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Lawrence Sanders Jr. 21

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

IG: lsjwrld

FB: Lawrence Sanders Jr

TikTok: lsjwrld

Where are you from? Hillsborough, NC

Where do you live now? Franklin, TN

LJ as a child before the eye injury. Detached Retina
LJ as a child before the eye injury.

Tell us a little about yourself:

My name is Lawrence, but I also go by LJ. I love hip-hop and making music. I also love anime, philosophy, and debates. Professionally, I am a screenwriter and future videographer!

What’s your eye story?

When I was 16 months old, a bed frame that was being moved accidentally hit and cut my right eye, causing my retina to detach. I did have surgery, which allowed me to keep my eye, but I never regained vision. While my eye is still in the socket, it has noticeably shrunk in size and feels more fragile.

What has been the hardest thing mentally? Overcoming the judgment that came along with my new appearance. I would get mean stares and weird looks all because my injured eye looked different. This made me feel very insecure, timid, and unconfident. Speaking up and communicating was very hard for me. It got to the point where I felt too uncomfortable to stand up for myself, or even make eye contact with others. After meeting and talking to someone new, I’d always have to answer what felt like their main question, “what’s wrong with your eye?”. It was not only tiresome to answer but felt like a constant reminder of what happened. Especially because people were usually very rude about it. One time a guy at church was asking me about my eye, and he seemed oblivious to how condescending and degrading he was being. He was pointing out all of the disadvantages, saying things like how I would probably never be able to drive, and how horrible it must be to be blind in one eye. These are the conversations I hate because all they do is make me feel worse. Also, accepting that there is no possible way for me to get my vision back has been hard. I remember hearing a story about Jesus healing a man who was blind. It made me feel like life wasn’t fair, and made me hope for a miracle like that one day for myself. The last thing I will say is that accepting that my eye will never look normal is also very difficult. All I’ve ever wanted is to look normal. I would love not to worry about if my prosthetic lens is looking straight or not, or catching someone near me trying to secretly make fun of it.

What has been the most challenging thing physically?

Probably having to deal with the prosthetic lens. Sometimes it feels really uncomfortable, which I find can really ruin my day. Also dealing with the build-up of mucus behind the prosthetic lens can be a hassle to clean. Having a blind spot has also been hard. I have actually bumped into people by accident because I literally cannot see them from certain angles. The same goes for driving.

LJ today holding his prosthetic eye. Detached Retina
LJ today holding his prosthetic eye

Where are you now in your recovery?

I'm at a place where I’m trying to truly believe that I am worthy enough. That I can be accepted and loved, platonically and romantically, for who I am and how I look without judgment. It’s something I consistently work on because I do not completely accept myself when it comes to my eyes. I still have many insecurities and a fear of being judged. I stopped wearing my prosthetic lens and I feel like that has really helped me find self-acceptance. For most of my life, I have always had my prosthetic lens in, and when I didn’t, the look of my injured eye was more foreign to me. It never really hit me that the person I was looking at without my prosthetic was my true self. It's been a year and a half since that realization, and I haven’t worn my prosthetic eye once! I feel like I love myself even more now, and my confidence has risen because of it.

What piece of advice would you give to someone going through their eye impairment journey?

It is important to embrace and acknowledge that you are different now, and come to terms with that. You have to be okay with knowing that some people are going to be ignorant and judge your appearance and the story of what happened to you. You cannot take it too personally when they say something offensive, or you will remain in a constant state of misery. You have to learn to be okay with knowing that you may not look look "normal". You have to know that despite this, you still deserve love and happiness just as much as anybody else. Don’t let this one thing in your life tear you down, or make you believe you can’t do things others can. If you wanna play basketball, do it! You have just as much potential as anyone else does! The same goes for anything else you may want to do in your life. Yes, things might take more time, or be a little harder at first, but it does not mean it’s impossible. You should never accept defeat by any means. I wish the best for all of you and hope you all enjoy your lives! I love you all! - Lawrence E. Sanders Jr.

Who is your eye surgeon and ocularist?

Eye Surgeon - Dr. Sharon Freeman

Ocularist in NC - Mr. Boyd (Carolina Eye Prosthetics)

Ocularist in TN - Scott Fiscus

[Edited for clarity by @kfitz89]

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