Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Fireworks Display

Fireworks and Eye Safety During Covid-19

The Fourth of July is coming up this weekend. It is typically known as a time of fun, remembrance and celebration for many Americans. Friends and family gather together to enjoy early morning parades, backyard barbecues, and nighttime fireworks. But with the onset of Covid-19 what will this year’s July 4th observation really look like? I did a little  sleuthing around on the internet and got mix results. Some cities and states are going to proceed business as usual and have gatherings. Others are going to shut them down completely. But regardless of how you celebrate please stay safe and well. I am sharing what I will do this 4th and also some firework safety tips.

Audio Described Fireworks Presentation

Empish Holding Replica of the Capitol and Surrounding Buildings

as for me I have decided for the first time to participate in a virtual audio described fireworks event. The American Council of the Blind is hosting their annual convention via Zoom Videoconferencing this weekend. Part of this event will be an audio description of the 2019 firework display at the Capitol. When I was sighted, I would attend fireworks for the holidays but after losing my sight it was very difficult and I really didn’t see the point. No pun intended! But now that audio description is available, I am going to give it a try and I am pretty excited. Oh, and for those that are saying, “what is audio description?” Audio description is a feature available to us blind folks that uses words to describe what is being seen. It is usually used for TV, movies and live theatre to describe scenes between the dialogue. For example, facial expressions, body language, costumes, movement in a scene and also sub-titles. It enhances the entire experience for those of us who are blind and helps us have an inclusive time with our sighted peers.

Staying Safe from Firework Injuries

If you decide to celebrate the 4th with fireworks at home because of Covid-19 there are ways to stay safe. Fireworks are exciting, fun and spectacular, but don’t let an accident spoil your celebration. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 180 people end up in the emergency room everyday due to injuries from fireworks during the  months of June and July. Lots of those are children, especially teenagers. The typical victim is an unsupervised teen, at home, with a group of friends. They are playing with fireworks and chances are one of them will end up in the emergency room. Some of those injuries are eye-related. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that fireworks can cause devastating and life-changing injuries that range from skin burns and thermal burns of the eye to bleeding in the eye, retinal detachment, and even a ruptured globe and blindness. In order to stay safe, the CPSC has provided some tips to avoid injury:

1.  Never allow young children to play with, or ignite, fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt some metals.

2.  Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of fire or other mishap.

3.  Light fireworks one at a time, then move away quickly.

4.  Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.

5.  Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

6.  Never point or throw fireworks (including sparklers) at anyone.

7.  After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.

8.  Make sure fireworks are legal in your area, and only purchase fireworks that are labeled for consumer (not professional) use.

Fireworks and Eye Safety Tips

Prevent Blindness  provides useful info on eye safety and fireworks if you opt to use your own:

  1. If you suffer an injury due to fireworks, especially to your eyes, seek help immediately.
  2.  Do not rub or rinse the eyes. 
  3.  Do not apply pressure.
  4. Do not put on ointments or take any blood thinning pain medications like aspirin or ibuprofen.

I hope this post was helpful as you and your family prepare to enjoy the 4th of July. If you do decide to celebrate at home keep these things in mind about fireworks and eye safety.

Empish with Fresh Hair Style at Salon

I’m Now Feeling Safe to Get Hair Styled After Georgia’s Reopening

On Monday, May 18th, while dawning a facemask and gloves, I safely and cautiously return to the hair salon. It had been since mid-February and like most people in America my hair was long overdue for some professional TLC. During all this time I have been sheltering in place and only going out for essential errands. I was maintaining my tresses to the best of my ability and saught  guidance over the phone from my hair stylist. Since I work from home my daily routine was just to comb and brush and place in a ponytail.  Then shampoo and deep condition biweekly.

