazed everyone by simply living to being a socially awkward disappointment. Or a charity case to a miracle of science, depending on who you ask.

Seeing things that aren’t there, though…that wasn’t something I had anticipated needing therapy for.

“Ok, well, like the other day I was walking past this building and I saw a window washer up on his scaffolding, and I thought ‘what if he falls?’ Then he did! I literally saw him plummeting down seven stories, flailing his arms and legs — but I also saw him still on the ladder just spraying away like nothing was wrong, and the falling guy wasn’t there anymore.” 

I still remembered dreading the sickening crunch of human flesh and bone encountering gravity and pavement in a deadly combination. I even remembered the scream, but neither sound had come and I was left with this unfinished, uneasy sense of anticipation 

“have you spoken to the prosthetist about this?” Dr. Cambridge asked.

“Yeah, he says everything’s working fine.” At least I wasn’t at risk of having the prosthetic retinae removed. AT least for now, anyway. Someone with schizophrenia couldn’t be counted on to maintain such valuable technology, right?

“Ok, and your surgeon?” Cambridge asked. She made a note on the tablet, but not a long one. Probably noting that the equipment wasn’t broken.

“Yeah, he said after-images and stuff were normal and that I’d get used to it, but this doesn’t feel like after-images” I said. I’d been worried about my body rejecting the implants, or reacting to the immuno-suppressants, or hallucinating from an infection.. “Or look like. Is ‘feel’ the right word for something you see?”

“It can be, yes” Dr. Cambridge nodded and made another short note. “What we see is heavily linked to how we feel, as well as the accumulation of other sensory information. While it might not be a concrete thought yet, we can feel certain degrees of confidence or doubt in what we see based on other information our brains process. Sometimes the processing happens so fast and with so much information that we’re not consciously aware of why we feel that way at first, but we know that we do feel that way and the ‘why’ usually comes later when we try to explain it.”

That made a lot of sense. I’d felt that way about hearing and feeling things, too. I nodded. I still felt a low-level nausea as we got nearer to the fateful answer, but I was feeling better about explaining this with each passing moment. Thank God I had found such a wonderful therapist who knew her business inside and out.

“Ok, so, another example?” she prompted again, settling herself a little deeper into the high-backed ergonomic-design office chair.

            “Right, uh…well, the other day I was at the mall and there was this girl there, super super tan, and her hair was like…so blonde it was almost white and the combination did not look good on her” I made a face at the memory. I decided she’d look better with darker hair, like honey brown or black, and for a second I could actually see it that way, then she was back to needing to dye her hair and skip the tanning beds.”

“You know what that sounds like to me?” Dr. Cambridge asked. “Imagination. You’ve imagined things before, what they’d sound like or smell or taste like, right?” I nodded. “Now it sounds like your brain has added a layer of visual information to your imagination. You’re seeing the ‘what if’s’ our brains come up with on a regular basis.”

Her conclusion cut the rubber band of tension between my shoulders, causing me to flop gracelessly back into the pile of oddly-shaped throw pillows surrounding me on the couch. I laughed. “Seriously? Why didn’t’ I think of that?” I was still laughing, a relieved, breathy sound that washed the uneasiness out of my gut. “Wow, I feel so stupid for thinking I might be crazy, just for daydreaming!”

“Not at all” Cambridge shook her head. “I expect it was pretty freaky, if you weren’t expecting it. If you’ve never seen daydreams before, and suddenly start seeing things that aren’t there, especially with your family history, i completely understand why you were so freaked out. I’m actually really impressed that you reported it so soon. Most people would’ve been too scared to go near the topic until it started interfering with daily function. It hasn’t, has it?”

“Well, it’s been making me pretty nervous” I admitted. “And some of the things I’d see when I was asleep, so I guess that means I’m night-dreaming, too. Does it make sense that most of my dreams would be nightmares right now, because I’m just not used to seeing things like that so my brain is like…taking the worry and stress over seeing things that aren’t there during the day and, like, dumping them on my dreams?”

Dr. Cambridge nodded. “That could be it. Have you been having nightmares regularly?”

“Just since the daydreaming started like two weeks ago” I answered. “And not every night.”

“Ok, let me know in our session next week if that changes at all” she said, this time writing a lot more, the stylus making muted thumps as she punctuated her notes. 

“Sure” I agreed. “But, just to be sure, I mean, I do have that family history of mental illness, and schizophrenia usually shows up in women in their 30s, right? You’re sure it’s not..?”

Dr. Cambridge shook her head. “99.9% sure,” she promised. “Those factors are important, but you don’t have any other symptoms. And, most importantly, the ‘symptom’ you describe can be better explained by another phenomenon. In this case, daydreams. If they become overwhelming, if you have a hard time distinguishing them from reality, then we can do more testing. But unless that’s happening, you can be pretty sure you’re just enjoying another facet of your brain’s new-found abilities.

“In the meantime, I encourage you to enjoy your daydreams,” she continued. “Be curious about them, write them down if you have any that catch your interest. Daydreams can help pass the time when you’re bored, or even spark creativity.”

“huh,” I considered. I’d always heard about people spending hours daydreaming instead of doing homework or housework or other uninteresting tasks. Now I’d get to see what all the fuss was about. “Imagination, live and in color,” I grinned.


If you have a favorite blind character from TV or books you want me to react to here, let me know in the comments. If you want to consult me for an original character of yours with vision loss, feel free to email me. And if one of the half-dozen topics listed above spark your interest, let me know in the comments.

And remember, as of next week your favorite blindfluencer will be a published author! Pre-order your Kindle copy of Jubilant Here!

3 Comments

  1. Wow, that story was a trip. As someone who’s mostly sighted, I’d never thought about not daydreaming visually. I know sometimes when I daydream I’ll catch myself and snap back to where I actually am and I’ll look around a little to make sure I haven’t missed anything – there’s that moment when I’m in whatever daydream I’m having.
    So what are your daydreams like then?

    Liked by 1 person

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