I grew up in a very strict Christian household where my mom would take me to church almost every weekend. My mom taking me to church continued until I was 14 or 15-years-old. Even as a young child though I never enjoyed going to church. In fact I’ll go so far as to say that I hated going to church. Looking back church-going was honestly one of the worst punishments that I had to endure. Church was a place where I wanted to be a kid but where I was constantly wondering at what point in the church service my mom would take me to the bathroom to abuse me. Given the environment I was in I never felt safe to try and find a trustworthy adult that I could talk to about what was going on. Truthfully I lived in fear of my mom until the day I moved out of her house in the summer of 2009. Anyway although I’ve sometimes felt like God wasn’t really in my life I’ve always found my way back to believing in him. That being said, my belief in God is nothing like the way many Christians portray God to be. What I mean in saying that my belief in God differs from many Christian believers is that I don’t believe that God will negatively judge me based on the fact that my view of him has evolved as I’ve gained more life experiences. I don’t believe that God thinks homosexuality is wrong. I don’t believe that God thinks that the Christian way is the only truth, the only life or the only way people should live. I do believe that God shows kindness to humanity as a whole, not just to disabled people, not just to Christian people or to any other group of people that one can think of. I do believe that God realizes and accepts the fact that forgiveness means different things to different people. I believe that God operates the way I think a loving parent acts towards his or her children. I think that God sometimes places things in our paths that we can choose whether we want to take advantage of or not. I don’t think that God grumbles when we choose things that he may not have wanted us to choose. Mostly though I think that God wants every human being to take credit for the great things that are happening in his or her life. If someone has worked his or her ass off to be successful at something he or she loves to do, God loves enthusiasm. I believe that God loves for humans to be proud of things because he’s a proud parent whenever his people put goodness into the world. And honestly it’s only been within the last few years that my belief in God has evolved to what I’ve written here. I’m 1000 percent confident in my skin and in the things that I believe in. I haven’t set foot in a church for a month or so now because I’m no longer willing to do things to fit in or to feel like I have a sense of community somewhere, when I don’t feel like I fit in at any church. I’ve gone to church with friends pretty recently and those times of attending church were okay. However there was still a huge part of me that felt out-of-place at church, regardless of the fact I was with friends. These things that I’m writing are me being vulnerable because I rarely even talk about why I don’t like going to church or how I view God. I think it’s important to have these kinds of discussions though if for no other reason than that I believe that people need to hear different perspectives. I believe that people need to be taken out of their Christian worldview that says anything other than Christianity is wrong, filthy or evil. I believe that people should think outside the box regularly, regardless of what religion they are or are not. I believe that God wants human beings to question things because when we question things, that questioning helps us grow and be better human beings over all. So as I was saying it’s just been within the last few years that my belief in God has evolved into what I consider to be a healthy point of view. Also, having gone to therapy since last August, has been something that’s helped me be comfortable in my belief in God as it truly is and not worry about who doesn’t like the way I believe, who thinks I’m living wrong ETC. Part of what I’ve also been learning in therapy is how to find the balance of when to engage someone in what might be a controversial discussion and when to stay silent. I think each day I’m getting better and better at finding a balance between the two that works for me. Interestingly yesterday I went to lunch with a couple people I’d met at one of the churches I’ve gone to here in San Antonio. During our meal one of the people asked me about my friend who lives in the state I recently vacationed in. The first question she asked me was “Is he Christian?” Even though part of me felt like his religious beliefs had absolutely nothing to do with anything another part of me felt that this would be a great opportunity to speak at least one of my truths. So I told her that no he was not Christian and that in fact he was Muslim. I spoke that truth to her like the confident, secure and happy woman that I am. She then made a comment saying something like “Is your friend tolerant of other people’s beliefs?” I thought that was ironic, given the fact that she was the intolerant one. Then she said something like “Are you aware that some time in the future the world will be a majority Muslim world?” I just smiled, told her that that sort of talk was propaganda then I let the discussion drop. This particular experience though left me feeling many emotions. On one hand I felt sad for her because for anyone to have such a narrow-minded and negatively judgmental view, is not only harmful but the exact opposite of the Bible verse that says “love thy neighbor.” That particular Bible verse does not say “love thy neighbor only if she or he is heterosexual” or “love thy neighbor only if she or he is a Bible-believing Christian” or “love thy neighbor only if she or he goes to church every Sunday like you do.” That particular Bible verse simply says “love thy neighbor.” Period! I know that people fuck this sort of thing up all the time but I have a problem with that. Life is already difficult enough for everyone as it is and I feel like when people add to life’s difficulty by being judgmental of others in a harmful way, those negative judgments are part of the reason why conversations like the one I had with that lady yesterday and why conversations like the one I’m having here on my blog in this particular entry, are taboo to begin with. Negatively judgmental conversations are also the reason that it’s so damn hard for people like me to take the plunge and find a therapist to talk about mental health stuff with. Going to therapy though has helped me look at myself and how negatively judgmental I’ve been towards myself for years. In turn going to therapy has served as a tool for me to recognize negatively judgmental attitudes in others and allowed me to find my voice so that I can assert myself and tell people who are judgmental in a harmful way where and why I think his or her attitude is unhelpful to society, not to mention harmful to society. Even though that part of the conversation this lady and I had about my friend was short I still felt angry to know that there are people in 2018 who believe that anyone who is not Christian, should not be seen as a fellow human being. Although I think the word “disgust” would more accurately describe my feelings after coming away from that part of this lady’s and my conversation. Even though I felt disgust I also felt empowered. I felt empowered because I asserted myself knowing that the discussion that she and I were having would likely be one of the most controversial discussions I’d ever have with her. I was vulnerable in a way that I’d never been vulnerable before, by sharing my friend’s religious affiliation with someone when quite frankly, what religion or lack thereof that my friend practices had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that he treats me better than anyone else has or ever could, he brings out the best in me and we both just love laughter and being happy. Still though I wonder why the first thing someone wants to know when asking about another person’s friend, is what religion the person is or is not. And, how could anyone think it proper, appropriate or what have you, to ask such a thing in the first place? Because knowing whether someone is religious or not, does not shed any light on said person’s character. Maybe I just stumbled on the answer to my own question though: maybe people who believe the way this lady does, that Muslims are bad, bad, bad for this majority Christian world we live in or who think that a person’s religious affiliation or lack thereof truly does shed light on a person’s character, maybe that lady believes with her whole heart that Christianity is the only way people can and should live. Even so though I think it’s important to call such things out and try to dispel such harmful attitudes even if the people we’re currently talking to don’t get where we’re coming from. And those of us who are sort of religious or not religious at all need to talk about these sorts of things openly because the only way change can produce successful results is if people are willing to have discussions that may at times be controversial or uncomfortable to him or her. One of the common themes that I seem to write about a lot in these blog entries is the fact that when people are adults, he or she has the right and the freedom to express his or herself…because here in America, that sort of thing is our right as citizens. So when someone expresses an opinion that another person does not agree with, it’s mostly okay for the person who disagrees to say so. In fact for me personally, as I’m becoming more outspoken and using my voice in ways that I never thought possible, I find that over all my life is pretty damn great…because I don’t hesitate to use my voice in every way I can find to do so. I believe wholeheartedly in who I am and in what I bring to the world and I think that shows in how I carry myself throughout the world. In all honesty, adopting this new perspective has helped me deal with being here in San Antonio at least a little bit better than I might otherwise. Like, now that I understand that as an adult I can make choices about how my life turns out, which I couldn’t make as a kid…just knowing that I have power as an adult helps me move through the world happily and at ease in the knowledge that I exist…and my existence is enough.