On April 24th, Governor Brian Kemp allowed hair salons, barber shops, gyms, and tattoo parlors to reopen. the following week it was restaurants and movie theaters. When this announcement was made the number of Covid-19 cases were consistently rising and many people were concerned with this decision. It was all over the state, local and national news and everyone had a thought and/or opinion on if this was a good idea for the state of Georgia or not. Whether they would venture out or not. It is a month later and the conversation is still going strong and as of this writing  and reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution the number of Covid-19 cases has not decreased. But with all that being said a list of procedures were assigned to the reopening of these businesses.

When I spoke to my hair stylist about all of this, she told me that her salon was not going to open right away. That they needed time to put in place the procedures issued by the Georgia State Board of Cosmetologists and Barbers to be sure that everyone would be safe in the salon. I agreed and totally understood. It was not until another week that she called me back and said that the salon was ready to open. She emailed the list of procedures to follow and how business would be conducted moving forward. In the email she listed things such as:

Temperature checks. Stylists and clients must check their temperature one hour before their service. If your temperature reading is 99°F or above you will have to reschedule your appointment. (Once the salon has a touchless thermometer all stylist and clients who enter the salon will be checked).   Any employee or client who has a temperature above 99°F should be sent home immediately and not allowed to return to the salon until they have no fever and no evidence of COVID-19 symptoms.

• Personal Protective Gear. All clients must wear a mask! This is mandatory to wear a mask.  The only time that a client will not have a mask is at the shampoo bowl. I will place a towel over your mouth and face.  When the shampoo is over you will be asked to put your mask back on. Also, all stylists are required to wear masks. Most of the time I will be wearing gloves.  You are welcome to bring your own personal towel for your face if you prefer.

 • Ask each client entering the shop the following questions:

Every client will be asked if they have had a cough? Ø  had a fever, Ø  or have you been around anyone exhibiting these symptoms within the past 14 days? Ø  Also, are you living with anyone who is sick or quarantined?

 • Limit people in the salon. I will limit the number of clients. I will only see clients by appointment. Since I am only taking appointments early in the morning, the number of clients in my waiting area will be limited. If a client arrives early, please call me on my phone and wait in your vehicle.

Maintain social distancing at all times! It has been recommended that clients not being serviced in the salon wait outside the salon until the stylist is done with the other clients. Also, spacing between persons in the salon should be at least six feet, except when I am servicing clients. I will move my chairs to the outside of my door so that only the client that I am working on is in the room with me. Each client will be draped with a clean cape.

After we discussed these new procedures, I felt safe to return and made my appointment. She specifically scheduled the appointment for Monday, which in the salon world is their off day and are closed for business. She knew this would be a good time because the salon would virtually be empty lessoning the opportunity to interact with other people keeping both of us safe. When I arrived, I was the only one sitting in the waiting area and I kept my facemask on the entire time until it was my turn. While waiting, I listened to podcasts on my smartphone. When she called me to the chair, I removed my mask and place the towel over my nose and mouth as she worked on my hair. I did the same at the shampoo bowl.  During the time I was there another stylist came into the salon but was stationed in the front while we were in the back. So, we were able to keep social distancing with no problems.

Empish Wearing Facemask and Gloves with White Cane

I am not sure if this will become the new normal of hair styling but I have a funny feeling that it will. Until we can create a treatment plan and vaccine, we will have to wear facemask and practice social distancing at the hair salon. I found the experience not much different than in the past but just a little mentally exhausting because of wearing a facemask. Also adjusting to the quiet is something I will have to learn to deal with. Salons are not just places to get your hair styled but also to chat and gossip. To talk, laugh and share but that is hard to do with a mask or towel over your face.  they are also places to congregate as people come in and out all day. Yet in order to be safe this all might have to change.

Spray of White Funeral Flowers

How Do You Grieve During a Pandemic

This blog post is one I never thought I would write but feel compelled to share. I have recently dealt with two deaths. One a friend and one a relative. One I was close to and one I barely knew. One lived near me while the other lived in another state. One was disabled while the other was not. But the feeling of sorrow and not being able to grieve in the traditional way is felt all the same. Grieving during a pandemic is something I would have never thought I would experience but yet here I am.

