In this study, the participants comprised of 8 nursing students at the fifth semester who were studying Tehran University of Medical Sciences with a mean age of 20 years. After data analysis and encoding, 357 initial codes were obtained. The codes were classified in three main categories (Abandoned in the labyrinth of life, seeing with the eyes of heart, and personality alienation) and 9 sub-categories (Table 1).
Table 1 - The study results’ themes
Abandoned in the labyrinth of life
Living in ambiguity,
living in fear, and unpredictable surrounding
Seeing with the eyes of heart
Arousal of intuition,
enhanced focus and precision, and optimal use of other senses
Dependence, emotional isolation, and reduced self-confidence
Abandoned in the labyrinth of life
The participants described their experience of blindness simulation as being abandoned in the labyrinth of life. This category had three sub-categories; living in ambiguity, living in fear and unpredictable surrounding.
Living in ambiguity
The study participants described their blindness experience as living with ambiguity, which was stressful and unpleasant. The uncertainty and confusion about doing things that they normally have no problem doing them had left them in an ambiguity.
“It was like riding a car that has no steering wheel. You just have the accelerator and brake pedals with no steering wheel to control the car. You can't drive when you have no steering wheel (P7).”
“There was darkness that was confusing, for example you don't know which way to go even for couples of steps (P4).”
Living in fear
Fear is a feeling, which is created in human as a result of being threatened. Undoubtedly, for a person who has always relied on his vision for navigation and everyday living, the loss of strongest and most helpful sense of vision can be a powerful experience that is associated with fear. The participants referred to the loss of vision as a dominant experience.
“Fear of abuse; some directed us to wrong direction. Anything could have happened to us. I was also scared of such thing happen to me in reality” (P5).
“I felt insecure as people could easily take my purse and hurt me” (P4).
“When the class was over, someone came and took me to the midwifery building. I didn't know how much I could trust him/her, or where he/she is taking me and what is happening” (P8).
The notion that, the participants had lived with vision to this day and they suddenly had to continue living in the dark world, induced a sense of unpredictability toward surrounding and individuals in them. The students also believed that, prior knowledge reduces this feeling and patients who have no idea of surroundings and individuals in their mind are unable to predict their surroundings.
“At first, I felt confused about where I was and half an hour, I could guess that I was near the stairs and I could go up and down, but still didn't know where I exactly was” (P1).
“Nothing is like what you think. I was talking to someone as at first I thought he is someone I know. I asked his name and after I opened my eyes, I saw it is nothing like what I thought” (P3).
Seeing with the eyes of heart
The arousal of intuition, the enhancement of focus and precision, and the optimal use of other senses are among factors that allow people who experience blindness to see with the eyes of their hearts.
Arousal of intuition
Human being receives information through his five senses, which is called the power of intuition. Intuition is a very powerful weapon that will be enhanced in the case of blindness.
“They don't see, but they understand everything. They even understand the heavy look” (P1).
Enhanced focus and precision
When the sense of vision is impaired, people use all sense of precision and focus to do things and continue living.
“I may not care about everything during the day. For example, I have a friend who wear a special deodorant. I might not pay attention to that, but today when he passed me, I recognized the scent and guessed that might be him” (P3).
“Not seeing will make you notice someone who passes you by. You try to focus more” (P2).
Optimal use of other senses
According to the participants' experiences, in the absence of vision, focusing on other senses helps to partially compensate for the vison lost and reinforce other senses.
“I lost my vision but instead I use my hands a lot. Other senses will be reinforced when someone loses a sense. The lost sense cannot be replaced, but this helps a little” (P7).
Alienation literally means losing, or cutting off from something. In this case, the person loses self-awareness. Also, dependency, emotional isolation, and reduced self-confidence were the cases of alienation from the perspective of participants.
Dependency is a term that evokes a sense of need. The need for help and support of others for daily tasks, mobility, routing, and affairs that the healthy people alone can accomplish. Dependency along with blindness was an experience that the participants mentioned in their statements.
“Nothing really can be done alone. You can't even walk never mind going out to do important work. There should always be someone there to help you. Dependency is always there. You should have someone to take care of you” (P3).
“When I entered the self-service, they gave me a tray. I took two steps and said: I can’t go any further. I felt that I was about to fall at any moment so, I gave the tray to someone else to carry it for me” (P6).
The need to communicate is one of the most basic needs of every person in life. The emotional isolation was referred to by the participants as a component of personality alienation. According to the participants, not seeing and being deprived of the sense of vision can lead to emotional isolation.
“It can affect one's emotional relationships. For example, appearance is one of the things that attracts opposite sex. You can't see the personality of someone” (P6).
Self-confidence is a psychological condition in which, one has the confidence and ability to successfully perform a task because of previous experiences. For students, the others’ sense of compassion and perception, and negative feelings about own self affect the self-confidence of blind person.
“Others’ sense compassion towards blind people does not increase their confidence. Sense of compassion may help them, but it is very harmful mentally” (P5).