A day or so ago I emailed a friend of mine to ask him what it would take for a person to get his or her Braille certification. My friend emailed me back Wednesday evening saying that I could fill out an application online on NFB’s website. So I got out my Mac then went to NFB’s website and searched for the term “Braille certification.” I found exactly what I was looking for on NFB’s website. Once I’d gotten to the actual Braille certification page that lists the different categories in which a person can become Braille certified I chose a particular category that I wanted to possibly get certified in. Before I go any further though I’ll tell you all that some of the Braille certification categories were as follows: Literary Braille Proof Reading, Literary Braille Transcription, Braille Music Certification ETC. The people who actually provide the course materials for Braille certifications are the people within the NFB. Then once a person gets his or her Braille certification, the certificate actually comes from the National Library Service (NLS) which is the wider branch of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped that I’ve mentioned in my blog before. So I first read through all of the things that NFB listed would already qualify me to potentially become certified in Braille: whether I’m a US citizen, whether I have a high school diploma and other things I can’t recall. Another thing I read besides the things that qualify people to be certified in Braille was the fact that if a person has never gotten a Braille certification before, the most amount of time that it could take him or her to complete the certification would be an entire year. According to NFB’s website the reason for this is that if a person wants to be Braille certified there are certain things that people have to look for according to a specific guide that the NFB would send people who want to pursue becoming Braille certified. Still I thought I’d give this a shot. So once I’d read through all the information on NFB’s website I filled out the necessary fields within the application just as anyone would. Once I’d refreshed the page though all the information that I’d just spent time entering into the form was no longer there. What a pain in the ass it was to discover that, let me tell ya! So I then stepped away from my computer and did some reflecting about getting my Braille certification right now. I’ve decided that I’ll keep becoming Braille certified as something to possibly do later because I’ve already spent a huge amount of money on this AppleCare Technician Training because I want to work for Apple. Period. No matter how long it takes me to get to that point. I also want to have time in my life for me to use as downtime because I only have one life and I want to live the life I have, well. I’m young but I’ve seen many, many, many people throughout my life settle for things (whether they’re settling in their relationships with people, their job choice, ETC). I flat out refuse to be one of those people. I am not a copy of other people. I AM ME! There is only one me and goddammit I’m going to make of that what I know to be my calling. To many people, maybe what I’ll go through to see my dream become reality would not be worth the struggle. Maybe there are people in the world who think it’s pointless to fight for something like employment. However as someone who has multiple disabilities and as someone who is confident in myself and knows I deserve to see my dream become reality, I choose to fight for that dream however I need to. I realize the word “fight” has a negative connotation in some people’s eyes so I’ll try to explain what exactly I mean when I use the word “fight” in this context. When I say that I’m willing to fight to make my dream become reality what I mean is that since the world is often not made with disabled people in mind, those of us who have disabilities often strongly advocate for whatever it is we want or need. Given that sighted people read print which is what is most accessible in our world, sighted people don’t have the same struggle of accessing information as people with disabilities have. So where a sighted person who wants to become Apple certified just reads the print on Apple’s website, fills out the necessary information and reads the printed instructions that Apple sends him or her in the mail, someone who is blind and wants to have access to the same training has to go through numerous hoops to accomplish becoming Apple certified. So as has been a common theme in my blog entries thus far, we all have things that we struggle with, no matter who we are. So going back to my decision to become certified in Braille at a later time: although I think becoming certified in Braille would be a fun experience I feel like taking advantage of such an opportunity now would put too much on my plate. I want everything I do to be filled with joy and passion (whether i’m simply having a conversation with someone, getting a certification of some kind or traveling somewhere). Before I’d looked into getting certified in Braille Wednesday evening though I finished watching season 6 of Once Upon a Time. After I’d finished watching season 6 of that particular show I opened Hulu to see if the Hulu app would be accessible with VoiceOver. It was partially accessible with VoiceOver, meaning that I was able to read through the different categories on the app. However when I tried searching for Once Upon a Time the only thing I could do successfully was to enter text into the search field. From the search field though I was unable to get any further. Then it dawned on me: I had a brain fart! I’d completely forgotten that I could use the TV app that’s already on my iPhone. So that’s just what I did: I opened up the TV app and started watching season 7 of Once Upon a Time. Unfortunately though the TV app doesn’t allow me to rewind, fast-forward, play or stop whatever it is I’m watching. So if I don’t want to get interrupted by someone calling or texting me I have to watch shows later at night. Even then though watching shows late at night is not a guarantee that I’ll be able to watch them without interruption. It’s kind of crazy how something so simple as a person being able to rewind, fast-forward or play something that he or she’s watching can either make or break his or her experience of using a particular app. I think it goes without saying that if I had my way every app that I know blind people use would be fully accessible to him or her. Interestingly while watching some of the first episode of season 7 of Once Upon a Time I thought about why this particular show has fully caught my attention. When watching Once Upon a Time people learn that the fairy tale characters go back and forth between knowing who they are and forgetting who they are. So given that fact, the fairy tale characters continually have fresh starts throughout the show. I can relate to having a fresh start in my own life because I’m doing things in my life that will help me have a fresh start myself. It’s a great feeling actually, to realize that as an adult you are not powerless with what happens in your life. Each person can choose whether he or she wants to be a passenger in their life or whether he or she wants to be the driver in his or her life. For many years I’ve chosen to be a passenger in my life simply because I didn’t know that I could make another choice. Now that I know I can choose to be the driver in my life though I never want to go back to the way I used to be. Yesterday morning the lady who is my new assistant came to my apartment along with the lady from the hiring company. So we filled out paperwork then my new assistant started cleaning my apartment for me. She had a lot of cleaning to do though as there were things in my refrigerator that had expired in October and September of last year. It sickened me to find that out because I’d thought that the last assistant I’d had was looking out for me. It just goes to show though that what I’d thought had happened and what had really happened were two different things entirely. The reason this makes me sick is because I let complete strangers come into my apartment because those complete strangers work for an agency who hires people to help yet other people. I let these complete strangers into my apartment hoping and praying that they’ll be honest, good-hearted people who will look out for me and keep my things clean the way I’d keep my things clean. I put my trust issues aside to let these people into my apartment on a good faith system. Yet many of these people are the very reasons I have trust issues…because they do shady crap like leave old oil in a pan or a pot full of grease that they’ve used several times, sitting on my stove. I found the pot full of grease on my stove when I came back from my out-of-state vacation earlier this month. Some people sure do have nerve. I’m just glad that I never got sick because things could’ve really ended badly if I had. While my new assistant was here I texted my therapist to ask if it would be okay if I canceled this week’s appointment with her. In the text I’d sent her I explained that I’d just gotten my new assistant and that I needed her to help me with things around my apartment.Fortunately my therapist was okay with me canceling this week’s appointment with her. In the evening I got desperate to watch Once Upon a Time so I turned off VoiceOver on my iPhone. Then I moved my finger around on my iPhone’s screen until something happened. Eventually my finger moved in the right spot and allowed me to watch the first episode of the current season of Once Upon a Time from the beginning. Interestingly though I used to be so afraid to press buttons on things or to move my finger around on my iPhone’s screen until I found whatever it was that I was looking for. Going to WSB last year though really got me out of that bad habit. When I was a student at WSB I learned that it was more than okay to push buttons. In fact if people who are blind ever want to get anywhere with technology sometimes that requires him or her to get out of his or her comfort zone with technology. Because the thing is, I learned that I wasn’t going to break whatever device I was handling and if I did mess something up, the thing could be fixed. So nowadays I’m all about pushing buttons and moving my finger around my iPhone’s touch screen every which way because I know that eventually I’ll stumble on exactly what I want. On another note I’ve been in this apartment for 6-and-a-half years! It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here that long though because so much has happened in my life in that amount of time. If someone asked me how long i thought I’d be here I probably would say “a few years” at the very least.
When I wrote my last blog entry Sunday I forgot to write about what the TV show Once Upon a Time is about. The show is about the different characters that are in fairy tales. However the show is based on today’s times in the actual world. So the characters in Once Upon a Time mention things like Skype, the internet and cabs. In addition to the fairy tales being set like they’re in today’s world the writers of Once Upon a Time write parts of each fairy tale so that there are all kinds of twists and turns in each story. I wish there was audio description for every single show or movie that existed because having someone narrate movies so that blind people know what’s happening in movies, really helps him or her know what’s going on. In my opinion there’s a lot that we as blind people miss out on when movies are not narrated. In fact I just saw the movie Cocoa this Sunday with some friends. There were definitely parts of the movie where I was unaware of what was going on because I’m not literally a visual person. If the movie had been audio described though I’m certain that I would’ve gotten much more out of the movie. To try and explain what I mean by audio description: when a movie is narrated, the narrator mentions details such as that someone has an angry face, is hunched over, is staring off in the distance ETC. Those things are seemingly small things but all of those things are details that most sighted people leave out when they watch movies or shows with people who are blind. Since I wrote my last blog entry on Sunday I’ve texted back and forth with the lady who works for the company who hires assistants to help people who need help with things in his or her home. It turned out that there was indeed bad weather starting yesterday morning, just as the lady had warned me there would be. Then yesterday evening she texted me saying that she and my assistant would come to my apartment as soon as the weather permitted the two of them to do so. The reason the lady who works for the hiring company has to come to my apartment is because she has to fill out paperwork that my assistant and I also have to sign saying that we both agree to these services. Ironically though most businesses that exist don’t provide blind people the necessary paperwork in a format he or she can read. Most businesses give those of us who are blind print paperwork because to them it’s okay for us to have someone fill things out for us. They likely don’t even consider the fact that having someone fill out paperwork for us means that our privacy is being violated (whether it’s paperwork from a doctor’s office concerning a person’s mental health issues, paperwork from state agencies that help disabled people get jobs or go to school or paperwork from potential employers that needs to be filled out for one reason or another). I understand that part of the reason many sighted people likely don’t think of the fact it’s a privacy violation for blind people to have paperwork filled out for him or her is because blindness is not something that many sighted people ever deal with. Period. So how can anyone face something when they don’t know that something is a real thing that happens more than disabled people would like to admit? I was talking with a friend about this last night: the fact that the reason our lives are more difficult is because many of us who are disabled choose to speak up when paperwork is not accessible to us, we choose to speak up when businesses are not accessible for people who have mobility impairments, we speak up when websites that we need to use or would like to use are not accessible to us, we speak up when we feel violated or wronged by someone in some way…and after years of being strong self-advocates for ourselves and others we begin to feel tired. Not tired in the sense that we want to give up and throw in the towel but tired because sometimes there’s just no way of knowing if your advocacy is making a difference or sinking into anyone with the power to change things for the better. I’m not using I statements this time only because I have friends who have written about these same things on Facebook: those friends of mine have written about going through these same struggles and written about getting tired that they have to fight these types of issues on a daily basis. The thing is though if we as people who are disabled didn’t fight these issues regularly we wouldn’t have as great a quality-of-life as we do because we fight for the things we believe in and the