My friend was an active member in the blind community and died in March. She lost her vision to diabetes and was a fierce advocate when it came to health, fitness and diabetes education. We would talk about that quite often. For years she ran a support group that helped other blind folks who had diabetes and was very supportive of eating healthy and exercise. We use to take exercise classes together years ago at the Center for the Visually Impaired. We would also have occasional Saturday lunches with other blind friends in the community. I remember one of our last lunches we talked about life and family as we munched on salads at California Pizza Kitchen. We both were huge salad lovers! We also enjoyed reading and were members of a blind book club at GLASS Atlanta. When I got the call that she had passed in her sleep I was deeply sadden and in shock. The Corona virus was just hitting us here in Atlanta. Sheltering in place and practicing social distancing was launching., So, no large or traditional funeral gatherings. As I talked to mutual friends all we could do is just talk and share stories over the phone. We could not gather and commiserate in person. No humming to old favorite funeral songs and hymns. No eulogy. No crisp or glossy paper program to keep in your Bible or photo album. No passing out extra tissue to wipe tears. No hugs or embraces given to her family or other friends who also were grieving. No repass. This type of grieving was weird and strange and new. It was like she died but didn’t because we weren’t really allowed to get closure in the traditional way. You had to kind of figure it out on your own. And so, I did.

Then a few weeks ago I got a call from my aunt that my Paternal grandmother died of natural causes. Again, I am sad and in shock. But my grieving is different as I was estranged from my grandmother and this side of the family. Due to no fault of my own she decided to not have a relationship with me. I grew up not really knowing her. When trying to reach out she rebuffed me and now any chances for a relationship are permanently gone. That is a big part of my grief   and what I feel the saddest about. When I got the call the grave side funeral was the next day in Alabama. So, there was no opportunity for me to attend. I had to absorb the news and grieve at home in my house. Not sure how to think or what to feel for a blood relative that I had no relationship with for most if not all of my life. I was told by a relative that attended the funeral that social distancing was practiced and that people had on facemasks and gloves. Obituaries and programs were mailed to me. Again, I had phone conversations with friends and family but all of this is from a distance. I must figure out how to deal with this death as well.

During this time of a health epidemic we are not able to participate in the traditional funeral ceremonies and rituals of our culture. It is hard and we must find new ways to find closure and celebrate the lives of the people we love and cherish. whether we were close friends or complete strangers as we move through these days of the pandemic and figuring out our new normal, we will all have to find our way through the grieving process.

Empish on Treadmill

Celebrating National Fitness Day by Exercising at Home

Today is National Fitness Day and the goal is to inspire others through the power of fitness. Fitness is more than just staying in shape, losing weight or completing exercise goals it is about being good to yourself and celebrating what your body can do. It is about finding joy and confidence as you support others. So, as I was reading the website about National Fitness Day I was thinking about my years of exercise and now what that looks like under Covid-19. I have not been impacted too much with sheltering in place and practicing social distancing when it comes to getting in a good workout because I had stop going to gyms long ago when I lost my vision. I created a home gym back in 2003.

All my equipment is placed right in front of my entertainment center so I can either watch TV or listen to my music CDs while I work out. I have even placed one of my audio book players nearby to listen while I exercise. On a typical week I work out about 3-4times alternating between my treadmill, exercise bike, floor mat and hand weights. I am still making efforts to lose weight but I feel so much better that I created my own home gym to exercise. Whether it rains, snows or is sunny outside it does not matter. Whether a friend comes to workout with me it does not matter. I have everything I need set up in my home so I can do it independently and when I want.

 

Now that the corona virus has hit us, I am even more aware of the importance of exercise.  I need to stay active to fin off medical and health problems. I want to stay strong both mentally and physically especially if I have to combat this virus. When I heard about Angel Eyes Fitness, a non-profit program that helps blind people stay in shape, I added that to my repertoire.  For April and May the class meets via Zoom videoconferencing each Saturday for an hour. We do a combination of aerobic type exercises. I am really loving the change in my routine plus the connection to others in my community. It has been a long time since I have been in an exercise class and I enjoy the camaraderie and working with an instructor.

