“I am a visually impaired girl who wants to travel around the world. 2 years ago I went to Russia with some friends and I realized I couldn’t follow them, my vision or my lack of vision didn’t allow me. I felt really sad. I also realized I need a cane during the night.”
~Beatriz García Martín
I had some hard months but here I am! 2 years later I achieved a dream, to see the Taj Mahal. I have been into 11 countries this year, I sometimes travel alone, I feel confident during the night with my blind cane and I feel happy. I want to see the world but I am losing my sight due to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) so it is now or never, I choose now. Although I travel now, I believe I will find a way to enjoy trips in the future with little or non-sight. If I believe I can, I CAN!
What I love most about Beatriz’s words is how they speak of going through loss and then the power of choice. It’s an important and timely universal message applicable to anyone. Life’s struggles will threaten to hold us back. However, when we choose to live life despite our struggles, we are able to move forward.
Beatriz is living her dream of seeing the world and sharing photos of her travels to some of the most exotic locations on Instagram. You can follow her here: @theblindcanegirl
Blind Beauty 15 Featured Image Description:
The image is Blind Beauty’s faux fashion magazine cover. Beatriz is on the cover standing in front of the majestic Taj Mahal with her white cane.
Blocks of white text on Beatriz’s photo are: “Bold | She Keeps Pressing Onward,” “Blind | She Has Deeper Insight,” “Beautiful | She Sees To The Heart Of Others”
The story of my sight loss began 20 years ago, but it was not until last year that it got very interesting and very challenging. My diagnosis is Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), which is a progressive degenerative retinal disease that is quite insidious. In its early stages, it causes loss of night (low-light) and peripheral vision. In the later stages, central vision may also be affected, causing total loss of light perception.
For many, many years I thought I was beating the odds and had myself convinced that I was not going to end up like other people with RP. My rude awakening came in the form of being declared legally blind at the age of 37, having to give up my job, and losing my driving privileges. Everything crystallized at that point, and I had to face the reality of what was really happening in my life – RP was winning, and I was losing.
I learned that rock bottom is a very real place. Darkness folded in all around me, and I, very briefly, welcomed the embrace of the darkness. I felt myself sinking and saw the brightness of my light dimming, but I could not remain there. My life would not get better by chance. It would require change. With all my strength, I cried out to God to bring me out of the darkness, and He answered.
I knew I had to put a plan in place to get myself on the right path again because if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The first call I made was to my Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with my state’s Division of Services for the Blind to request services that would enable me to reset and restart my life as a woman who is legally blind. After suffering from a broken bone in my foot last summer, I knew my top priority was getting a cane and training to use it so I started there. That was my first step toward regaining some of the independence I lost. Often, God takes us through troubled waters, not to drown us, but to cleanse us.
The next thing I did was by far the most difficult – I made the decision to stop hiding my hidden disease. I “came out” on Instagram and openly shared my story for the world to see and join me in navigating the murky waters of RP. This was such a tremendous step for me because I never let people in on my secret shame and feelings of inadequacy due to my visual impairment and also because I worried so much about what people would think. Never again will I underestimate the greatness inside of me because of the limited thinking inside of others.
Presently, I am enrolled in the Adapting to Blindness in a Learning Environment (ABLE) program at the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind (RCB). The ABLE program is designed to teach people who are blind and visually impaired invaluable skills for independence and success at work and/or school. Once I complete the ABLE program at the RCB, I will be returning to school in the fall to set out on the path of a new career that I can sustain as a woman who is visually impaired.
My plan for the future is to become a teacher for students who are blind and visually impaired. There is no greater way to effect change in this world than by imparting knowledge to future generations. Not only can I teach them, I can show them that they are as unstoppable as they choose to be. The only limitations we face in life are the ones we place on ourselves, and my hope is that I will inspire the children of our future to live their lives without limits.
It is easy to hear a person’s story of loss and only recognize loss, but I look back over my story and see how much I have gained. My confidence has grown exponentially, and it is true confidence, not just the façade I previously presented to the world. Once I accepted and began living my life as a woman who is visually impaired, I was free to be myself, loudly, and I firmly believe that beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself. I have learned to release negative people, emotions, and thoughts that do not benefit me. I have come to understand that if going blind cannot stop me, nothing can; and happiness is not about getting what you want all the time, but loving what you have and being grateful for it. Most importantly, though, I have learned what matters in life – my faith, my family and friends, and the impact I can make on this world.
To move forward we must accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be. We must be kind, loving and patient with ourselves, as well as others. My transformation was painful but I did not fall apart; I just fell into something different with a new capacity to be beautiful. Everything happens in divine order. The good, the bad, the unexpected, and the unfortunate. Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. Regardless of what is in front of you, it is a part of your path. Follow and trust, believe and hope, forgive and remain thankful, be brave and keep going!
“A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless we fail to make the turn” ~Helen Keller
A Resilient Spirit
As I began to lose my eyesight from Retinitis Pigmentosa, the Helen Keller quote became a mantra. Blindness was not going to stop me from being active and engaged in life. At first, I didn’t know how but knew a resilient spirit and so many encouraging family and friends would help me stay active and engaged in life.
It isn’t always easy yet being willing to be open to those new, at times challenging turns in the road was so important in my resilient journey. I recall early on in my vision loss, my vocational rehabilitation counselor, Marianne, left me a sweet message saying “now Becky I’m paraphrasing from the quote … remember when one door closes another door opens but we can’t longingly look back at the closed doors. You can do this.”
There was time for feelings of loss and then a time to look up and move forward. I reflect on the decisions to begin mobility training, choosing the guide dog lifestyle, tandem cycling, running with a guide and tether and so many other turns in the road that expanded my world in new ways.
