Gray

The darkest of clouds

In the vast sky

Fill up my mind

And fill up my eyes

I was the storm

That broke up your sun

I’m sorry

I’m sorry

That I took your light

The grass wasn’t greener

The candy was sour

You deserve everything

You deserve all my hours

But I have the time

That sits on my chest

Crushing my lungs

And cutting my skin

I guess this is justice

That I deserve pain

Nothing left to debate

No more harsh words to trade

Your last word in a paintbrush

Now everything’s gray

Nothing was worth this

You deserved so much more

I wish you had stayed

For what comes after the storm

 

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The Cost of Kindness

depressionEver since my last post, I’ve been struggling about how to be open about my depression in a genuine way. I spent a lot of time contemplating what to write about, and consistently struggled with what to write, feeling like none of my ideas were “enough” to encompass what it really feels like to have chronic depression. The truth is, no description can really touch what it truly feels like to live with depression every day. The best I can do is describe honestly what it feels like for me.

Everyone gets sad every now and then, but not everyone has depression. Depression means that for reasons that can vary, the person with depression can often feel hopeless, sad, and doomed with no obvious external cause. Depression can feel like you are 100 pounds heavier and drain your motivation and drive. For me, one of the hardest parts is when my depression gets tangled with my passion. I have so much that I want to do and share with the world, but often get bogged down by an anchor of doubt, anxiety, and self-loathing.

Now, I am a professional procrastinator which many times is the reason I don’t get as much done as I would like. I’m not writing this to use depression as a blanket excuse, but rather to give a glimpse of what a barrier it can be every day.

Since I’ve become more aware of my depression, I started working hard to be responsible for my mental health and take charge in my life. It doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days, but it means that I check in with myself often and have the power to make choices that are good for both my health and productivity. I do little things every day that make me feel good, like wearing cute outfits and having a yummy bagel to start my day.

Most people are understanding of physical pain and the limits it can place upon someone. Mental and emotional pain, however, is more difficult to grasp. If you have depression, remember not to be ashamed. Though you carry a burden, you are still continuing on your journey despite it and that is something to be proud of. If you don’t have depression, you probably know someone who does. They may not want to speak up about it for fear of being viewed as lazy or whiny, I know that was a fear I faced. Just remember to be as kind as possible. It costs you nothing, and it can be incredibly valuable to those around you.

Since I’ve Been Gone

 

FLOWER

During my latest blogging silence, I’ve been doing a lot of things. I completed (*cough*, crushed) another quarter of college. I’m getting incredibly excited to dig into my major. I’ve continued working at Rooted in Rights, and learned so much about media and how truly important it is as a platform for change. I’ve had the opportunity to explore advocacy related to all different topics and discovering what it means to me as I strive to develop as a professional and a human being.  I’ve been able to experience friendship like I never have in my life. I’ve been falling more in love with my wonderful partner every day.  I’ve had emotions of all varieties, shapes, and sizes.

In my writing, I’ve opened up about a lot of my experiences and opinions. But, as I sit at home in Virginia, desperately wishing to be back at Seattle University, I can’t get something off my mind.

I had to drop out of Spring Quarter to have eye surgery, and after that one, my doctor and I came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to have another in my other eye. So, it’s scheduled for next week. Though my chronic illness is far from fatal, it is still stressful as hell. And while I do deal with physical pain related to my condition, the pain manifests itself psychologically more than anything else. So, I’ve been dealing with that a lot this past month since I’ve been home.

What I couldn’t shake when thinking about my writing is that while I’ve been very detailed and open about my glaucoma, my depression is something I rarely write about. Amazingly, one of my conditions that affects me just as much if not more than the other, has come in second place. The truth, I realized, is that I was holding myself back, wondering; what will the response be if I share, what will the consequences be?

Despite this, I want to write more over all, and I want to be more open and honest about the very real struggle I have with myself every day. Because truly, what worries me more than the consequences of sharing, is letting fear hold me back.

 

A Quarter for my thoughts

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For many people, college is a time of exploration. It’s a time of finding oneself, learning to understand yourself, and discovering the real world. Now having one quarter of college under my belt, I fully understand the world, how it works, my place within it, and what I need to do with my life.

Just kidding.

In truth, I learned a lot from my first quarter of college, and not just about Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. (If you’re reading this Ben, shout out to you for helping me survive that class) Here’s a little list of a few things I found especially enlightening.