So, what do you do to stay fit and active? What game plan have you created to exercise at home during this pandemic? Share your exercise regimen in the comment section below and let’s inspire each other to stay fit.

Empish Holding Shopping Cart

Online Grocery Shopping Difficult During Covid-19 Pandemic

The Covid-19 virus has  hampered my ability to do online grocery shopping. It has virtually come to a standstill. I have been purchasing my groceries this way for the last couple of years and loving the ease and convenience. Plus, as a person with a disability it has been a God sent. No more dealing with public transportation or trying to get a ride or paying for an Uber. No more waiting patiently for a store representative to take me up and down the aisles to help me find items.           I even had same day delivery so I could order in the morning and my groceries be at my home by late afternoon or early evening. What a breeze!

But now my favorite grocery store app is no longer working because of the high demand. Each time I tried the app an alert would say items are no longer available and pick a substitute but sometimes the substitute is not available either. Or the item appears to be available but when I tap on it for some strange reason it won’t go into my cart.  I have to have a $30 minimum to checkout and I can’t get enough in the cart to make the purchase. I had even signed up for their annual subscription for delivery thinking with Covid-19 happening this would be a wise thing to do. But during the 15-day trial period I cancelled it without penalty.

I am back in the store again. But this time feeling a little stressed because we are dealing with a pandemic and I should be at home sheltering in place and practicing social distancing. It is kind of hard to do that in the grocery store as a blind person because you need assistance. A friend took me and we both dawned our gloves and homemade scarf masks. We got there first thing in the morning when the store opened in hopes of avoiding large crowds. I held on to the shopping cart while she pulled it from the other end. This would give some distance although it was not completely 6 feet. As we went down the aisles, I began to get hot. I had worn a sweater because it was a cool day. I took the sweater off thinking that would help. But I remained hot and began to sweat. I realized the scarf mask was the problem. While taking a tissue to wipe my face; I am thinking that people are going to see me and think I got the virus! Then I really began to sweat! LOL! I finally had to take my scarf mask off because I was just getting too hot and feeling agitated. I needed to calm down and breathe. Relax and clear my mind. Tell myself that everything was going to be okay and that I would get through this. My friend was encouraging as she told me to do what made me comfortable.

We were amazed at the lack of body soap on the shelf in the health and beauty section. there literally was little to no soap! What was up with that? Of course, we had to hunt around for toilet tissue. We finally found some no-name brand. But who can be picky? We grabbed 3 packets and asked at the checkout how many because we didn’t want to hog. All the food items I needed I was able to find and I was grateful for that. At the checkout my friend explained the 6 feet distance markers on the floor. I had heard about that. I also had heard several ways to keep my credit card clean–from wiping it down with sanitizer to using a tissue to wearing gloves. I opted to just clean my hands with sanitizer and go from there. I brought my own cloth earth bags I had washed beforehand and we loaded up my groceries in them and headed out of the store. Once I got home, I changed my clothes, ate breakfast and then began the process to sanitize my groceries before putting them away.

Beside dealing with my Scarfe mask situation the experience was not too bad. It was more mentally exhausting than I realized. Perhaps just because of everything going on and trying to keep social distancing and being blind and touching things too. But what else could I do? This is all new, different and challenging. How are you grocery shopping now? Are you shopping online or physically going into the store? What has the experience been like for you?

Watching Movies at Home During Covid-19

People Watching Movies at Home

People Watching Movies at Home

This weekend I would normally be out of the house watching a movie at my local movie theater. I would have already checked the listing of new releases earlier in the week and started making plans. I would have gone online reading the reviews and ratings on the films I wanted to see. But because of the Covid-19 pandemic I am at home.    The theaters are closed until further notice and I am watching more movies at home than ever before.

