I was born September 20, 1983 in a rainy town in Washington State. I lived with my parents and two older brothers during the majority of my childhood until my siblings decided it was time to leave the nest. I had a fairly normal upbringing as those things go.
My parents were a little more over protective than I would have liked but now that I am a mom, I understand. I come from a large family that is scattered all over the country. The loved ones that are within the walls of my home however are of the most importance. They are my two amazing and gorgeous daughters and Shorky puppy. I can honestly say that my girls have shaped who I am today and I love them even more for it.
I had my oldest when I was still a teen. She was born the August before my senior year of High School. It is not something that I would recommend to any young girl out there but I wouldn’t change a minute of it personally. If I did, I wouldn’t have her and that is not an acceptable outcome for me to even attempt to contend with.
My youngest daughter took a little longer to get here. She finally made her appearance seven years later. She has a bubbly personality that will keep even the hardest critic laughing. The two of them are my whole life. I often tell them it’s me and them against the world.
Being a blind single mom of two is challenging but truly not as difficult as one might think. I can do everything that you might do; I just have to do it differently. Life can be a struggle, but that is the case for anyone whether they are blind, sighted or their skin has purple stripes.
I have been legally blind since birth. I wasn’t diagnosed as such however, until I was five and entering school. My parents did what any parent does when their kindergartner is getting ready to go to school and had me get an eye exam. That is when they were struck by the blow that their child was legally blind. At the time they said I had Macular Dystrophy. I now know that I actually had Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and C.O.A.T.S which is an acronym for a giant group of words that even I can’t remember and it’s my condition… go figure.
At first my parents really didn’t believe the news. They couldn’t fathom how it could be true. I showed no signs that anything was overtly wrong with my vision. I climbed trees, played catch and took part in all the other normal five year old activities. The doctor assured them that his diagnosis was correct and the reason they couldn’t recognize it was because of my strong ability to adapt. The vision I had was all I knew. To me it was normal so I made do with what I had. He said I probably thanks to my age just assumed that how I saw was how everyone saw. Perfect visual acuity is 20/20. The higher the numbers, the worse the vision is. Keeping that in mind I will tell you that my visual acuity growing up was around 20/200 in the left eye and 20/400 in the right.
I know that seems like a staggering number when considering the low numbers needed for perfect vision. But as mentioned before it wasn’t bad enough to keep me from doing anything. I still rode a bike, walked without assistance, read books and tormented my brothers.
It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I was diagnosed with RP and the C.O.A.T.S diseases. I didn’t even know I was legally blind until that day. Upon going to the doctor for a standard eye exam, I raved to her about the fact that I was of driving age and couldn’t wait to get my license. That was when she informed me that I would in fact never drive and exactly what the reason for that was. All the air was instantly pushed out of my lungs and I felt like my heart hit the floor and a Mac Truck came along and demolished it as well as me.
My parents hadn’t told me yet because they wanted me to know that I could handle life. They wanted me to know I was still capable of doing anything I wanted without the need to use my disability as a crutch. They hoped that the day I found out they could then show me everything I had already accomplished to allow me to see it didn’t matter. So to say that they were angry at the doctor for divulging information to me that they wanted to be the ones to tell me was more than just a little under statement.
In case you were wondering, I never went back to that doctor after that day. I was glad for that though because she had the bedside manner of a nat.
They in no way were trying to be cruel. I understand that now but I admit I didn’t back then. I hated them for keeping it from me and it took me a long time to come to terms with it. They would have never done anything whatsoever that would hurt me in any way, shape or form. In their eyes they were doing their jobs as parents and protecting their daughter.
I don’t know how my reaction would have turned out had my parents been able to be the ones to tell me. But finding out the way I did sent me in a violent tail spin that was plummeting to the Earth at drastic speeds. I lost control of myself and my life for a while after that.
I did things I should have never done and rebelled against everything under the sun. To say the least I was pissed off at the world. I genuinely thought that my life was over and there wasn’t a whole lot left for me. I hid the knowledge from my friends for a very very long time. There were some of my friends that I never told. I didn’t want them to think I was weird or treat me different. It was pretty irrational honestly. I acted as though they would suddenly see me outwardly different than they had the day before I found out. I never gave them the chance to accept me for who I was. I was ashamed of my condition so I thought they all would be too.
I took out my pain on everyone around me. I pulled away from some of the people that were closest to me. I couldn’t imagine that my life would ever be the same again and I certainly didn’t think that it could ever be great.
When I got pregnant with my daughter that I often refer to on this blog as Princess, it gave me a violent and much needed shove into reality. Luckily I still had some good in me left that I knew it was time to grow up. My severe depression and ridiculous need to be like everyone else was no longer important. What mattered was that I was about to bring a new life into this world and she deserved the best mom in the world. The fact that I was a basket case was no longer relevant and it was time to get over it.
For that reason I can honestly say I don’t know where I would have ended up had I not gotten pregnant with Princess. I would like to say I would have figured it out and pulled my head out of my butt but who knows?