things that are our right to have as fellow human beings. Because as I’ve said before we live in a world that is not built with wheelchair users, blind people or other disabled people in mind. Yet if we as disabled people stayed silent about how we felt and what we know we need, we’d be left behind in the movement of the world. That wouldn’t just apply to disabled people though. It could be said that anyone who doesn’t learn about the latest technology or chooses not to speak up about what he or she needs will be left behind because the world never stops making progress. In fact someone asked me just last week if I’d always been this self-sufficient person that I am now. My answer was “no” partly because my becoming self-sufficient was out of necessity. I had to become self-sufficient and resourceful because many of my family members did not care for me in healthy or helpful ways. So through many family members neglecting me and sheltering me I realized even as a little girl that I’d need to find ways to make my life happy. Although I wasn’t able to move out of my mom’s house until I was 21-years-old, going to the Louisiana Center for the Blind truly saved my life. As I’ve written about in blog entries before, when I was an LCB student I was able to learn how to clean, manage bills that I paid and the staff members who worked there showed me that I was an adult who had the right to make choices about the things that happened in my life. Before attending the LCB though I had no earthly idea how I’d successfully manage being an adult. The thing is though, no one (whether sighted or blind) knows everything about how to be an adult when he or she turns 18-years-old. There’s no manual for people to read instructing him or her on what to do and what not to do and no one magically has new abilities or wisdom just because he or she has turned 18-years-old. And because of the circumstances that were part of my package, I had to have people show me how to be an adult. While others may read that phrase and think “Man that sucks” I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change any part of my life’s happenings. Through going to therapy I’m learning that I can embrace every part of my story, the good parts, the bad parts and the ugly parts. It’s all part of what makes me who I am. So going back to advocacy: advocacy is a gift that I personally have chosen to take advantage of because the rewards that I get in return of feeling empowered and sometimes getting exactly what I need or what others need, far outweighs the initial frustration that regularly comes with the territory. Choosing to participate in advocacy gives me a sense of accomplishment and contributes to my self-worth in a hugely positive way. And for the record I’m writing these things down for myself as much as I’m writing them down for anyone else. Because sometimes I just feel shitty about choosing advocacy because my needs or other people’s needs go unmet, I feel unheard and sometimes I’m just too fucking tired that day because someone has tested my patients and reached the limit of what I can take that day. Yet most times I choose advocacy because as I said, when I choose advocacy, I’m in turn choosing happiness because for the most part, people want to help and they want to understand what one’s needs are. Speaking of choosing advocacy: tonight I reached out to the people at Apple who create Apple’s training materials since I have yet to hear from them about how they could help me resolve what I believe to be accessibility issues with the AppleCare Technician Training. But honestly it was hard for me to reach out to them because lately I find myself getting frustrated about the fact I’m running into difficulty. Combine that with the fact that right now I have no way of knowing what the hell is really going on. Like, am I running into difficulty because VoiceOver cannot read graphical images or pretty-looking text that are possibly both on the screen? Or am I running into difficulty for another reason entirely? On another note I texted one of the therapists who runs the trauma group I’m in to ask her if we’d have group therapy this week. She texted me back a few minutes later saying that group would be canceled this week if I’d be available to meet next week. So I told her I would be available next week. Since my assistant and my Supervisor at the company who hired my assistant also don’t know when the weather will cooperate and allow people to take care of the things that he or she needs to take care of, our meeting is on hold too. Thanks Mr. Bad-Weather, you are not welcome here!
Yesterday morning I received a text message from someone who works at the company who hires assistants for people. In the text message that the hiring company had sent me they told me that they’d found an assistant who could start working for me the following week. While I texted back and forth with the lady who works for that particular company I was also texting back and forth with one of my close friends. I told her that I wanted to read a book called The Body Keeps The Score because my therapists as well as some friends of mine have suggested that I read that book. However a while back I’d asked the Texas state Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped whether they had that book in Braille or audio format. The Texas state Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped told me that they had The Body Keeps The Score in audio format so I wanted to keep searching to find a way that I could read that book with a screen reader or in Braille. That’s why I asked one of my close friends if she knew of a way for me to make that happen for myself. Fortunately she said I could use her Bookshare account to read The Body Keeps The Score if I wanted to. Before I go any further though let me explain what the Texas state Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and Bookshare are. The Texas state Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is a part of congress which was created for people who are not able to read printed materials. Each state has a state Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped that provides this free service to people who can’t read print. Bookshare is an online library where people who can’t read print can sign up and read whatever books are available on Bookshare’s website. Bookshare is not free though so I personally don’t have a membership with that particular company right now. So yesterday morning when a close friend of mine said that I could use her Bookshare account to read books I was kind of hesitant to do so. The reason I was hesitant to read books off of Bookshare’s website was because several years ago when I had an account with Bookshare I remembered that the quality of Bookshare’s books was piss poor. What I mean in saying that the quality of Bookshare’s books was piss poor was that parts of sentences would be cut off in books which for me took away the book as a whole because I wasn’t given the full text of the book. Since a close friend of mine told me that Bookshare had gotten better about the quality of books that were available on their website though I felt a little more comfortable trying Bookshare out again. Once I’d gotten my friend’s login information I searched Bookshare’s catalogue for The Body Keeps The Score. Fortunately Bookshare had that book as I’d hoped they would. Before I go any further though let me tell you all what The Body Keeps The Score is about. That particular book is about how when people are repeatedly traumatized throughout his or her lives, the repeated traumatic experiences literally cause people’s brains and bodies to be rewired in such a way that people often still relive those traumatic experiences long after those traumatic experiences have stopped happening to him or her. Although I’d never thought about how one’s mind and body can be so deeply connected and feed off one another it makes sense to me that that’s what happens because our bodies are inter-connected. So if one part of a person’s body is negatively reacting to traumatic experiences that he or she has been through, it makes sense that other parts of his or her body will likely follow and negatively react to traumatic experiences that he or she has gone through. Reading The Body Keeps The Score though has truly given me hope that it is possible to move on from the traumatic things that people have experienced in his or her life. Whereas before I started reading this particular book I was unsure if there was such a thing as people being able to recover from trauma. Interestingly though when I read The Body Keeps The Score on my iPhone I slow VoiceOver’s speaking rate down quite a bit so that I can focus on the book’s contents and absorb the book’s contents more fully than I could if I kept VoiceOver’s speaking rate fast. This morning I played around with the iPhone app that allows me to do my banking online. I played with my banking app because I wanted to make sure that I could easily receive money from people. However it took me some time to finally get to the bottom of why I couldn’t receive money from people. Even then I only got to the bottom of the issue because I called my bank and spoke with someone who works there. It turned out that the reason that I was unable to receive money from people was because the bank account that had been selected to be my default bank account was no longer an active account. The thing was though my screen reader VoiceOver didn’t even alert me to the fact that my old bank account was anywhere on the screen. Thankfully the bank representative I’d spoken with caught that not-so-small detail and from there she told me that once I’d changed my default bank account to my current bank account, receiving money from people would not be a problem. So right after I’d gotten off the phone with that bank representative I used the bank’s iPhone app to change my default bank account. Thankfully I was able to change my default bank account without any issues. I write about this seemingly simple experience because when my screen reader is not able to read me all of the information that is present on the screen, sometimes like in this case, that means I have to go through extra steps just to find out how to resolve whatever problem I’m having. Given that the world we live in is not made with people who are disabled in mind, it’s quite frequent for me to have to use my resourcefulness so that I can still get the things done that I need to get done. As I’ve mentioned in my blog entries before there are apps for our phones nowadays that allow blind people to take care of tasks somewhat easier than used to be the case. Those phone apps connect us with real human beings who are able to use our phone’s cameras to see whatever it is that we need help with. There are also apps for our phones that use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help us read bar codes on products, to tell us what dollar bills we have in our hands and so much more. That is why I say that I’m glad to have been born in this particular time period: because even though it’s sometimes difficult to navigate the world as a blind person I have hope that the world is learning the importance of having things accessible to everyone every day that people who are disabled speak up about the ways in which the world is not easily accessible to or for us. I believe it’s also on us as people who are disabled to give this inaccessible world possible solutions as to how they can make their products or places of business accessible to everyone. Going back to hope though: hope is a very powerful thing. Although I’d never thought about the power of hope until I started going to therapy last August. Hope is what’s gotten me through life though. All those years that I was physically and mentally abused by my mother and many of her family members I had hope that somehow things would get better for me someday. I had hope that my dream of wanting to move out of my mom’s house and into an apartment of my own would come true someday. I had hope that most people in the world would not be like my mom or like many of her family members. I had evidence of the fact that some people in the world would not be like her or her family members and that evidence also gave me hope of having a better life someday. The kindnesses that my grandparents and other people I interacted with showed me, allowed me to develop at least some sense of safety some of the time. Hope does not just have to be a feeling that people can experience in his or her life. With determination and a desire to stop the vicious cycle that his or her family has had, a person can do what it takes to create a better life for his or herself. I’m by no means saying that it will be easy to recover from such trauma. What I am saying though is that as adults we have the ability to make choices that we didn’t have the ability to make as children. As adults we are free to decide who we want in our lives and who we do not want in our lives. As adults we have the beautiful gift of freedom. It’s up to us to choose whether or not we want to take advantage of that precious gift. A little while after I’d resolved the online banking issue I received a text message from the company who hires assistants for people. The text message the company sent me told me that the weather is supposed to be horrible early this week. So the company wanted to know if it would be okay with me if my assistant came sometime later in the day. Of course I said that would be fine so we’ll see how things play out. My guess is that since we’ve planned for horrible weather, horrible weather won’t even happen. LOL. Shortly after I’d texted back and forth with the company who hires assistants for people I talked to a friend about a show I’m watching called Once Upon a Time. My friend asked me how many seasons there were of the show and I told him that I’m on season 6 of Once Upon a Time right now. I then told him that season 7 of Once Upon a Time is happening on TV as we speak. I made a comment like “I hate having to wait a week to watch shows on TV. I prefer to watch shows on Netflix because I can binge-watch any show that’s available in Netflix’s catalogue.” My friend then said “Do you remember when we didn’t have a choice whether we wanted to wait a week to watch shows we liked? Because when stuff was on TV we’d watch it. Then we’d talk about said show then wait until the next episode of the show aired the following week.” I told him that I did remember those days, the days when we actually knew how to be patient with things. LOL. On a somewhat similar note it truly is interesting to me how as technology changes, some of the changes in technology are taking some valuable things away from humanity (face-to-face contact and the ability to know how to properly construct sentences) just to name a couple examples. When people use Siri to dictate things many people don’t know that you have to actually say the punctuation marks to Siri because if you don’t you’ll have a huge run-on sentence. I can’t tell you all who don’t use screen readers how awful VoiceOver sounds when people don’t punctuate sentences. When that happens VoiceOver sounds off because it’s as though the screen reader can’t even take a breath.