Prior to Covid-19 I would watch movies occasionally through streaming and mostly on DVD. My primary place to do this is Netflix. I have been a subscriber for many years and used it as a backup to going to the actual movie theater. If I missed a movie or wanted to watch it again, I would rent the DVD and catch it at home. In the last year or so I upgraded my subscription and added streaming.  On my iPhone I can watch all kinds of movies from miniseries, classics, blockbusters and Netflix’s own original content. the thing I love the most is that a lot of Netflix content is accessible to the blind and a large amount of their movies are available in audio description.

Let me explain what I mean by that. When it comes to the DVD’s I can go to the Netflix website and check for audio description. Movies are usually labeled under the details section with the verbiage “video description English” or descriptive audio” or some similar terminology. Not all movies on Netflix are available in audio description. If it is something I still want to see I will do some research beforehand so when I do watch it, I understand what is happening.  Now, the tricky part of watching a movie on DVD in audio description is that I have to get sighted help.  The audio description track is inside of the menu options and is displayed on the TV monitor which of course I can’t see. To remedy this, I use an app called Be my Eyes that uses sighted volunteers via my iPhone’s camera. The volunteer will see my TV monitor and direct me through the menus to turn on the audio description for the movie. So, what I do is hold my phone in one hand with the camera facing the TV while in the other hand I hold my DVD remote to press the buttons for the menu options. You might be saying, “That seems like a lot of work just to watch a movie!” And I would say, “You are right!” But I love movies and so I do the work. I am also sharing this with you so that you understand what the blind community has to deal with just to do things that sighted people take for granted every day.

Now, streaming is a bit easier to manage. Through my iPhone I have audio speech settings turned on and when I launch the Netflix app audio description will automatically play if that is available for that particular movie. Again, Netflix will indicate on their website if the movie is available in audio description. Additionally, I can get a listing of  audio described titles from the Audio Description Project. each week the site provides an updated list of titles along with a listing in alphebetical order of movies available. I place those movies on my play list and watch when I get ready.

because of these two options I have the ease of curling up on my sofa, laying in my bed or relaxing in my recliner to watch a movie at home whenever I want. But today it seems that having Netflix is not just a luxury but a necessity to keep me entertained since I can’t go out.

Zoom Videoconferencing Helps Me Live Work and Play During Covid-19

Zoom Logo
Zoom Logo

I don’t know about you but I have seen an increase in the request to join a meeting through Zoom videoconferencing.  I would dare to say that almost daily if not weekly I get an email invite to a webinar, meeting, seminar, townhall or chat. If you have not gotten an invite for Zoom in your in box just wait it is coming! But for those who are not familiar with Zoom let me fill you in.  According to their website, Zoom brings teams together to get more done in a frictionless video environment. Our easy, reliable, and innovative video-first unified communications platform provides video meetings, voice, webinars, and chat across desktops, phones, mobile devices and conference room systems.

I have been using Zoom since last year but my usage has really ramped up with the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been a great tool for those of us in the blind and visually impaired community because we can easily connect with each other without the stresses of transportation. The Zoom platform is also very accessible with our adaptive technology that we need to use on our computers, smartphones and tablets. So, when I saw this increase in Zoom invites, I had to smile and chuckle a little. As we shelter in place, practice social distancing and work from home the Zoom platform has become even more essential. As a result, I have found some ways that Zoom helps me live, work and play during Covid-19.

