September 29, 2016

Preparing to Go

It is a wet day here in Phoenix. Yes, you heard me right! It is raining lightly now, but earlier this morning, we had a very nice solid down pour. I am not sure why we are getting so much rain in September, but we are, and I am so thankful for it. It seemed like our monsoon stayed to the west of us all summer long, and now as we are heading into Fall, we are finally seeing rain. Whatever the reason, I am content. It is good to see gray skies and to hear raindrops falling softly right outside my window today.

Moreover, it is a cool day. My Yahoo weather app says that it is cloudy and 79 outside (woohoo!) so that means it is NICE, so very nice, out my door right now. Praise God! How I love the cool fall weather and the grayish skies that come along with its arrival!


Fall Skies Are Here

It is Thursday, September 29, and that means that in less that two days, it will be October 1st! I am so excited for October to arrive. First, it is my birthday month, and while I am not happy about my birthday (number 54), I am happy to have the cool-fall like weather that October brings to the desert southwest. Yes, we may not get falling leaves, but we do get moderate weather (lows in the 80s), and well, that is such a blessing, such a blessing.

Second, I love the way the sky looks in fall here in AZ. I was telling this to my parents yesterday -- how the sky is different somehow -- less intense, more pallid -- than normal. Perhaps it is just the way the sun sits in the sky or the fact that the sun is less "intense" then normal, but the colors and the shades are cool and they make me very happy.

I have blogged about this before, how I love pinks and blues and grays in the skies. I do not care for blue and yellow -- the colors of Arizona's summer sun -- at all. I mean, our skies are cornflower blue (beautiful, intense), but with the hot yellow sun, the color and the hard contrast really do a number on my eyes. I also find that the harsh contrast bothers me so much that my attitude and my mood suffers. It is interesting, but just right now -- this minute I mean -- I thought about this fact and it dawned on me that the reason I cannot stand the harsh light is because of my IRLEN Syndrome. Sigh!

You see, I am a low-light person, and as such, I cannot handle any harsh light. I mean, harsh light gives me headaches, makes me feel sick, and yes, even causes me to get irritable. As a result, I choose to live in the dim light of the low watt incandescent bulb. I prefer the soft shadows, the peachy pinks and warm glows of yellow, to that of stark, bright, and intense light. Thus, I prefer -- no, I need natural sunlight -- the soft filtered kind of sunlight. I have been this way since I was a child, and the fact remains that I simply cannot tolerate any bright light, but extreme harsh light -- whether natural or man-made -- is the worst possible thing for me.

I was never formerly diagnosed with IRLEN Syndrome. It is not something most doctors or eye specialists are familiar with and many people simply believe it is not a real disorder. Yet, there is research out there that has demonstrated an actual visual processing disorder that affects upwards of 40% of the population. IRLEN Syndrome, if you are not familiar with it, is "is a perceptual processing disorder. It is not an optical problem. It is a problem with the brain's ability to process visual information" (IRLEN.com). It is also called Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, or Visual Stress.

I learned about IRLEN about 10 years ago when I was homeschooling my son. I was researching processing disorders, since I believed that my son suffered from some type of visual learning problem. He was in 5th grade and couldn't read, write or spell. He simply struggled to process language, yet he was super smart, had an excellent vocabulary, but when it came to testing, he always tested low. I was struggling to find curriculum to teach him at home, and one day while browsing the Internet, I landed on Irlen.com and well -- I found my answer! Yes, I found MY ANSWER and not his. I saw my childhood right there in black and white and I knew that all my struggles as a child were not made up. In fact, according to Irlen.com, this visual processing disorder runs in families. My older brother is dyslexic. I have this visual disorder and was told that I had some language processing problems but because I didn't pronounce as dyslexic, my condition was overlooked. Mostly, I was told that I was lazy, unfocused, and that I was simply "klutzy." Of course, almost all my symptoms are typical of Irlen sufferers, so once I found out that this is what I actually have, I knew instantly that I have suffered with visual stress my entire life.

I really never connected the two together because I have always had visual processing problems. I mean, as a child, I couldn't read very well. I struggled with reading for many years, and finally, I was able to learn how to memorize words to the point where I could guess 50% of the time and get them correct. Over the years, I have struggled with other aspects of IRLEN such as my clumsiness and my inability to catch balls or judge distances. I alway thought it was my poor vision (-725 in each eye, plus some astigmatism) that caused the problem. Now, though, I know that my inability to park correctly or my tendency to always turn right versus left is just part of my brain wiring. I simply have learned to adapt to my condition. It amazes me that I am able to do doctoral level coursework, but in truth, as someone with a visual processing disorder, I take comfort in knowing that I was always smart as a child, but I simply couldn't see well enough to be able to perform in class like my peers.

The funny thing is that here I am at 54 years of age, lamenting that I am stuck in the desert where contrast runs high almost all year long, and finally I am coming to the understanding that I need to move where there are low-light conditions most of the year. Now, I don't necessarily want to live in the frozen north or in the rainy Pacific Northwest, but there is something about northern skies that draws me in, that comforts me, and that gives my weary eyes a break.

Over the past 10 or so years, I have noticed that I struggle to live in Arizona. The intensity of the sun is the biggest problem, and of course, the unending and unrelenting heat is a contributing factor. I have thought a lot about this and I realize now how much my eyesight has suffered since coming here 20 years ago (this November 1). I mean, the frequency of headaches, which I blame on seasonal allergies and sinus may actually be the result of intense sun-filled days. I think the problem started for me when I moved here in the late fall, early winter. I came at a time when the sun was not as intense as it is normally in the summer. I remember that first summer well. We were living in a rented condo in Scottsdale, and I spent the entire summer indoors. I felt like a trapped animal, only venturing out during the evening hours. I became severely depressed, and I returned to San Jose for nearly three weeks in order to "get better." In the end, I came back to Scottsdale, but I never really understood how the sun affected me. On top of all of that, I also became very, very ill from a lung infection (I think I contracted Valley Fever), and I nearly died.

I have survived these past years by spending most of my days indoors. I mean like I am indoors unless I have to go to the store or to work. The rest of the time, I sit inside in low-light. I never thought that my photosensitivity would be such a hardship until this past summer. I think year 20, has been by far the most difficult for me. This summer we had little monsoon weather reach us so that meant 100% sunny skies. Today, is such a blessing for me, simply because it is gray outside. Lovely, wet, gray!!


In Closing

As I sit here and enjoy the blessing of the gray sky, I cannot help but thank the Lord for His provision this good, good day. I am so grateful that He has sent the rain to comfort me. I am praying these cloudy days and wet conditions will continue. I am so ready to leave the heat and bright lights of Arizona and head to the wet, gray climate that blankets much of the middle and eastern parts of the US. Oh yes, Lord, I am so ready to move. I pray you will open that door soon, Lord. I pray you will take me to a place where I will no longer suffer with the effects of intense light and hard contrasts. Selah!

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