When I wrote my last blog post Wednesday night I forgot to mention that during group therapy one of the group’s therapists told us that we’d only meet one more time after this week. I’m honestly kind of sad that the group will be ending soon but I’m glad that I was able to be a part of the group nonetheless. Before I joined the group though I never could’ve imagined how helpful it would be to have the support of others who have been through trauma. Joining this group though has shown me how important it is to have people in my life who just “get” how trauma really fucks with people. The bond I feel with others who have been through trauma is truly life-giving to me. Our bond helps me embrace the fact that sometimes we aren’t always okay. Yet it’s okay not to be okay because we’re all human and we’re all broken in some way. It’s been freeing to admit that, actually: that brokenness is part of being human. I hope that even though this group will end soon that I can stay in touch with everyone (including the group’s therapists). Wednesday night after I’d come home from group therapy I decided to call Yellow Cab San Antonio and treat myself to something good to eat. Since I still didn’t have my assistant to help me cook food and since I never treat myself to anything I thought that would be the perfect opportunity to show myself kindness. So that’s just what I did: I called Yellow Cab San Antonio and had a cab pick me up from my apartment. Since there’s a Sonic Drive-In at the corner of my street, that was where I had the cab driver drive me. When I told the cab driver that I wanted to go to Sonic Drive-In he asked me whether I had someone to pick up food like this for me. At that time I felt like getting into a discussion with him was a good choice. So I told him that I love my independence and taking a cab to Sonic Drive-In allows me to be independent. I further explained to him that yes I could’ve had someone get food for me but that there is no confidence-building in having someone do things for me. There is no feeling good about myself when someone does things for me. There is no opportunity for me to grow, to succeed, to fail, to live! I’m human. I want to grow, to succeed, to fail, to live!! Now that I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be in a different state where I don’t know anyone yet I’m able to get around successfully and with relative ease I no longer want to live like I’m a shut-in. Before I’d gone to this new state though I had no earthly idea what I was missing. I literally had no idea what a sense of accomplishment I’d feel in allowing myself to be independent or in allowing myself to get out of my apartment on my own just because I have two fucking legs that work correctly. There are certainly people in the world who would say that my legs don’t “work correctly” because of the fact I wear leg braces or because those people flat out don’t know what I’m capable of. However the fact that I’m able to move my legs to walk, stand up ETC, means that my legs work correctly by every definition I’m aware of. So anyway the cab driver that I had Wednesday night seemed to be unhappy with my answer that i find my independence empowering. He then went on a tangent saying something like “I think someone who goes blind later in life has it worse than you do. Because the thing is, you’ve been blind all your life. Given that you’ve been blind all your life you know how to be blind. Someone who goes blind later in life does not know how to be blind.” Again I engaged him in a discussion. I responded with something like “Actually that is not true for me. My mom sheltered me for 21 years of my life and even at the age of 19-years-old I didn’t know how to make a sandwich, vacuum, mop, sweep ETC. I can’t know how to do things as a blind person unless I’m shown or told how to do them. Besides, people should not compare one person’s experiences to other people’s experiences because everyone moves through the world differently.” The cab driver still didn’t understand where I was coming from but speaking up about my feelings and thoughts felt empowering to me nonetheless. I didn’t mention this happening Wednesday night because I wanted to dedicate more of a blog post to this particular experience because this sort of thing happens quite frequently where people compare me to their blind cousin, aunt, sister-in-law or whoever. Usually though I don’t speak up about how that sort of thing makes me feel which is why I changed my tactic with Wednesday night’s cab driver. I think it’s unhealthy for people to hold things inside of him or her, even though it’s just been within the last few months that I’ve started to see the value in opening up to people about the ugly things that have happened in my life as well as how I’ve survived through those ugly things. Going back to living like I was a shut-in though: I lived that way for several years. In some ways I lived that way because trauma has been all I know (both where my mind and body are concerned). Also though I was too sick to do any differently. I believe that all the years of repeated traumatic experiences finally caught up with me and caused me to be deathly ill at times. Now that I’m on the right track of getting healthier by the day though I’m hopeful that I’ll stay in fantastic health for years to come. Yesterday morning I went to a one-on-one appointment with the therapist I’ve been seeing since August 2017. During hers and my session yesterday morning she and I talked about how my vacation went. However we also talked about my future as it relates to going to therapy or not. I told her that I wanted to continue seeing her. She then brought up the fact that in the future we could talk about the possibility of me participating in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to attempt to physically remove the trauma that’s built up in my body all these years. Before I’d talked about EMDR therapy with my therapist yesterday morning though I’d never even considered the fact that the numerous traumatic experiences I’ve had throughout the years have created a specific response in my body in addition to my brain. For example I don’t like being touched by most people because of the way my body causes me to feel and otherwise respond when I’m being touched by people I don’t know or trust. What I mean is that if I’m feeling unsure of something or someone my body tenses up, my chronic pain kicks in and I start to think that there’s about to be danger near me. This isn’t something I talk about regularly though. In fact I’d say that many of my friends have no idea that I don’t like being touched because I respond well to those friends in the situations that we’ve been in together. If I feel uncomfortable with someone though or I know that someone feels uncomfortable with me my body reacts to that discomfort accordingly, just as when I know I can trust someone implicitly my body relaxes. Even now it’s weird to write this shit down because it’s foreign enough to me as it is. However it’s also becoming more of a truth of mine since I’m putting it out there in the open. To be even more truthful I don’t know that I’d trust even people I’d consider myself close to in every situation that presents itself to me. I’m okay with saying I have trust issues with people and I’m also okay with saying that I want to continue to become a better me every day. This is why I don’t want to stop going to therapy: because I’m still gaining my freedom, gaining more confidence in myself and gaining a love of life that I’ve honestly never experienced before. If there comes a time in my future where I feel like going to therapy isn’t serving me anymore then at that time I’ll re-evaluate the situation and go from there. It’s such a relief to feel excited about going to therapy because I was never excited when I went to the therapist I’d seen after I was sexually assaulted years ago. Going to therapy this time around is something that hugely contributes to my happiness. Because even though I had time away from therapy during my recent trip I had numerous coping strategies available to me that I used every day (which I still use every day) and I’d learned how to flip a negative thought pattern about myself into a positive thought about myself. For example if I found myself thinking that I deserve to be miserable rather than happy I did what I could to change that into the opposite thought: I deserve to be happy. With that particular example though it was not easy to change my thinking and feeling of being miserable. I think that goes back to the fact that all the trauma I’ve endured has had its affects on my body at least as much as it’s affected me mentally though. It’s weird to say this but initially I’d had what I now realize was an unrealistic expectation: I expected that once I’d started mentally undoing the trauma I’d endured, that the trauma would like, magically disappear from both my body and my brain. That isn’t at all how things happened though of course. I’ve come a long way where working through the trauma I’ve endured mentally is concerned but I still have my work cut out for me, just as I’m sure I’ll have my work cut out for me if I decide to have EMDR therapy in the future. I feel ready to face these demons of the unknown head-on, regardless of how difficult a road lies ahead of me. In other news, I downloaded VIAtrans’s phone app this evening. I tried to create an account for myself on the app but I was unable to do so. I think I was unable to create an account using VIAtrans’s app because VoiceOver couldn’t read some information that was on the screen due to their being heavy graphics on the app. I don’t know whether my suspicion is correct because I haven’t had a sighted person look at the app yet nor do I know if any of my blind friends use the app. Although I’m not at all surprised that VIAtrans has come out with something as crappy as this app seems to be for me upon its first use. The reason I’m not surprised about this result is because VIAtrans service already sucks. So given that their service already sucks, to me it’s a no-brainer that it seems to be a crappy app. Unfortunately being service-oriented is not VIAtrans’s expert skill. I hope that maybe one day that will change…but it probably won’t because VIAtrans has always done what they think is best for the people they serve rather than paying attention to what it is that the people they serve actually need from them as a company. Speaking of shitty companies though: when I first became a customer of the company I have my home internet with I’d connected several devices to my Wi-Fi network. I had my iPhone connected to my Wi-Fi network, my PC connected to my Wi-Fi network and my Echo Dot connected to my Wi-Fi network. The technician who’d been at my apartment