1. Your past does not define your present.

This was a big relief for me. In the past, I was never the student I wanted to be. I did alright, but I never reached my potential because I was stuck in a rut of self-doubt and apathy. This quarter, I worked harder in my academic and professional life than I ever have before. It was completely exhausting, and also completely worth it. It turns out that with determination and confidence, you can develop your work ethic and accomplish things you never thought you could.

2. Let little things go.

Ever since I started using my cane, I’ve dealt with things from people approaching me asking what happened to me to people asking if I’m actually blind. I’ve learned that most of the time, people are just curious or uninformed and the most productive thing you can do is either try to educate or simply let it go.

3. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

In this case, I felt like our lovable silly old bear friend got it right. Life will throw things at you that you never expected, things that you may not think you can survive. The truth is, we can handle a lot. Often, you’ll surprise yourself by not only surviving, but thriving, in dark or challenging circumstances. When going through the most difficult times, you’ll also discover who will be there for you when it matters.

4. Pay attention to those with more experience, because you don’t know everything. 

This one seems a little ironic given this list, but it’s perhaps the most important item. There will always be someone more experienced, especially when you’re in college and you most likely lived in a much smaller environment 1-4 years ago. There’s a lot to learn about the world, and although you shouldn’t take everyone’s opinion for gospel, it’s important to recognize those who are worth listening to.

5. You can always be working on yourself, so you don’t have time to work on others. 

This one is pretty simple. Everyone has things they can work on within themselves, so we really don’t have time to be “fixing” other people.

6. I don’t have time to blog.

I apologize to those of you who read my writing for my long, long hiatus, but alas, due dates wait for no one. I’m working on time-management and making blink updates part of my schedule.

Going into college, I was a mixture of excitement and terror. I was worried about how I would perform having a challenge that most other students didn’t, and how well I would deal with being so far away from everything familiar to me. The darkness I experienced in the past made me anxious for the future. When it came down to it, I found that my biggest obstacle was my own doubt.  Perhaps the most important thing I have come to learn is that I am more capable than the world or I myself ever expected me to be.

 

 

 

Seeing Blindness

One of my biggest personal philosophies is that people have the ability change, no matter where they happen to be in life. However, the fact that change is 2 parts effort and 1 part opportunity has a large impact on how likely people are to change.

I have found that college has been the most transformative experience of my life so far. I’ve learned so many things including the fact that the list of life essentials (food, shelter, and water) includes a secret fourth item called espresso. I’ve learned that I’m more capable than I ever thought and that there is a community of equally-driven blind people who I can rely on for support.

I think that one of the hardest things about having a disability is that what society has set as the truth is so far removed from reality. My mom asked me recently to make a video for her elementary class about myself with an explanation of my disability. I was reminded again about how when I was growing up, I don’t remember an instance where I saw someone who was blind in a movie, show, advertisement, or any kind of media. I didn’t meet someone like myself until the summer of 7th grade. And this train of thought brought about by my Mom’s request made me realize for the first time how important it is for little kids to know individuals who happen to be blind. We need to create a culture that sees us not as blind people but as people who happen to be blind, because there is such a drastic difference. My parents and I spent my life in terror of the fact that my condition was progressive and that I would lose my vision, and it shouldn’t have to be that way. I went to the NFB(National Federation of the Blind) convention this weekend and saw firsthand that blindness does not mean the end of your life. It’s up to us as ambitious blind people to show this to society.

These are my thoughts for today. I have been very busy with school but now that I’m settled in I hope that I can post more often. Thank you to all of those who read my writing. ❤

Content: Disability awareness video that I made for my Mom’s elementary school class

 

Roots

 

One of the most dangerous side effects of having a disability or a chronic illness is self-centeredness. It’s not necessarily a nature, but nurture that drags people like me into a hole wherein all we think about is ourselves.

Parents don’t prepare themselves for a child with special needs. Despite the grim outlook that our society often has, we become incredibly optimistic when a baby is about to come into the picture. Soon-to-be parents probably hear the phrase “happy and healthy” at least 7 million times before the aforementioned child makes an appearance. So with countless hopes and prayers cast into the universe, nervous new parents head to the hospital to bring new life into the world. But then, something happens. Call it fate, bad luck, the universe. Genetics. No matter what it is, it’s something. Something is wrong.   The baby isn’t healthy and in the eyes of our current ableist society, will never obtain happiness.