  1. Socialization-As I shared before I was using Zoom last year. It started when I joined the Bookshare book discussion. I talked about Bookshare in a previous post here on Triple E and how much I love reading their books on Voice Dream. Well, last summer I decided to join their Zoom book discussion and I have been participating ever since. Each month we get together for a live chat to share our thoughts on reads we like, love or can’t stand.
  1. Education and Technology-To keep up with my adaptive technology I listen to webinars and seminars through Zoom. Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Freedom Scientific offer a large volume of educational opportunities for me to learn about the latest technology advances for blind people. Recently I attended a webinar about Microsoft Teams as it related to a current blogging contract.
  1. Volunteering-For years I have been a peer advisor with VisionAware, a website that provides resources to the blind community. As peers we meet once a month via conference call to discuss ways we can enhance the website, contribute blog posts and respond to inquiries from the community. We recently switched to Zoom for our calls so that our international peers can participate easier and more often.
  1. Medical-Just last week I participated in my very first telemedicine Zoom call. One of my doctors opted to meet with me this way verses a face-to-face visit because of the Covid-19 virus. A link was sent to me and we talked during our pre-scheduled appointment time. Things went very well except for the video portion Since in my previous meetings I don’t use it. After a couple of tries I was not able to turn it on. I am currently reading a tutorial so I can correct this problem.
  1. Physical Fitness-I exercise on a regular basis in my home using a treadmill, recumbent bike, mat and weights. But I get bored and have been looking for a change. I came across Angel Eyes Fitness, which is a non-profit program that helps blind people stay in shape. They offer Zoom workout classes because of the challenges with transportation. So, this past weekend I went to the website and took advantage of the free Pilates class.

Zoom has become a great way for me to live, work and play while dealing with the Covid-19 virus. As I shelter in place and work from home, I anticipate I will be using Zoom more and more. I see Zoom as a way for all of us to stay connected and live as we move through this challenging time.

My Blindness Doesn’t Determine My Happiness

Ever since I lost my vision in the late 1990s to Vogt–Koyanagi–Harada (VKH) syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease characterized by chronic, bilateral uveitis, I made a decision that I would strive to live a happy life. I was determined that my blindness would not control me and I would figure out how to live and make peace with my situation. Now, let me tell you this was not an easy decision! I still have struggles with it to this day. But it is something that I work at on a regular basis. On March 20th we will be celebrating the International Day of Happiness where the theme is Happiness Together; focusing on what we have in common rather than what divides us. This theme ties right into my own personal philosophy of life. One of the things that has kept me going and staying happy as a blind person is the positive community of friends I have cultivated over the years.  I have worked on being a part of groups that feed me and fill me up. It is important to be around positive people but also people that are honest and will tell you the truth along with allowing you to vent and release your frustrations. It has been especially uplifting with the epidemic of the coronavirus/COVID-19 virus. I have been talking to friends daily as we have been checking on each other and having encouraging conversations.

Empish Working in Home Office
Empish Working in Home Office

But during those early years I would have never realized that my life would have taken such a drastic turn. When I went blind, I had no idea that I would be permanently disabled and also working in the disability community. Today I am a writer, blogger and consultant in this arena. It is like what Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”  My plans after college were to work in the public relations field, make lots of money, purchase a nice car and a beautiful home. It was not to go blind. I could have focused all my attention on what I lost. That would have been very easy and expected. No one would have hardly blamed me. But I decided to shift my mindset because I had a long life ahead of me and I wanted to be happy in the life I was going to have blind or not. It was a decision I had to make. So, I took lemons and made lemonade. I used my journalism degree and worked in the disability industry. That is where I am today. I realized that I am responsible for my own happiness. I can’t blame my blindness or other people for that.

So, as we celebrate International Day of Happiness, I encourage you to not only make a personal decision to be happy but find ways to help others be happy too. Be intentional in your acts of kindness. It doesn’t take much. It is easy for us to focus on the things that divide us but true happiness comes from seeking out the common ground and seeing our humanity.

How I Manage Anxiety Around the Coronavirus Virus

Picture of a Microscope
Picture of a Microscope

Each day more and more info comes out about the coronavirus/COVID-19 virus. I am sure you have heard and read the reports so I won’t go over it here on my blog. As a result, I could allow this constant bombardment of news and information to sweep me away causing me severe stress and anxiety. But I decided to empower myself, to not panic and maintain as much control of my life as possible. I want to share with you some things that I have done and will continue to do as we work through this global crisis.

1.  The very first thing I have done is pray. I am a spiritual person and believe in the power of prayer. I have found that this time of supplication helps to calm me and still my mind and soothe my soul. I can relieve my worries and fears and leave them with God.