then had told me that I’d have no problem connecting other devices to my Wi-Fi network, should I get any new electronics in the future. Contrary to what I’d been told though I’ve had trouble with my Wi-Fi network ever since I’ve had my Mac connected to it. Well I guess a better way to say it is that when I’m connected to either of my Wi-Fi networks on my Mac, I always end up having to restart my computer after awhile because my Mac looses connectivity. I know this just happens here at my apartment because when I was on different Wi-Fi networks on the recent trip I took, internet connectivity worked fantastic on my Mac. I’m not sure if the reason that internet connectivity on my Mac sucks here is because the company I’m with does not have good service or whether there’s something else to it. However it’s highly annoying that internet connectivity on my Mac sucks here because I really want to continue working on the AppleCare Technician Training that I purchased. Part of me wants to call the company I have my home internet with to ask them if there’s anything that can be done to rectify this crappy situation I’m in. Yet another part of me doesn’t want to deal with them because they usually always blame the customer. That being said though I probably will contact them because it’s important to me to continue doing this training that I started. What this really boils down to though is that I can’t stand sitting and waiting on the phone for this kind of crap to be resolved. LOL. Yesterday afternoon I texted my assistant to ask her if she knows when she’d be able to start working for me again. She texted me back a little while later saying she’d try to be at my apartment today. Since I never heard from her after that text though I let her know that I’d need to get someone else because I really need help with cooking at the very least. Shortly after I’d sent her that text she replied to my message saying that she understood where I was coming from. I then texted the company who hired her for me to ask them if they’d work on finding someone else to be my assistant. A few minutes later the company texted me asking me if I’d want to keep a morning schedule. So I replied to her message saying that mornings are always best for me.
When I got to my apartment Tuesday morning I went through the things I’d received in the mail in Braille. I’d received something in Braille from VIAtrans telling me that VIAtrans now has an app for iPhone and Android users to use if he or she chooses to do so. I haven’t had time to look at the app yet but I’m excited that VIAtrans is finally moving forward with the times a little bit. After I’d read through the Braille mail I’d received I took my laptop out of my backpack and checked to see if the papers that were also in my backpack had been damaged by the water that had been spilled on me by someone on the train. Fortunately my laptop was unharmed. The papers that were in my backpack seemed like they still needed to dry though. Unfortunately though yesterday morning when I checked whether the papers in my backpack had dried, they were still sopping wet. I was bummed that I had to throw them away but when I thought of the fact that my laptop could’ve taken a huge hit, that put things into perspective real quick. LOL. Last night I went to group therapy. The group is lead by two therapists who allow the people in the group to discuss our experiences with trauma of any sort. Since I’d been on vacation for a month though I wasn’t able to participate in as much of the group as I would’ve liked. However the time I did spend in this group was not only fruitful but one of the experiences I’ll treasure most in my life. I feel blessed to call everyone in the group friends and to have met such great therapists who love what they do. Because in my experience not every therapist who is a therapist, is a kind, compassionate person. After I was sexually assaulted as a young adult I went to a therapist who I’d thought was going to help me through said traumatic experience. Instead though this particular therapist did nothing but badger me and tell me that I was emotionless when I talked about being sexually assaulted. Apparently that particular therapist didn’t get the memo that she should’ve been taught in school: everyone deals with traumatic experiences differently. Apparently that therapist forgot that she was human and that I too was human. Even though I was a grown adult by that time I still felt powerless to change the situation. It took my uncle telling me that I didn’t have to keep seeing this therapist if I didn’t want to, for me to actually make the choice to make that situation better. In fact I’ll never forget the day that I emailed said therapist and said something like “I’ve realized through having you as my therapist that healing needs to come from within me. I won’t be seeing you anymore.” That was it, just a short and sweet…or not-so-sweet email that I wrote. I never heard from that therapist again but I walked away from that particular situation having gained a ton of confidence in myself because as far back as I can remember that was the first time I’d really stood up to someone and told him or her that I wasn’t okay with the way things were going between us. Even though I had that particular experience with the therapist I saw after I was sexually assaulted a huge part of me still believed, or wanted to believe that not all therapists were like that one. Still though I didn’t go to therapy for years after I’d been sexually assaulted. Just for a timeline, I was sexually assaulted in summer 2009 and I went to one-on-one therapy in August 2017. When I actually made the choice to go to therapy though I felt great. I felt great because I did my research. I texted a close friend of mine to tell her that I wanted to give therapy a try and asked her for some resources to make that happen for myself. So my friend told me about PsychologyToday’s website and that website was where I read different therapist’s profiles. A lot of the therapist’s profiles that I’d read rubbed me the wrong way because they were written in such a way as to say “I hope that patients keep coming back to me.” Most of the profiles I’d read were screaming that sort of thing, actually. It was crucial to me to have a therapist that I could come to believe in so I sat at my PC for hours so that I could make sure that the therapist I picked to see, not only looked good on paper but felt good in my gut as well. I made sure that I was comfortable with the therapist I picked by exchanging several emails with the lady who ended up being my therapist before I’d even met her. I loved what she’d said in her profile though! She said that she wants her patients to grow and to be able to live a meaningful life regardless of the traumatic experiences they may have gone through. Of course there was the initial uncertainty of not knowing whether she had any negative perceptions of people with disabilities but that just comes with the territory of being someone who lives with disabilities. When I was sexually assaulted though I didn’t choose the therapist I saw. I went to a therapist that was recommended by someone who was a family friend. When I saw a therapist after I’d been sexually assaulted I didn’t want her to see me or treat me like a victim. So needless to say before I started going to therapy a few months ago I could never have imagined that going to therapy would be helpful in my life. Because as I’ve said in my blog before, most of society does not want to talk about things like sexual assault or mental health therapy. Yet I’m someone who wants to push the hell back on that thought and say why the fuck don’t we have these life-giving discussions with one another? I say these kinds of discussions are life-giving because in talking about our truths, regardless of what those truths are, we learn about each other and we have opportunities to really get to know the deep things about people instead of just surface-level bullshit. Through talking about trauma, death or whether a woman wants to have kids for example, you learn about a person’s character through each of those topics of conversation. Since many people are uncomfortable with women who don’t want to have kids for example, it’s easier not to talk about kids. That is yet another inspiration for my creating a public blog: the fact that I want to challenge people’s perceptions that “every woman should have kids.” I don’t think that at all. I think that some people have kids and are great with them, just like some people aren’t great with the kids they have. The reasons I don’t want kids though are well thought-out and need to be heard by the world. Because to be honest as a child I wanted kids. The thing is though that I wanted kids because I was a kid and most kids say similar things because that’s what is natural to us. Then as I got into high school my reason for wanting kids was because at 16-years-old I lost my sister TJ to an eating disorder. TJ was not blood-related to me but the bond she and I shared was as meaningful to me as I’d imagined a bond would be with a sister. TJ and I both had eating disorders, we both came from broken homes, we both loved the TV show American Idol and we both loved and supported each other wholeheartedly. As I got even older though I began to ask myself the all important question of whether I, Chelsea, really and truly wanted kids. The answer was no. Then in my early 20s I had different health issues appear like not being able to walk because my leg felt as if I’d broken it. Once that happened a few times, sending me to the hospital ER each time, I thought longer and harder about whether I saw myself as a mothering type of person. I eventually came to the conclusion that having kids just wasn’t meant to be for me. I’d have horrible traumatic experiences where I’d be walking somewhere and suddenly I’d visualize myself holding a baby and my arms suddenly spasming, causing the baby to fall to the ground and get seriously injured. When I say I had these visions, these visions happened in the daytime as well as during the night time. Each time I’d have these visions I cried in real life because those visions just fucked with me to my core. This sort of thing went on for a long while. I would tell people about said experiences and people would say “Oh, do you know how many people have dropped their babies in their lives?” That wasn’t the point though. I just wanted those people to embrace a decision I’d made that I knew was right for me. However years later I now realize that I needed to be confident in that decision for myself because other human beings would fail me just about every time. So in group therapy last night I talked about how when I was in my mid-20s I had my tubes tied. In fact it was