This might sound familiar to parents of children with any kind of special need. From that moment on, the lives of both the parents and the child become consumed with fighting whatever “it” is. In addition, families often have to work incredibly hard to create the most normal and fulfilled life possible for the child. As a focus of attention for family and medical professionals from a young age, how difficult would it be to start believing that it’s all about you?

Look at me, I’m doing it right now! Talking all about my experience as a person with a disability. Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s important. But there’s something else, too.

The most beautiful trees would be nothing without their roots, and I believe that people are the same. For me, the support of my family has been a big part of grounding me and encouraging me to grow. This is true for many other individuals with disabilities, but not all. Unfortunately, having a disability does not mean you are automatically blessed with an incredible family. However, I was. I had parents who always had high expectations and believed in me. They instilled in me that I could do anything I set my mind to. My younger sister was born without any major disability. She was a best friend to me throughout the hardest times in my life. When I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue, her love and support helped me to be strong.

These are the unsung heroes. The ones who don’t experience the physical struggle of the disability or illness, but often go through the emotional struggles, sometimes the worst part. They don’t go out in public with a cane or a wheelchair but they love someone who does. So here’s to all those who support someone who is differently-abled. You give us wings.

To my Mom, Dad, and Sister: I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. Thanks for helping me grow. ❤

 

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Introducing: My Disease

Glau-coma (glaw-comb-uh)

  1. A word you don’t know until it affects you or someone you love.
  2. A disease with symptoms including uncertainty and anxiety about the future.

The thing that I often forget about my condition, and that’s the fact that it’s progressive. It’s not an obvious disease with many symptoms, and it moves slowly so it’s often hard to tell when things are getting worse. That’s why my condition Glaucoma is often called “the thief of sight”. I was reminded of these facts when my at a routine appointment, my doctor began to share concerns with me about my left eye.

The drain in my left eye (which has a fancy name that I can’t remember) stopped being as effective and as a result, fluid was building up in my eye causing damage. So my doctor started to talk about options and all the things we had to consider; my departure to college and my access to health care far away from my eye specialist. When set a details and awaited contact from my doctor’s secretary.

As all of this was happening, I’m reminded of the hardest parts of my disease. It’s not having surgery, although that can be tough and sometimes uncomfortable, I’ve been under anesthesia probably over 30 times. On top of that eye surgery is probably one of the least invasive surgeries you can have. So yeah, surgery is not something I want to do by any means but it doesn’t make me as apprehensive as you might think.

The hardest part is being reminded of the inevitable. After over 20 surgeries and years of a rigorous schedule of medicines, my disease will still be there. My confidence has taken time to build yet, I know that someday there will be another challenge for me to overcome. A new state of being for me to accept. Perhaps the worst part in all that I just mentioned is the “someday”. I have no way of knowing when I’m losing more eyesight, or even if I’ll wake up tomorrow with half the vision I have now.

I’m not writing this as a sob story about the painless slow-moving disease that glaucoma is. I know that I’m incredibly lucky, because I’ve never had to fear that my disease would take my life. However, Glaucoma is still taking something precious from me. The ability to see new parts of the world and even more importantly, the ability to see my loved ones grow and change. I know that many don’t understand what having Glaucoma means, that it can affect all kinds of different people of any age, and that there’s no cure. I’m not a doctor, but I think that if this disease gets more attention, a cure can be found. This is my selfish plug, partly because I would love there to be a well-tested cure so that I can keep the rest of my vision, but also because the world would be a better place with one less chronic illness out there.

Stand Up

Everything feels surreal right now. I’ve spent the past two days at Seattle University, my new school, for orientation. My new school. It’s still sinking in, as you can probably tell. It’s so incredible because I sincerely, in all honestly, did not think I would live to see life after high school at many points. I’m sure many of you can relate. In fact, I think everyone feels that way at some point during secondary school.

Now, that time is over. I’ve finally stepped into the chapter of my life where people really start to define themselves and I’m so excited. I know I have stars in my eyes for something brand new and that eventually it will become a place where I have a routine. In other words, the honeymoon phase will end. Of all the information I learned at orientation I can’t help but feel excited about how I walked with my cane confidently, how I introduced myself to others and how I finally feel comfortable in my own skin.

There was a portion of the orientation where we all assembled to discuss diversity. The speaker would say statements, and if it applied to you, you would stand. For me it pointed out that we are all very different but we all have unique challenges and components to our lives that make us who we are.

