Visually impaired comedian and writer Georgie Morrell started losing her sight aged three. Now, she earns a living joking about the fact.
I grew up in Berkshire, and at 18 moved to London in search of mischief. But after university I went completely blind. It was terrifying because it happened very quickly over two days – like a pair of curtains were slowly moving across my right eye and then… nothing.
I had been diagnosed with glaucoma and uveitis when I was three, and by my mid-teens I’d lost the sight in my left eye. I also got cataracts and they had to remove both of my lenses, which is a bit like having a camera without focus. I had to move back with my parents and totally give myself over to their care, because it took months to adapt. There’s the old cliché that your other senses get stronger when you lose one, but they don’t because that’s biologically impossible.
Just over a year later – after a shitload of procedures, surgeries and drugs – I got 90 percent of the sight back in my right eye. I still have crap depth perception, but with contact lenses and a couple of pairs of glasses I can manage pretty well; although I love walking into door frames and it takes me a little longer to get anywhere. King’s Cross is the worst: the road system is horrible, and getting in and out of the tube is really hard work. But I’m willing to struggle to get where I’m going because I love the city so much.
When I came back to London after losing my sight I trained as an actor but quickly got bored of it and found myself doing more and more comedy. I loved the idea of getting people to laugh at things they wouldn’t normally, getting them thinking outside the box. Finding something funny in tragedy is what a lot of my comedy is about, and going blind has been a great source of material. When you’re sat in a waiting room with no windows at Moorfields Eye Hospital for four hours, if you don’t make a joke, you might kill yourself. Although I’ve lost most of my sight, I’ve gained perspective. I always look for the positives.
My Freedom Pass is definitely one of the main positives – all my mates are jealous about that. I make a joke about it in one of my sets: ‘You should go home and gouge an eye out to get free travel around London.’ For some people that’s a bit much. They don’t want to find the funny in disability, which is fine. I understand that it’s easier to hide away from an issue.
Sometimes I’d like to forget what I’ve been through, but what I’ve had to give up has made me who I am. If I hadn’t lost half my eyesight, I probably would’ve been a right spoiled cow. I might have stayed in the Home Counties and turned out totally boring and materialistic. What I’ve gone through has kept me grounded. And I’m ruddy proud of working with RNIB on their How I See campaign, taking on some of the awful misconceptions about disability.
Everybody I know with a disability, visually impaired or otherwise, has a healthy way of looking at life. They don’t worry about every little thing and they’re far more open-minded. I like the way I look at the world as a result of my issues, and with my comedy I try to encourage other people to do the same. Interview by Danielle Goldstein
For support, information and advice about sight loss, visit www.rnib.org.uk.