December 2013 that I had my tubes tied. To this day I wake up thankful that I made this particular decision for my life. Might I change my mind someday about wanting kids? Sure. However why would I want to create a living, breathing human being inside of me when the world is already over-populated as it is? Why would I want to create a living, breathing human being inside of me when there are children that already exist in the here and now who could have a home with me? Why would I want to be pregnant and experience the shitty sides of pregnancy like constant nausea when any of the chronic health conditions I have could cause me to throw up or worse at any time? No thanks, I refuse to volunteer for those opportunities. Aside from the reasons I just listed though another huge reason I don’t want kids is because when I was a child I knew that if I was going to spend my life with anyone, I wanted it to be spent with someone I chose to spend it with, without kids. I wanted that person and I to be able to travel a lot, I wanted to give one person the love, attention, support and passion that’s been rare for me to experience in my own life. I still want those things even now. Might I change my mind about wanting kids someday? Sure but I might not change it either. It’s time that society hears a woman say that not only does she love her life without kids but I would argue that my life is more meaningful because I don’t have to take care of kids. I can live the life I want and travel whenever I want because I don’t have to worry about taking kids to and from school, I don’t have to raise a human being. I’m only responsible for and to myself. Society needs to hear that those things give a person a level of freedom that is rarely, if ever possible when kids are in the picture. Just because I choose to live my life differently than people think I should, or would live their life, does not mean that the way I’m living is wrong. The way I live is different from the way many people live his or her life. That’s the key word though, “different.” I embrace my differences because if I was like everyone else in the world there would be no reason for me to blog or otherwise share myself with the world in ways that matter. Even in last night’s group therapy session we talked about the fact that even though writing a blog is a seemingly small thing to do, it’s a contribution to the world nonetheless. I’d never thought about that but I’m glad that I was given the chance to think differently. Going back to therapy though and how helpful therapy has been for me this time around: I also chose to go to group therapy. I waited to go to group therapy until I’d taken the time to work on myself for a little bit though because I was really bothered by the fact my mom and her side of the family treated me horribly for years. I tried to convince myself that I’d dealt with their shitty treatment and gotten over it. Yet deep down it was eating at me. So when Chester Bennington from the band Lincoln Park committed suicide, I decided that I was going to get help for myself. I don’t know why Chester Bennington’s suicide affected me so strongly but I’m glad I started going to therapy. I think going to therapy was long overdue for me, honestly though. There’s just something about being able to confide in someone who is trained to deal with mental health-related issues. It’s comforting yet uncomfortable at times. It’s comforting because a good therapist will lead people to their own conclusions about his or her life rather than telling their patients what he or she should or shouldn’t do with their lives. It’s uncomfortable at times because it isn’t easy to talk about PTSD, family repeatedly traumatizing you or the shit that you’ve internalized because of the abuse you suffered for years. None of those things are easy but I knew I wanted to feel better mentally. I also knew that feeling better mentally was probably going to feel emotionally and physically draining at times. It was all of those things. It’s also been beautiful too though because I’ve grown tremendously as a person. I’ve learned how to be a better boundary setter. I’ve learned the importance of speaking up for myself, including when I feel wronged by someone in some way. I’ve learned to embrace my brokenness as a person rather than keeping quiet about my brokenness because it makes people squirm. I’ve learned to see myself as a queen even though I’m at times broken. If we were all honest with ourselves and others though I think everyone is broken in some form or other. Broken does not mean bad, that’s another thing I’ve learned. It can be bad, it just depends on one’s perspective. As a Jessie J song says “it’s okay not to be okay.”
I’ve been forgetting to mention that sometime last week I’d mentioned LCB to one of my friends. In the conversation I was having with said friend I’d mentioned someone who’d been a student at LCB at the same time I was a student at LCB. I’d mentioned to my friend that I wasn’t exactly close to this fellow LCB student but the fellow LCB student was special to me nonetheless. So the day after I’d had that conversation with my friend I reached out to Pam (LCB’s Director) through email and asked her about the fellow LCB student who’d been on my mind lately. She emailed me back the same day I’d emailed her and told me that Forrest had passed away a few years ago due to health complications. I write about this now because when I’d received that email from Pam about Forrest’s passing, the news of his passing hit me hard. I hate to say it but before reading Pam’s email last week it didn’t even occur to me that Forrest may not even be alive. It was kind of weird that that thought didn’t even cross my mind though because personally, on a daily basis I think about the reality that any day could be my time to die. Even now it’s a little awkward to write that truth because I’ve only spoken that truth aloud to one person in my life. Yet it’s a truth of mine and I’m working hard to embrace my truths no matter how hard those truths may sometimes be to speak about or write about. So anyway I was sad for the entire day that I’d read Pam’s email informing me that Forrest was no longer with us. Hearing about his passing really showed me that every day I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t forget to tell those in her life how she feels about them because none of us knows when it may be our time to leave this earth. So to my blog readers, whether I know you personally or not I hope you live the life you want to live. I hope you know that you are a valuable and valued human being. To Forrest, I’m sorry that I never told you how special you were to me. I regret not hanging out with you while we were LCB students. I hope that each day I’m still here on Earth your memory will live on through me and that your passing will help me tell people how I feel about them rather than keeping my feelings inside and assuming that people just know how I feel about him or her because I interact with him or her. In other news, Sunday evening was my last day in the different state. I left the train station on an Amtrak train at 10:00 Sunday evening and I was on the train until early this morning. When my ticket to my vacation spot was originally booked though my friend made sure to tell the Amtrak agent he’d spoken with that I was visually impaired. At that time the Amtrak agent he’d spoken with assured him that I’d have assistance by Amtrak staff getting on the train from San Antonio and getting off the train at my vacation spot. Then a few days before I’d left my vacation spot Sunday evening I called Amtrak to verify the time my train would arrive back into San Antonio early this morning. The Amtrak agent I’d spoken with assured me that things were set up so that I’d receive help from Amtrak personnel to get on the train from my vacation spot and getting off the train in San Antonio. However when I’d gotten to the train station at my vacation spot I was told by Amtrak personnel that there was no lower-level seating on the train that I could take advantage of. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing because both times my friend and I’d spoken with Amtrak agents, each Amtrak agent had told my friend and I that things had also been set up for me to sit in Amtrak’s lower-level seating area. My friend then showed the Amtrak personnel the tickets that Amtrak had emailed me (both for the trip to my vacation spot and from my vacation spot back to San Antonio). Even so though the Amtrak personnel didn’t have any suggestions about how this situation could be rectified. So I then asked the Amtrak personnel if there were restrooms on the upper-level seating areas of the train. I was told by Amtrak personnel that all the restrooms were on the lower-level seating areas of the train so I kindly asked Amtrak personnel if they’d please let me know when a lower-level seat became available. Because as it was I had difficulty climbing the stairs to get to the upper-level seating area of the train and given that I was traveling alone I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get to a restroom easily. Fortunately though Amtrak personnel came through and I was switched to a lower-level seat an hour or so after I’d gotten onto the train from my vacation spot. Fortunately I had two lower-level seats all to myself for awhile. Once the train had stopped at one of its station stops in Texas though a Spanish-speaking husband and wife got onto the train. Neither the husband or the wife spoke much English so they argued in Spanish with an English-speaking Amtrak employee about the fact that they wanted to sit together. That was interesting to watch because neither the Spanish-speaking couple or the English-speaking Amtrak employee really understood what the other person was saying. After a few minutes though the English-speaking Amtrak employee told the couple that at that time they couldn’t sit together because the majority of us had already been on the train for hours. The English-speaking Amtrak employee assured the Spanish-speaking couple though that when the train stopped in San Antonio in the morning they’d be able to sit together because my seat would become free. The Spanish-speaking couple continued to talk amongst themselves about the fact that they wanted to sit together as if they were little kids. I very quickly got what I think was a stress-related headache because of the couple’s griping so I decided to get up from where I was sitting. That way the couple could have their way and sit together and the rest of the train passengers wouldn’t have to hear the couple’s bitching anymore. I ended up sitting with a lady I learned was accident-prone. First this lady spilled water all over my left leg which got the left leg brace I