Resilience In Practice
After completing my master’s degree in counseling and gaining experience in several agencies, I began to dream about having my own private practice. I knew it needed the word Resilient in it. As Steve, my incredible husband of 32 years, and I brainstormed, the name Resilient Solutions resonated as a name for an individual, marriage, and family therapy practice. Today, eleven years later our practice has grown to 15 therapists. Truly it warms my heart when someone says, this feels like such a safe place to heal.
It is a privilege to work with clients to create their own resilient plan as they face life challenges and navigate the turns in their road. As we begin this journey, it may seem like coping is the best we can do. Soon we transition to thriving in the journey. As a woman in Chicago shared when I was presenting on Coping with Vision Loss, “I don’t want to just cope I want to thrive!” Indeed! The remainder of my presentation transitioned to thriving. We can thrive in the journey.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, somehumor andsome style.” ~Maya Angelou
We do have the ability to bounce back and thrive under adverse or challenging circumstances. We can rebound from life’s difficulties and challenges in a healthy, transformative way. For me, vision loss has become an incredible teacher and helped me transform, thrive and give back in so many ways.
After completing the Brene Brown Daring Way Traininga couple of years ago I knew I wanted to bring a group of women who were also experiencing blindness to come together. Last year 20 women, all blind or experiencing a degenerative eye condition, came together for two retreats. They came to Utah from various parts of the country. My heart is full of gratitude for these remarkable women and the opportunity to share in this journey together of Daring to Own Your Story. This summer we will expand this program with two more retreats. Details are at www.oasiscenterforhope.com/retreats.
As a business owner, licensed clinical mental health counselor, motivational speaker wife, mother, avid marathon runner, cyclist, hiker, traveler, friend, and now author: Look up, move forward; who happens to be blind, my life is full of abundance. I am grateful for my vocational rehabilitation counselor many years ago and so many others who encouraged me to find new doors and gain the adaptive tools to do what I wanted to do.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” Brené Brown, from The Gifts of Imperfection
I shared the following after reaching my goal to run the Boston Marathon:
Throughout my life, there have been many challenges much bigger than the work of qualifying for or running the Boston Marathon. However, running has become an incredible teacher and a great analogy for other aspects in my life. When I dream big when I am persistent and don’t give up, when I tackle challenges with grit, accept help and lend a hand to others with gratitude for all that is around me, I create a life that’s rich, peaceful and full of joy. It’s exactly the sort of life I’ve always wanted. Page, 207 Look up, move forward.
Photo of Becky and her guide dog Georgie. Becky is seated in a chair and Georgie is sitting on the floor next to her.
Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune L-R Suzette Hirst, Becky Andrews, and Brenda Petersen. Hirst and Peterson ran as Becky’s guide in the Boston Marathon, and take turns guiding her, nearly every day, as they run in their Bountiful neighborhood. Friday, July 23, 2015.
Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Becky Andrews with her third guide dog, named Georgie, in downtown Salt Lake City, Wednesday, August 12, 2015.
LCMHC, FT, Positive Psychology Life Coach, EMDR Therapy Provider at Resilient Solutions, Inc.
Author of Look up, move forward
Director of the Oasis Center for Hope, a nonprofit with the mission to support, educate and empower individuals, families, and communities experiencing a loss.
When I was first diagnosed with RP it was a big life-changing experience. I was told I was going blind and there was nothing I could do to prevent this. The initial diagnosis by a Doctor who had little education on the subject was very callous. His uncaring approach made me feel hopeless and lost, which caused me to go into depression for a 2-year period. That depression stage of my life was tough as if I didn’t want to live anymore.
Feelings Of Isolation
The feeling of being alone, not knowing what will happen and what the future would bring really hit me hard. I disconnected from the world and the feeling of not wanting to live anymore was always on my mind.
Eventually, I with the right people. The right specialists who helped to give me hope and let me know this eye condition shouldn’t stop me from living the life I want and it wasn’t the end.
In 2014, I started to really look at my life and I knew I had to change my mindset. That this depression was the jolt I actually needed to start focusing on what really matters and to completely revamp my life by staying positive. It was at this point with the help of my caring husband by my side, I have done just that.
Kicking It Up A Notch
I started getting involved with The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) as a support group leader, I am part of The Foundation Fighting Blindness(American and Canadianorganizations), also I have recently joined Trailblazers Tandem Cycling Club(a registered charity, who provides recreational cycling to people who have limited or no vision).
In the summer of 2016 I conquered Cycling For Sight, a fundraising event with The Foundation Fighting Blindness to find a cure for degenerative blindness. This was one of my biggest accomplishments thus far because it has been one of my goals since being diagnosed, it wasn’t easy but I was able to complete the 91km event.
Now that 2017 is here, I have signed up to do the full race of 180km Cycle for Sight that will be held in June 2017 and signed up for different activities that I want to try. So you have to wait for it and see what I’m up to!
Catching Up With Mara
I will also try to blog more this new year and you can find me on atemara.com or simply my Instagram, atemara. Outside of social media, I pretty much keep myself busy with all the organizations I’m involved in and I try to live a fit active lifestyle by working out and eating healthy, but of course occasionally I must indulge.
Another big aspect of my life is traveling, spending time with loved ones and just enjoying life to its fullest. I always say, no disability should hold us back from anything our hearts desire. We can still do it all.
WOTM 34 Featured Image Description:
Photo of Woman On The Move Mara in boldblindbeauty.com’s WOTM template. She is looking very stylish wearing fashionable shades while sitting outdoors holding a coffee cup in her right hand. Three-quarters of the template contains the photo and in the bottom portion is Mara’s quote in teal text.