At the beginning of my third trimester I took classes at the local community college. By doing so it put me ahead on credits. This meant that when I went back to school my senior year I only had to take three classes a semester instead of the usual six. I was very lucky and my High School had a wonderful day care program that allowed me to still attend regular classes without difficulty. This was important because both my parents worked at the time and I didn’t want to send their lives into any more of an upheaval than I already had. Since I only had to take three classes I was able to spread my day out so that every other class I was in the day care with Princess. That was my favorite part of the school day besides of course the time when the final bell rang signaling dismissal. This is not to say that I didn’t like High School because I did. I actually loved High School and aside from a few exceptions had all excellent teachers.
Some of them were the reason I decided to pursue writing in the first place. I had always loved writing but they really inspired me to turn a hobby for poetry and short stories into a passion filled dream for the future.
Also during the last trimester of my pregnancy is when my vision took a drastic turn for the worse. I was laying on my parent’s bed one evening watching television when I noticed the change. The differential between my eyes was great enough that until I covered my good eye I didn’t know there was a problem. When I did I realized that my vision had gotten even worse in the right eye. My parents had a light/fan combination type fixture in their ceiling. It has five lights coming off of the fan that are in the same formation as a five on dice. When I covered my eye three of the lights disappeared. It scared the crap out of me and I immediately called for my parents to come into the room.
Once they learned of the situation they knew that a trip down to Oregon to my retina specialist would be imperative. The very next day was when we made the trek. My amazing doctor is located about an hour or so away from where I lived. He is an excellent doctor and a very kind man, who I still see today.
He informed us that my retina had detached. Part of the problem with my condition is that I have leaky blood vessels and that is what had caused the new issue. I needed surgery but it was going to have to wait until after Princess was born. Because I was having a scheduled cesarean section I had to wait even longer for the eye surgery until I was healed enough to go under the knife again? Princess was born at the end of August and the first of many eye surgeries was scheduled for December.
All of this meant I wasn’t able to go back to school officially until after winter break. I was utterly disappointed. It was my senior year and I didn’t want to miss a minute of it. I was able to keep up with my homework though through a home school program they offered new moms so that did make me feel a little better.
The months came and went with no incidence. The C-Section went flawlessly and I was adjusting to motherhood wonderfully. Thankfully my vision didn’t deplete any more in the time it took to get to December.
I can say with only a little weirdness that I was seriously more scared for my eye surgery than I was for the C-Section. The thought of someone rummaging around in my eyeball was terrifying. As mentioned though, I have a great doctor that helped put my mind at ease.
The surgery required was called a vitrectomy. Everyone has liquid in their eye called the vitreous. Its main function is to keep your eyes shape, without it your eye would not stay round. It sits around the retina and is essentially like water. Mine had to be removed and replaced with silicone oil that would act as a stronghold against my retina forcing it to stay down and attached. It is also a thicker liquid that would help prevent further leakage from interfering in the future.
The surgery went awesome and aside from a decrease in vision and the pain I was completely fine. The part that really sucked was that Princess was over my allotted weight limit so I couldn’t pick her up for a while. That totally drove me crazy but with the help of my parents and other family I was able to get through it with minimal problems.
The years that followed held several more surgeries. None of them however, were to in any way cure my diseases. Their function was to do nothing other than stabilize the vision I had left. At least for now, there is no cure for what I have. The medical field is making great strides in their research though so I am hopeful they will come up with something in my lifetime.
I have been totally blind for around ten years. I have learned that I was wrong when I was a teenager. It really wasn’t the end of the world. Sure there are obstacles and sometimes even mountain sized ones that I have to climb over barefoot in the snow during a hurricane. But those types of things are few and far between. I still have my health, my girls and friends and family who love me.
Yes it is true that some of my friends couldn’t handle my disability and we drifted apart. But it is also true that friends drifting in and out of your life are as normal as breathing. I know now who my true friends are and I cherish them.
I have also learned that I have to work twice as hard as the average person to get things done. But that’s okay, it’s made me a stronger person and I’m better for it. Disabilities suck I’m not going to lie but they also offer an excellent opportunity for you to not only learn about yourself but for you to teach others tolerance as well as acceptance for what’s different. It has allowed me to take to heart the term “don’t judge a book by its cover”. It’s given me respect for others in worse situations than mine. It’s allowed the next generation of young people in my life to learn that different doesn’t mean bad. They have a better understanding for someone with a disability and it’s taught them empathy.
All of the things I have learned is why I started Playing The Blind Card
It is a blog that aims to bridge the gap between the blind and the sighted through the outlet of humor. If I have learned anything throughout my experiences it is that it’s okay to laugh. It’s even okay to laugh at yourself. After all if you can’t laugh when things happen how can you truly be happy.
Starting that blog is what got me back into my writing. The passion has been running through me since than stronger than ever. I had already started writing Clandestine but hadn’t touched it in a very long time. I started playing around with it again and before I knew it, the book was done.
I started my writing blog which is of course where you are reading this biography and now here we are. At the age of twenty-eight, my lifelong dream is becoming a reality. My first novel is coming out next month and I can hardly wait. Even if the book never sells one copy outside of my family I am still proud to know that I’ve followed through with my dream. Not very many people can say they are doing what they love but I am living proof that those people do exist.