wear wet. I asked her to please get some paper towels because my leg braces were not supposed to get wet or stay wet. Fortunately I was able to catch the wetness of my leg brace in time that nothing damaging happened to it. Then an hour or so after the lady had spilled water on my left leg she and I fell asleep. Not long after I’d fallen asleep though I woke up because I realized that my legs were causing me extreme pain. I was still half asleep though, even though I was also partially awake. So when I asked the lady I was sitting with if she’d scoot over I didn’t get a response from her. By that point I was fully awake and it was then that I realized that this lady’s entire body was on me except for her legs and feet. I tried asking her if she’d get off of me but I received no response from her. Fortunately one of the other ladies who was also a passenger on the train was still awake. So I asked her for help waking up the lady that was sitting with me. So the second lady walked over to where the first lady and I were sitting and tried several times to wake her up. After several tries of the second lady shaking the first lady awake, the first lady finally woke up. Once the lady I was sitting with was fully awake, the second lady and I told her that she’d fallen asleep on me. After the lady I was sitting with fell asleep on me I told her I was going to move seats because I couldn’t afford for her to keep doing such crazy things to me even unintentional as those things were. Before I had a chance to move seats though the lady spilled water all over my left leg again. I could not believe it! I know these stories probably sound like they’re coming out of a movie but I promise you dear blog readers, I can’t make this sort of stuff up. Once I’d switched seats though the rest of my train ride was enjoyable. Although by the time the third accident had happened to me by the first lady we were already in San Antonio or near San Antonio at that point. So needless to say I was eager to get off the train. LOL. Once I’d gotten off the train though knowing where my suitcase was, was a mystery to me because no one had told me where my suitcase had been put. However I told the Amtrak personnel that I’d initially been seated in an upper-level train car. Fortunately after a few minutes of Amtrak personnel looking for my suitcase and me describing what my suitcase looked like to Amtrak personnel, an Amtrak employee successfully located my suitcase. Apparently though the train wasn’t exactly stopped at the train station because the train station was just a hub. So an Amtrak employee drove me to the actual train station in a cart. Once he’d stopped at where the actual train station was located one of my friends was waiting for me. Interestingly though another of my friends was also at the train station to pick me up. On one hand I felt bad that two of my friends had shown up at the train station to pick me up. However it was also a good feeling to know that I was so cared about that two people had my back. Once I’d gotten into one of my friend’s cars I received a phone call from the other friend who’d showed up at the train station to pick me up. So I answered my phone to make that friend aware of what had happened and after things had gotten cleared up, the friend I was with took me to Whataburger (a fast food place that I love) to get something to eat. So while that friend and I ate our Whataburger food we caught up on how my trip was. I told my friend that going to a new state for the first time was so much fun, especially since the particular state I went to was very accessible for people with disabilities. I feel very fortunate to have such great friends who don’t hesitate to help me out when they know I could truly use the help I’m asking him or her for. I bring this up because when I was out-of-town one of my friends was kind enough to regularly check my mail for me and make sure that I didn’t miss anything important while I was away. Checking a person’s mail is such a seemingly small gesture but to me it was a tremendous help because I was able to keep up with everything here in San Antonio even though I wasn’t physically here in San Antonio. Shortly after I’d gotten back to my apartment early this morning I texted a few people I’m close to to let them know I’d arrived to San Antonio safely. I then went to sleep for several hours because I was exhausted from over a day’s train ride. Once I’d woken up after my nap I made a few phone calls to start getting things settled in again where my assistant is concerned because where cooking is concerned I’m unable to cook things on the stove at this time, given that it’s hard for me to stand up for a long period of time. So I usually have an assistant who cooks meals for me since i don’t have any tools that would make it possible for me to cook for myself. Since my assistant has other things going on in her life besides working for me though I knew it would take some time to get back into a routine with her.
I’ve spent the last month or so away from San Antonio. Being away from San Antonio has been where some of my most amazing memories have been made. There are numerous traumatic experiences that I’ve had throughout my life in San Antonio and because of those numerous traumatic experiences I’ve developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When I’m in San Antonio I feel awful. I’m constantly on alert at my apartment and most other places in San Antonio because of those traumatic experiences I’ve mentioned that have happened in that particular city. I’m very jumpy because I feel unsafe and like I always need to be prepared for danger which could be lurking at any corner. I sleep horribly because I have horrible night terrors. For anyone who doesn’t know, night terrors are not the same thing as nightmares. Night terrors are where the dreams a person is dreaming seem so real to him or her that he or she is actually drenched in sweat, crying or screaming loudly or has a racing heart. When I experience night terrors I experience combinations of the things I’ve just mentioned here. I initially wasn’t going to write about mental health issues on my blog but I got to thinking that I want people to see all of who I am because I’m human just like they are. Plus talking about mental health issues here is a great way for me to keep record of what I’ve gone through and who I’m becoming. So anyway being in San Antonio is not fun for me at all. So when I decided to take a month or so vacation in an entirely different state I realized how being in a place where a person hasn’t had traumatic experiences drastically changes his or her life for the better. Since I’ve been away from San Antonio I’ve slept the best I’ve ever slept, I haven’t had any PTSD symptoms whatsoever and I’m able to cope with stressful things somewhat easier than I can when I’m in San Antonio. I feel safe here in this different state which is something I can honestly say I’ve never experienced before. I feel like I’m able to be confident in myself, not just because I feel safe but because I know I’m capable of navigating the world with ease now. . There are things that I want to happen for myself and I’m determined to see those things through. One of the things that I want to make happen for myself is to be able to talk about trauma as I’m doing here on my blog. I think that society’s view of trauma as well as society’s view of people who have mental illness is unhealthy, to put it mildly. I also think though that I’m someone who has the power to change people’s thoughts on mental illness/trauma because I live with mental illness and trauma every day of my life. I’m told that people don’t think of those things when they see me or talk to me because I don’t come across as someone who has “issues” of that sort. Really though what the fuck does a person who has dealt with trauma look like? What does a person who sometimes resorts to bad eating disorder-related behaviors look like? I’ll answer both of those questions: a person who deals with trauma and who sometimes resorts to bad eating disorder-related behaviors looks like…YOU and ME. Just because I appear to some people not to have those sorts of struggles, does not mean that what people perceive about me is true. I’m making it known now that I’m no longer willing to keep secrets about myself. I’m no longer willing to let how people may perceive these things stand in the way of me telling part of my story. Because that’s just it: the fact that I live with PTSD symptoms when I’m in San Antonio and the fact that I sometimes resort to bad eating disorder-related behaviors, are things that I live with. These things are part of what makes me human. I’m well aware of the fact that society sees these sorts of things as things that should be swept under the rug because talking about these things forces people to be uncomfortable and sit with their discomfort. I’m well aware that talking about these things makes people feel uneasy because those people perceive mental health issues to mean that people with mental health issues are defective human beings who are not worthy of receiving love or experiencing joy. Unfortunately I used to buy into that mind-set myself: I used to feel that because I had mental health struggles, that I somehow was unworthy of having a meaningful and joyous life. I felt like because most of my family, the people who were supposed to love me, showed me otherwise, that their actions and words meant that I was unworthy of goodness because I was part of their family. Honestly it’s taken a lot of work for me to undue this thinking and it’s a work-in-progress on a daily basis. However I no longer believe that I’m powerless to change the cycle. The bullying and physical and mental abuse has stopped because I moved out of my mom’s house in May 2009. I’m nothing like the people who repeatedly traumatized me. Even though I experience PTSD symptoms when I’m in San Antonio I don’t have to continue to stay somewhere that repeatedly harms me every day. Because I’m an adult I have the power to make my own decisions about anything and everything. Sometimes though I forget that to the extent that i can control what happens in my life, I can make a conscious choice every day about how I want to feel and how I want to live while I’m here on Earth. The reality is that whether people are sighted, blind, multiply-disabled or able-bodied, every person in this world has things that he or she struggles with. Every person’s struggles are different but if we learn to speak openly and honestly with one another about how our struggles affect us then that will be one step towards making the world a more loving and healthy place for us all to live in. If we all work together as I’ve said in my blog before, the sky really is the limit!
