As a child of four years old I loved to run and play. I enjoyed running at top speed outside and inside. I was always laughing.
One day my parents took me to the hospital to have some eye tests. I remember quite clearly running wildly down a long hallway in the hospital. Suddenly I fell down some steps. Steps I could not see. My mother rushed down the hall, picked me up and comforted me. But at that moment all comfort was gone. In my young mind I realised what it meant to be blind.
From that moment I still played, but not so noisily. I became very timid and was often afraid to walk.
Going to school
When I was five years old I attended a school for the blind in Melbourne. I was so happy to go but I was also afraid. I was frightened I would not learn to read. I was scared of not having children to play with. I asked my mother many times why I couldn't read print books. Why could I not see the pictures? How do blind children read? I kept asking her. She did not know. These were things that troubled me greatly. But at the school for the blind all my questions were answered. I was full of joy when I started learning Braille. I was no longer afraid. I also loved to play with other children.
Afraid to walk
For a long time I was afraid to walk quickly and alone. I became very frustrated and it became a dream of mine to run races. I wanted to conquer my fear of walking and running.
I decided I was going to participate in athletics. This gave me great freedom. I spent many happy hours running races with the other children. There were special ways for blind children to run the races at school. Many sighted assistants were there to help us. I loved to participate in the athletics carnivals. In time my confidence grew and I was no longer afraid.
Catching public transport
At the age of 12 I started at an integrated high school. My mother would drive me there because I was too afraid to catch public transport. My fears were many. Fear of getting lost in a strange place, fear of asking for help. The noise of the trains scared me. I had visions of falling off a train.
But this changed with the encouragement of my supportive mobility instructor from The Blind Institute, as it was then known. I conquered my fear and learned how to catch trains, trams and buses. I was soon catching the train to school with all my friends.
When I reached adulthood, I began to get really morbid thoughts. For a long time I hid these thoughts and feared I would never be happy. I was terrified my parents would die and I would be unable to look after myself.
The first step in conquering these thoughts was to go to university at the age of 19 and live on campus. Food was catered for but I had my own bedroom in the student accommodation. This was so much fun. I had no idea how to perform household tasks. I did not know how to clean a toilet or make a bed. I was so ashamed. I was often told as a child that I was lazy. I was constantly put down. The truth is that my family had no idea how to teach me daily living skills. I did not know how to cook or clean the bathroom.
At the age of 21, and against the wishes of my family, , I moved in with my partner at the time. My determination enabled me to conquer my fears. I became independent. I learned how to do housework and look after myself. This is because I had to learn.
Living independently is something that I have won over time and effort. I have lived in many parts of Australia and have enjoyed a wide variety of activities and experiences. Experiences that sighted people may take for granted.
It is important for all of us to overcome fear. As a person who is blind I have had to remain strong and resilient. It all comes back to my earliest memory of falling down the steps at the hospital. All my life I have picked myself up and gone on.