I'm Jennifer and I just wanted to tell you more about me, explain my role and the purpose of Ask Jenna, the World Blind Herald advice column a bit more. I’ve lived as a visually impaired woman for almost 15 years and have gone through a lot of struggles to get to where I am now. I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age 18, which in all honesty probably should have been diagnosed way earlier. I never should have been allowed to drive! I’ve also dealt with chronic illness for most of my life, having a kidney transplant at age 5 and a kidney and liver transplant at age 18. I’ve also dealt with a lot of trauma due to the aforementioned and have been diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety. I’m currently getting therapy for my own difficulties. It’s true when they say the best therapists get therapy! We like to keep each other employed.
I am a licensed master of social work, this means that I can provide mental health therapy, couple therapy, family therapy, and help clients with resources. I’ve been providing case management services for over a year and have been a therapist for around 8 months. I work as a community therapist, which means I provide therapy to a rage of ages and mental illnesses. I started practicing therapy because I noticed that many in the blind community are very reluctant to seek out therapy because most therapists make the error that you are anxious or depressed because you have a disability. However, as a therapist with a disability and a mental health condition, I can say that it’s actually the different systems in this world that cause us to feel depressed or even ‘burnt out’. When you have to constantly assert both your needs and intellect in a world that doesn’t value people with disabilities, you start to feel exhausted. I hope to one day study this phenomena that people with disabilities experience, which is better known as advocacy fatigue. If you suffer from advocacy fatigue, or genuinely just feel burnt out, I highly advise that you write in! This is one of my areas of expertise.
Now that you know a little bit more about me, let me go into detail about this advice column. While I am technically a medical provider, I can not provide medical advice outside of the realm of mental health. It would be unethical for me to provide advice that is outside of my scope of practice. In other words, I don’t have any kind of nursing degree or doctorate in medicine, so I don’t understand any more than the average layperson.
I can provide advice about relationships, family drama, work difficulties, dealing with your own emotions, or strategies to navigate your world as a blind or visually impaired person. I’m also knowledgeable about advocacy, how systems work(think school system or governments system), and finding resources that can fulfill most basic needs.
I want to let anyone writing in to know that your name and precise location will remain anonymous. I may want to know what country you come from, but that’s just so that I can ensure that my advice is culturally appropriate. However, I can keep your location completely anonymous if you tell me to.
Here’s some examples of questions that are in my scope of practice:
- My family is visiting for the holidays and they constantly pressure me to let them guide me instead of using my cane. What do I do?
- My work colleagues are always offering to help me with things, but any time I offer to help them with something they say they’re fine. I feel like they don’t see me as an equal, what should I do?
- I am really struggling finding work right now. Everything usually goes well until the interview phase, when they finally see me in person. It’s like they see the white cane and automatically think ‘no’ in their heads. It’s frustrating, especially when I’m overqualified for the job.
- I’m newly blind and was wondering how the blind watch movies, plays, etc.
I look forward to answering and receiving your letters and hearing more from our readers and the sorts of things they'd like to hear about.