My first traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurred more than a decade ago. Since that time, I’ve worked to thrive, to live well in spite of my unique brain injury sequelae. I recently discovered a whole new way to thrive with TBI. I now see the world through rose-colored glasses.
TBI can cause different types of visual impairments and disturbances. For me, my already-mediocre vision worsened, I began experiencing double vision, I developed depth-perception issues that exacerbated my normal clumsiness and rendered me unable to properly give high-fives (much to the amusement of my children), I developed significant sensitivity to light (termed photophobia despite the fact that it has nothing to do with fears and phobias), and headaches (I haven’t had a single headache-free day since 2004). Finally connecting with the right eye doctor has improved my vision and my outlook.
The Meaning of Rose-Colored Glasses
I truly see the world through rose-colored glasses now. My lenses are special pink FL-41 lenses. They reduce my sensitivity to light (a phenomenon called photophobia) and make seeing simply feel better. Light no longer pierces my eyeballs to rush along my optic nerves and sear my brain.
The term “rose-colored glasses” can have a negative connotation, invoking a Pollyana-type image of someone living in denial. It can be an accusation that someone is falsely positive, ignorant of the hardships of life.
“Rose-colored glasses” more accurately describes a worldview that acknowledges the negative but intentionally focuses on the positives in life. Someone who sees the world through rose-colored glasses is someone who faces obstacles and challenges and finds ways to move forward anyway. This is a true optimist; wearing rose-colored glasses, he or she has both a why and a how in life—their vision is on the beauty of their sense of meaning and purpose. They sees the hues (roses and pinks) of possibility despite obstacles. They have hope.
The way we perceive our world is significant for our mental health and wellbeing. My FL-41 rose-colored glasses allow me to appreciate the beauty around me on an even deeper level and to feel physically better as I live a life of purpose and meaning. It’s intriguing to me that this positive treatment is happening now, thirteen years after my initial TBI. After so many years of accepting my vision issues as just a part of a brain injury, I see that there is more that can be done. It’s not too late to seek improvements.
Rose-Colored Glasses, Acceptance, and Mental Health
Acceptance is an important concept in the world of mental health. There is even a therapeutic approach that centers on it: acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). It can be a confusing concept, because like the phrase “rose-colored glasses,” acceptance has different meanings and interpretations.
Acceptance does not mean
- resignation to a bad situation
- giving up or giving in or rolling over
Acceptance does mean
- Knowing what can’t be changed and making new plans around this fact (for example, after seeing different eye doctors who told me that the only changes to my vision would be changes for the worse, I accepted it as fact and learned how to appreciate imperfect beauty anyway)
- Using the knowledge of what can’t be changed to move forward; sometimes knowing the reality that certain things won’t change helps prevent people from being stuck in rumination and regret
- Having an open mind and being willing to integrate new information (when I discovered that my town has eye doctors and vision therapists that specialize in brain injury, I accepted that maybe there was new information that I could benefit from)
- Keeping ego at bay (sure, pink lenses in glasses that aren’t sunglasses might not be ultra-fashionable, but I’m willing to accept that in exchange for better vision and functioning).
Optimism Doesn’t Require Actual Pink Lenses
While I am literally seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, it’s just as effective to do so figuratively. Move forward knowing that it’s never too late to make the progress you want to make. Gather tools (for me, one tool is these glasses), intentionally shape your perspective, and create ways to thrive. Whether you’re thriving with TBI or other life challenges, see your world through rose-colored glasses.