2.  Reading news from reputable sources has helped me to stay calm. I look at websites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization. Since I live in the Atlanta-Metro area I also go to Emory Healthcare.  These sites have been great resources to gather accurate information on the Coronavirus/COVID-19  Virus.  I also read the news instead of watching it on TV. Broadcast programs can tend to dramatize and sensationalize information that traditional print media doesn’t. I read newspapers like the New York Times  and The Week. reading also gives you a fuller, deeper story than just a sound bite.

3.  I have been talking to friends and family for emotional support. I think it is a good idea to share fears, worries and concerns with people in your circle, and who you love. They can help you feel better and offer comfort and encouragement.

4.  This is an excellent time to focus on the things that I can control. I have no way to control the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Virus but their are things that I can. By focusing on those things, I have been able to keep myself calm and at peace. Some of the things that are in my control are recommendations by the CDC such as washing hands often, exercising regularly and eating healthy foods. All these things I can do. I have also made more efforts to get rest and sleep by going to bed a little earlier and/or sleeping in a little later. My work-from-home schedule allows me the flexibility to do this.

5.  Focusing on doing fun things helps me relieve stress and anxiety. If you have been reading my blog you know that I love reading and watching audio described movies. So, I am continuing to enjoy those things during this time. I am a believer in enjoying life and living to the full.

6.  I decided that I might not travel to visit family. I have a couple of trips coming up in the next month or two but I am not sure if I should travel or not so I had a talk with my mother about it. We talked it over and decided depending on how things go with the Coronavirus Virus that it would be okay not to come to the next family gatherings. My grandmother will be celebrating her 95th birthday and my nephew will be graduating from high school. Both events are very important to me but it might not be wise to go. I have made peace with the decision and will make alternative plans such as sending my grandmother a big bouquet of flowers and goodies instead. I have already started planning so that when the time comes around, I will be okay emotionally with whatever decision I need to make.

These six things are a part of my personal game plan to deal with the COVID-19 Virus.  I have no idea what the future holds but I will prepare and plan without panicking to the best of my ability. I will rely on facts not fear. I will look at evidence not depend on my emotions. This is all a day-by-day process. I believe with these strategies and my faith in God I will be able to successfully manage anxiety around the COVID-19 Virus.

Making Peace with My Lack of Sleep

Empish Yawning
Empish Yawning

This week, March 3-9, is National Sleep Awareness Week. The Sleep Health Foundation contends that sleep is the third pillar of health, alongside diet and exercise. I would strongly agree because for the last 14 years I have battled with a sleeping disorder.  Like so many others I took my sleeping for granted but now I realize how essential sleeping is to my overall quality of life.

In 2006 I began to have severe sleeping problems. For years I had always been a good sleeper. Going to bed at the same time each night and rising around the same time in the morning. Even taking a long nap during the day did not negatively impact my ability to get a good night sleep. But something shifted and I began a long and stressful battle with sleeping. At first, I thought it was just stress from normal life challenges. My schedule at work had changed. I was freelance writing on the side. My roommate had just moved out. A romantic relationship had just ended. So, I naturally thought that just the everyday things of life were causing me to not sleep well. But my lack of sleep persisted to the point I was not sleeping at all. Many nights I had difficulty falling asleep and would just lay in the bed for hours wide awake and feeling stressed. Other nights I would fall asleep with no problem but could not stay a sleep. I would wake up from the slightest noise or to go to the bathroom and then I could never get back to sleep. Other nights I just couldn’t sleep at all and would literally stay up for 24 hours. And lastly, this impacted me during the day, where I would nod off at my work desk or doze on the bus.