“If you have or live with someone who has a disability, please stand.”

To many of the students there the activity may have felt like a waste of time or just too invasive. Most of them probably thought it was stupid, and yeah maybe it was a little melodramatic. There was a time when I would have felt the same, but yesterday I couldn’t. I was too busy standing as tall as my 4’11 stature would allow. In that moment, I realized that I am nothing but proud and confident about who I am. Everyone has their own challenges, and mine have made me who I am. I’m no longer ashamed or apologetic because I have different abilities than everyone else. This is all to say, DO NOT BE LIKE ME.

Don’t wait until you are 18 years old to feel comfortable in your skin and to be proud of who you are. And if you’re older than 18, do not wait another second. Time putting yourself down and not loving yourself is wasted time and in addition you are preventing yourself from so much. You’re going to make mistakes and you have flaws. We all do. But you will never learn from them if you’re consumed with punishing yourself.

Don’t be your own worst enemy. Be proud of who ou are and don’t let anyone dictate how you feel about yourself. Stand up, and start moving.

 

Summer Vibe

I just wanted to write a quick update in case you are wondering how some things are going. My Guide Dog application is complete and I have a home interview scheduled which makes everything seem really real. I’ve seen some friends on Facebook who are in the process of training with their dogs and it’s so so exciting. I’m going to be on the cancellation list, and if all the stars align, I will go to training this summer before I start school. I’ll just have to wait to see how it all shakes out but I’m adopting realistic optimism as my attitude for the time being. Worst case scenario, I will have to wait until sometime next year to get my dog. Either way, a guide dog feels like a step in the right direction for me to continue to grow as an independent blind woman.

Also upcoming is my Summer Orientation for Seattle University. It still feels like a dream that I am able to go to this school in the city I love. It’s not the easiest route I could have chosen, by far. The school is expensive and I’m going to have to work hard But it’s going to be worth it. I feel like I’m really going to blossom in college and I can’t wait to start working towards my career.

My other summer plan is that I’m going to be interning at DO-IT, a camp that I went to a few years ago. It’s for young adults with disabilities who are interested in STEM and college bound. I’m looking forward to mentoring students as I was mentored before. That camp helped me gain much of my confidence and realize what kind of things I wanted to achieve.

All of these things are floating through my mind and giving me all kind of mixed feelings. Right now though, I’m just soaking in simmer and time with my family. I’m reminded now that rough patches can’t last forever and that sometimes a loss is really your circumstances changing to get ready for your future. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know that I have come this far and nothing is going to stop me from achieving my dreams

 

Reflections

Life is a state of constant change. Even when we don’t know it, things around us in life are always changing. Circumstances, relationships, moods, if you think about it humans are incredibly temperamental. Simultaneously, we’re also habitual. As a child, we’ll touch a stove twice even though it burned us the first time, and we still do it as adults. We keep toxic people in our lives, we do things that are unhealthy for our bodies, and possibly worst of all, we consistently stay in mindsets that hold us back from being happy. These kinds of behaviors can be really difficult to change because sometimes we don’t realize that we can be our own worst enemy.

I have been treated poorly by people in my life, but two years ago I experienced the worst treatment I have ever known. The perpetrator was the person I know better than anyone, the person should be able to trust the most.

It was me.

Of all the times “friends” have walked all over me,the times partners mistreated me, and the times strangers have been incredibly rude to me, none of it compares to the way I treated myself during my depression. I wanted others to accept me for my disability and who I was, but I was more harsh and ignorant toward myself than any of my peers. Not to say that their words didn’t hurt and have impact. If I had one kind person in my life during those times, I may have never gotten to the dark place that I found myself in. The funny thing is that I could have, and should have, been that person for myself. Instead I dissected all of my mistakes and punished myself every day, mostly for things that i had absolutely no control over. I know I’m not the only person with a medical condition who has done this. I’ve found that the best decision I ever made was to realize that I’m not a mistake. I work hard-sometimes harder than most people- through disability and the depression and anxiety that comes with it and I’m building a future for myself. I used to be ashamed to have a visual impairment. Now, I’m proud to be exactly who I am, and I love the way it feels.

In my head, I have this kind of reverse mirror of Erised. I look into it and see all the things I used to be, and I compare it to who I have become. Stay humble, but don’t forget to give yourself credit for the changes you have made. Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you and never accept less respect than you give. Above all, respect yourself because how you carry yourself sets a precedent for how others will treat you.

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