Gaining confidence

Bernadette Lancefield
I lost my sight at the age of six. At school I was shy. It was hard to make friends. But my parents always encouraged me. I did activities like swimming, bushwalking and camping. I once got lost in the bush. It was night time and I could not find my tent. I was found the next morning. At university I started to feel less shy. I made friends. After university I was given an eye dog named Zora. I decided to move out of home. Life has sometimes been tough. But I have learned to be confident.
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Bernadette Lancefield on 11/01/2012
A gum tree, long grasses and plants.

I was lost in the bush.

I lost my sight at the age of six due to optic nerve damage. At times, life has been tough. Overcoming challenges, however, has helped me to grow as a person.

Soon after losing my sight, I discovered a passion for writing. My imagination distracted me from negative thinking and provided me with a sense of freedom. The fiction world was my haven. Writing has always helped me to cope with the hard times. The written word can be very liberating and empowering.


I was very shy and insecure during my schooling years. I struggled to make friends with my sighted peers. Gradually I realised that I needed to believe in myself. My parents always encouraged me to make the most of life. I was fortunate to be involved in many activities outside of school. These included horse riding, swimming, bushwalking and going on camps.

Lost in the bush

I once went on a hiking trip in the Cathedral Ranges State Park in Victoria. During the night I needed to go to the toilet. I walked towards a clump of trees. On my return I dropped the toilet roll. In attempting to find it I lost my sense of direction. I ended up spending the rest of the night outdoors. Fortunately I was found in the morning by my fellow campers. While being lost in the bush was scary, the hiking trip was a great learning experience. I also learned that next time I would take a box of tissues.


My social life improved when I finished school. I made friends at university and my confidence grew. I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in English. Then I studied social work. I had received help throughout my life and wanted to give something back to others.

When I started my social work course I encountered resistance from certain lecturers. They were strongly political and said I was not assertive enough for the role. I had a meeting with the head of department and the placement co-ordinator. For the first time in my life I was forced to advocate for myself.


During this time I began volunteer work with homeless people. I enjoyed meeting people from different backgrounds and made many friends. This experience also helped to broaden my outlook on life. The following year I received a seeing-eye dog named Zora. It marked a turning point in my life. I moved out of home and lived interstate for a while.

The next couple of years were rocky. I met someone but eventually realised he threatened my self-esteem and sense of identity. With the support of family and friends, however, I grew stronger as a person. I decided to make a fresh start in life.

Readers comments (2)

Hi Bernadette,

A short story about your experience of being lost in the bush could be a great read.


I also suffer from a disability,
But everything Bernadette has had to go through since she went blind is amazing !!
Bernadette was only six when she lost her sight, so she still had many years of life ahead of her to grow into giving her time to learn.
I may not be correct when I say this, but to do this would have been, and still is very difficult for her as she grows.
I am very happy to be a friend to Bernadette and to help her when ever she may need help, I think now she can and prefers to look after herself.
Well done Bernadette Phil

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