At first, I tried over-the-counter sleep aids. I tried nature relaxation music. I tried drinking warm teas and taking warm showers. None of these remedies worked. Something was majorly wrong with me and I needed to seek medical attention. First, I went to see my primary care physician and he immediately thought I had sleep apnea. He gave me a referral to a sleep doctor for follow up. When I saw the sleep doctor she agreed and scheduled me for a sleep test. I spent the night in a lab while they monitored my sleeping. In addition, they monitored my breathing, heart rate, any body movements and probably other things I can’t remember! The results showed that I had Sleep Apnea. I had episodes where I had woken up several times from lack of breathing. I was given a prescription for a CPAP machine. But this device never worked and something in the back of my mind told me that this was not the true cause of my severe sleeping problem. I shared this concerned with my sleep doctor but since the lab results showed sleep apnea there was not much she could say. I shared my worries with friends, family and co-workers; expressing that the CPap machine was not helping me. Some nights I felt worse after using the machine than before.

Sleeping Problems and Blindness

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Empish Sleeping
Empish Sleeping

At one point I came across some information on sleeping disorders and people with disabilities. I had never taken my blindness into consideration with my sleeping problems. A friend told me that since people who are totally blind can’t see sunlight, their bodies could not tell it was time for sleep. A local vision rehab center was doing a workshop for people with total blindness who were experiencing sleeping problems. I went and learned that my poor sleeping might be due to the fact I was totally blind and not to sleep apnea as originally thought. I began to do more research and have more conversation with people about this. I even went back to my sleep doctor to discuss the possibility. She said that was something new that she was not aware of and would look into it. But in the meantime, I continued unsuccessfully to use the CPAP machine. After multiple fits and starts, I finally gave up on that darn machine! I had become a bit depressed but also resolved that this just might be my life and to get over it. But a friend told me about a governmental clinical trial. They were looking for people who were totally blind, had no light perception and were having problems with sleeping. Well that sounded like me, right? I contacted the researcher and signed up. For two years I provided saliva samples about once a month to the Oregon State University Sleep Lab. They analyzed my samples and discovered that my circadian sleep rhythm was all over the chart. I would do well for a time and move over to the left. Then I would do well for a time and move all the way over to the right. Basically, I was zigging and zagging all over the medical chart. They found this interesting and asked me to sample more often and stay with the study a little longer. I agreed. At this point in my life I was feeling tired, depressed and desperate for a clear diagnosis of what was wrong with me. So, I was willing to persevere to get to a solution. I also wore a sleep watch and provided any changes in my health, eating or exercise routines. I told my PCP about the clinical trial and that I had stopped using the CPAP machine. He ordered another sleep test and it was discovered that I really did not have sleep apnea after all. The lab results showed that I did not have enough breathing episodes to warrant the condition.

At the end of the sampling, the researchers told me I had non-24 hour sleep wake disorder. This is a serious, chronic circadian rhythm disorder that affects a large majority of people who are totally blind. They had discovered that my internal body clock had gotten off track and felt it was because of my blindness. At some point in those first years of poor sleeping, I must have lost all light perception which explained why for years I had good quality sleep and then in 2006 things changed. They told me there was no cure but I could take very small amounts of over-the-counter melatonin an hour or two before bedtime. The important thing was to stay on a good sleep routine. I was saddened there was no cure but relieved that I had a diagnosis and some medication I could take. I decided to make peace with my situation and just continue to do the best I could. I decided to not get stressed about it anymore. To not be depressed about it anymore. To sleep to the best of my ability.

Then in 2010, I heard about the research that Vanda Pharmaceuticals was doing. They were working on developing a medication that would help remedy this problem. Well, they did just that and in 2014 they were given FDA approval for the drug call Hetlioz.  I have been on this medication ever since and it has greatly improved my sleeping. Again, it is not a cure and my sleeping is not like it used to be nor is it perfect. I still have moements when I don’t sleep through the night. I still have moments when I wake up and can’t fall back to sleep. But I have better sleep than before and more importantly I have made peace with my sleeping disorder.

Before you nod off, let’s  talk. do you have problems with sleeping or sleep wake disorder? What is your sleep regiment ? What things do you do to make peace with your lack of sleep? Join the conversation and let’s chat about sleeping disorders and blindness.