Growing up in San Antonio Texas as someone with multiple disabilities wasn’t easy for me. I started out going to public school in Pre-K and went to public school until third grade. I actually went to a few different public schools in San Antonio because each public school I went to said that they didn’t have the available resources to teach a legally blind person Braille. Back then though I had usable eyesight so I was able to get by okay. When I’d read print materials though my eyes would always hurt like hell. My family tried to fight for each public school in San Antonio to teach me Braille. Finally one San Antonio public school had enough of my family’s involvement that the teachers started teaching me Braille. However as time went by the teachers told my family that I just couldn’t learn Braille because there was no way my fingers had the strength that was required to read Braille. So after I’d made it through a year of first grade it was determined that I repeat first grade. I honestly don’t know why I had to repeat first grade though. By the time I made it to third grade the public school I attended told my family that they were going to refer me to the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). So that’s exactly what happened. I was sent to TSBVI which was located in Austin Texas. I was a student at TSBVI from fourth grade through 12th grade. I had some great teachers at TSBVI who really taught me a great deal of things that I still use to this day. As with anywhere a person goes in life though, there were also teachers at TSBVI who were unpleasant to deal with. The biggest reason that I can think of as to why the public school in San Antonio Texas sent me to TSBVI in Austin was because at TSBVI I had access to materials in Braille. While I was a student at TSBVI I was also fortunate to attend public school part-time once i’d gotten to middle school and high school. In 8th grade I attended a drama class at a local public school in Austin. Being able to spend half a day at TSBVI and half a day at a local public school was hugely beneficial to me because while TSBVI was a great place it was also not like the real world. What I mean is that in the real world, people who are blind don’t have easy access to materials in Braille. Sometimes when I’d go to public school the book we were reading for English class was not available in Braille or the copy of the book that was available in Braille was not the same copy that my classmates were reading. Being able to go to public school part-time though showed me that I could still keep up with my sighted peers even though I had to work harder to do so at times. In 2006 TSBVI’s Superintendent selected me to go to a convention that was held by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). When I attended this NFB conference I had a chance to see that there were blind people who were lawyers, doctors, Orientation and Mobility (O&M) instructors, you name it. It was there at my first-ever NFB conference that I started to think there was hope for me to live successfully as a legally blind person. So after I’d graduated high school in 2007 I knew there was a lot more that i needed to learn about living independently as a blind person. Since I was still in contact with the people I’d met at my first-ever NFB conference I asked them about the NFB-based training centers that exist. I was told that the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) was the best training center in the nation. So I did my research. Fortunately I was able to convince my Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) to send me to LCB for 9 months. I was a student at LCB from September 2007 until June 26th, 2008. I was in the Adjustment to Blindness program for adults where I learned how to cook, how to clean, how to correctly travel with my cane and how to build my confidence through being in a wood shop class. One of the best things about LCB is that while there are set assignments that LCB students have to complete, the programs at LCB can still be modified to fit people’s needs. So for example since I have CP in addition to blindness one of the things that I completed differently than people usually did them was O&M. There were many O&M lessons I had that the instructor spaced out for me so that I could take rest breaks when necessary. So it wasn’t that I did less work than other LCB students worked. I simply worked differently than many LCB students did. Another example of how the LCB curriculum was modified for me was that I was not an extravagant cook. When I say I learned how to cook what I mean is that I learned how to follow recipes and make foods out of the box. To this day I’m not much of a cooker. However I definitely want to become a more frequent cooker at some point. An impactful class that I had at LCB was Braille where the Braille instructor noticed that I read Braille incorrectly. I used to read Braille with one or two fingers on my left hand which caused me to read Braille incredibly slowly. Before LCB’s Braille instructor told me that my method of reading Braille was incorrect though I had no idea that I was even doing anything wrong. However LCB’s Braille instructor worked me hard and showed me the correct way to read Braille. Once I’d increased my Braille reading speed more than I ever thought possible, my love of reading Braille increased exponentially too. To this day I read at least 200 words a minute in Braille which is on par with how fast most sighted people read print. Needless to say attending LCB for the 9 months that I was a student there was where some of my most fond memories were created. The Braille instructor in particular was someone who I felt very close to. There was many a class time where he and I talked about life, the importance of Braille and anything else we could think of. He recently passed away and if I have any regrets in life, those regrets would be that I haven’t been the best about keeping in touch with people I care about who are not in my immediate surroundings. I never told Mr. Whittle how I felt about him. So thank you Mr. Whittle for being a bright spot in my life when I was young and impressionable. Thank you for showing me that blindness could be funny, it could be hard at times and it could be one of our most valuable teachers in life if we allowed it to do so. Thank you for all the laughter, all the smiles and support that you gave me. I always looked up to you like my Grandpa. I love you. One of the LCB cooking instructors recently passed away as well. I never told him how I felt about him either. He was another person who made me smile a lot. He and I’d often joke around with one another because he knew I was from Texas and he claimed Texas as his home. I didn’t get to know him real well since I wasn’t a student of his but he was still special to me. One of my fondest memories of him was that every day he and his wife would have lunch with one another. If one of them wasn’t in the lobby area at lunchtime the other one would go find him or her. Their bond was awesome to see. There was another LCB instructor who recently passed away. She was one of the O&M instructors. I didn’t get to know her well because I wasn’t a student of hers. However she was definitely someone that you couldn’t miss. She was pretty firm with her students but when people did the work she’d asked them to do she showed how proud she was of him or her. These three people all passed away in 2017 and while each one of their deaths is still fresh to me I know that each one of them would want those who love them to continue doing what we can to change people’s perceptions of how blind people live the lives we want to live. That is definitely something I want to continue doing this year, for myself but also to show the world how those before me taught me life lessons that I strongly believe I would not have learned otherwise. Thank you Mr. Whittle, Jeff and Arleen for each making the world a brighter place while you were here on Earth. I love each of you dearly.
This particular blog entry will be a little different from the other blog posts I’ve written here in that I’ll be doing some reflecting as well as sharing a recent empowering experience I had. This past Friday a friend and I spent the day traveling on trains to get to where we wanted to go. We left in the early afternoon, took Uber to the train station then spent a couple hours on said train. Our travel went pretty smoothly except for the fact that when we were on the first train my friend’s cane got stuck in the train’s open door. What had happened was that the two of us wanted to get off at a certain stop but the train closed its doors too quickly for that to happen. My friend and I’d both stood up really quickly once the conductor had announced that the stop we wanted to get off at was coming up. However since the train had closed its doors within 10 seconds of opening them all my friend and I could do was stand up on the train and wait for the next stop to be announced. Unfortunately my friend discovered that his cane had gotten stuck in the train door when the train door had already closed. Since the train had started moving shortly after my friend’s cane had gotten stuck in the door though he tried to figure out how to get the conductor’s attention. Some of the other train passengers tried to help us get the conductor’s attention too. Once the conductor had seen us my friend explained to him what had happened. The conductor then opened the train door that my friend’s cane was stuck in. Fortunately my friend’s cane was intact. Once the conductor had recovered my friend’s cane he showed my friend that there was a button on one side of the train doors. He then explained to my friend and I that if the button was pressed, the button would automatically alert the conductor that someone wanted to get off the train. Before the conductor had told my friend and I about this button and what it would do though my friend and I had no idea that there was even a way for someone to alert a conductor that he or she needed help. Since my friend and I’d missed the stop that we’d originally wanted to get off at though we waited until it was time for the last train stop to happen. Once the last train stop happened my friend and I quickly got off the train. Once we’d gotten off the first train we found a train station employee (redcap) who drove us in a cart so we’d arrive timely to the next train. Before we got on the second train though we stopped at a Starbucks near where the second train was located because I wanted to get something to drink. That particular Starbucks was only small enough for people to order food and drinks which made things a bit complicated for two blind people. After I’d ordered what I wanted to drink my friend and I did our best to find a place to stand where we’d be out of the way of people who were ordering their food. Although going to Starbucks is something that many people do regularly and without much thought, going to this particular Starbucks in that particular setting felt empowering for me. It was empowering for me because the environment was very noisy which made it a real challenge for me to navigate as someone who doesn’t always feel like a confident blind traveler. So the fact that I was able to navigate a huge train station in such a noisy setting was eye-opening to say the least. Because honestly, just a couple years ago I’d completely lost what confidence I’d gained as a blind person over the years. The reason I’d lost a ton of confidence a couple years ago was because I had to have brain surgery to replace my shunt. Recovering from that particular surgery took me at least a year. Honestly though my confidence didn’t start to come back until I started going to the gym this September. The more I went to the gym, the more confident in myself I became. The more confident in myself I became, the more I naturally wanted to actively do a wider variety of things. Being in this particular state has given me my confidence in ways I never thought possible. Although being in a new state has been overwhelming it’s also been one of the greatest experiences of my life thus far. Since it’s already the New Year here are some things that I want to happen for me going into 2018. This list is not written in a specific order but rather it’s written in the order that I thought of the items in. 1. I want to continue to find the balance of being assertive yet kind when possible (not because I feel obligated to be kind to people but because kindness goes a long way. 2. I want to continue pushing the envelope in any way I see fit. 3. I want to continue my fitness journey of staying in shape. 4. I want to continue being in contact with people who grow me, people who support me through life’s curveballs and successes and people who I can do the same for. 5. I want to continue actively looking for employment and maybe even actually get hired somewhere I love to work at! 6. I hope to continue progressing through the AppleCare Technician Training that I’ve recently purchased. 7. I want to keep growing in my knowledge of the Mac and any other technology that I can get my hands on. 8. I want to continue knowing my truths and sticking to those truths. 9. I want to continue using my voice (both verbally and written) to communicate what I believe to be right as well as to advocate for myself and the world at large. 10. I want to do what I can to make the world a much better place than it was before I came into it. 11. I want to live life to the fullest because in the past I have not truly done so. 12. I want to take advantage of more social and networking opportunities because both of those things will greatly contribute to my health in positive ways. 13. I want to continue working through shame rather than letting shame dictate how I move through life. 14. I want to continue to enjoy the freedom that being my authentic self provides me. 15. I want to read more Braille books because in the past I’ve tried to convince myself that reading audio books will have to do since there are probably more audio books that exist than Braille books. Interestingly I’ve been comfortable with the fact I’m not an auditory learner for years. However last year when I was at WSB I learned to be comfortable listening to VoiceOver read things. I think attaining that skill was definitely a great thing for me to do. What I think was extreme though was for me to stop reading Braille books just because audio books were easier for me to access. Braille is just as important to blind people as print is to sighted people. It feels weird to bring up the fact that I actually stopped reading Braille books for a time last year. However I wanted to give people a full explanation as to why I wrote here about the fact I want to read more Braille books this year.