Ticks are actually teeny tiny vampires. Happy Halloween!

Ticks are actually teeny tiny vampires. Happy Halloween!

Ever curious how ticks are able to burrow inside human skin? Well, in honor of the creepiest day of the year, I present to you a video by the New York Times about how exactly ticks do that mean thing they do.

Happy Halloween, friends! Keep your distance from bloodsuckers- both the vampire kind and the tick kind!

Best,

Sofia

P.S. I’m wearing awesome orange Halloween socks today. Thank you, Aunt Cindy!

Disability Awareness: The Ability Exhibit

Last week, something really cool happened at my school. And I was involved in it!

The Ability Exhibit. Thanks to several amazing people, this traveling exhibit came to the University of Oregon! The exhibit is an interactive experience meant to display the many different facets of disability in a fun and informative way. The end goal is to raise consciousness about what it’s like to have a disability. For more info, visit their website!

As the president of the AccessABILITY Student Union, I helped facilitate the exhibit for most of the time it was on my campus. It was awesome!

 

Me and my fellow disability activist friend, Antonia sitting at the Welcome Table

Me and my fellow disability activist friend, Antonia, sitting at the Welcome Table

The exhibit talked about various topics related to disability awareness, including person-first language, universal design, disability law, and historical milestones of the disability movement. Each topic was addressed at a different station, which were all set up in a square shape in my school’s student union.

This was at the person-first language station. If you remove the panel, it says "Person who uses a wheelchair"

This was at the person-first language station. If you remove the panel, it says “Person who uses a wheelchair”

Person-first language is important in the disability movement. By using person-first language,  the speaker is able to separate the person from their disability, rather than equating both.

This is a quiz about disability law in higher education. The answer to the question is "False." Students have to provide documentation in order to receive accommodations for their classes.

This is a quiz about disability law in higher education. The answer to the question is “False.” Students have to provide documentation in order to receive accommodations for their classes. Very informative!

Each station had braille placards to visitors with vision problems can benefit from the exhibit too! There was also the option of borrowing headphones for a provided guided listening tour of the exhibit. Inclusiveness!

Beautiful banners outlining the major milestones of the disability movement and some interesting statistics about people with disabilities

Beautiful banners outlining the major milestones of the disability movement and some interesting statistics about people with disabilities

The exhibit was located in the center hub of student activity on campus. Lots of students wandered by the exhibit, having no idea what it was. A pleasant surprise!

Posters showing actions leading up to the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Access is a civil right!

Posters showing actions leading up to the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. Access is a civil right!

Before the ADA was signed, people who use wheelchairs were turned away from restaurants and busses for being “fire hazards” or eyesores. They lacked basic rights. There were several posters documenting the injustice experienced.

At the end of the exhibit, visitors were encouraged to sign a pledge to be an ally. Here I am holding the board at the end of the exhibit's run. So many allies!

At the end of the exhibit, visitors were encouraged to sign a pledge to be an ally. Here I am holding the board at the end of the exhibit’s run. So many allies!

Facilitating this exhibit was an awesome experience. I met so many people and listened to countless stories about all types of disabilities. Because Lyme bars me from participating in so many of life’s activities, I identify as a person with a disability. My school has a profound lack of disability culture. I felt absolutely refreshed after spending my week here. I felt that I was able to help raise peoples’ consciousness and advocate for other people with disabilities.  This was just one small step in the journey towards equal treatment of the disability community. The activist in me is pleased.

Social Justice!

Best,

Sofia

 

 

 

 

Dealing with Difficult People: A Rant

Sometimes people just suck. This is one of those times. And it’s also a testament to why being a college student and having Lyme disease is really, really difficult.

How I felt Friday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Lymelight.

How I felt Friday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Lymelight.

My school has some really cool services for people with disabilities. Because my health is so ridiculously unpredictable, I’m signed up to get these sweet services. At the start of every school year, I go to the Accessible Education Center and they write me a letter to give to all of my professors. The letter basically says I have a documented illness, I may miss class sometimes because of it, and the professor needs to be reasonably accommodating.

Now, I haven’t had a major crisis where I miss a bunch of class for a long time, but this letter serves as a safety net, just in case something does happen. The reaction I get from professors really varies. Some are very understanding and are willing to work with me while others outright refuse to be flexible. But, really, most of them just take the letter and say, “Okay. I’ll read this over. Thanks.” Or something along those lines.

One particular professor I have right now enthusiastically said he is very flexible about things like these. We had a 10 minute conversation about it, actually. He kept going on and on about how if I miss class, it would be excused. I thought to myself, “Great! This guy is awesome! This is going to make my life so much easier!” Boy, was I wrong.

Wednesday was a bad day. The kitchen downstairs served orange chicken for lunch. Almost immediately after eating it, I felt horrible. My gut is extremely sensitive because of all the antibiotics I’ve taken in the past 1.5 years, so I have to be really choosy about which things I eat, and which things I don’t. There was something in that darn chicken that made me feel like crawling up under a blanket and never coming out. Needless to say, I was not feeling well enough for class. So I crawled up under that blanket feeling awful and took a nap.

Fast forward to Friday. I’m feeling much better and I go to the class I missed Wednesday, which happened to be the class with the very flexible prof. After lecture, I tell him I missed last time because of my documented illness we discussed last week. I ask him what I missed.

“Well, you missed a quiz on terminology.”

“Is there a way I can make up this quiz?”

“No, there is not.”

Wait, what?? This is supposed to be the flexible one! What’s going on?

“Why is that?” I say, very confused.

“I can’t allow you to make up things that were exclusively done in class. It’s very hard to coordinate something that happened after the fact. Your absence is excused, but the quiz is not.”

Translation: I’m too lazy to do the 45 seconds of work it would take to set up a new time to administer the quiz, so I’m going to say some BS answer, like that retaking the quiz would compromise its integrity.

This is just so unfair. Why should my grades have to suffer because of something I have no control over? I didn’t miss class because I was lazy, I missed because I physically could not go. So now, I have a big fat zero for that quiz because my gut hates me.

So now I really have to go to this class, even if I feel like death. Maybe my “very flexible” prof will see me dying and he’ll finally understand why I didn’t go in the first place.

Rant: over. Thanks for listening. Ignorant people suck.

Sounds about right. Thanks, Calvin & Hobbs.

Sounds about right. Thanks, Calvin & Hobbs.

Best,

Sofia

Lymie Rapper at the IDSA Lyme Guidelines Protest

Last weekend, I wrote a post about the IDSA Lyme guidelines protest in San Francisco. The protest was a very positive event and had lots of cool speakers. This rapper, who goes by Revolt, has Lyme disease and performs across the Bay Area. This is his rap about the Lyme experience. I was completely blown away by his performance! His lyrics really hit home for me! I just thought I’d share the awesomeness with you folks too!

 

 

Best,

Sofia

Mindfulness Meditation and Anxiety

One of my most troublesome symptoms is anxiety. It takes over my brain and makes me freak out about things I don’t need to freak out about. A lot of times, this anxiety escalates into panic and I end up having a panic attack. Not very fun.

When you have something as intrusive as chronic anxiety, it’s important to have coping mechanisms. One of these is mindfulness meditation.

What is mindfulness meditation? Well, let’s start with mindfulness. Generally speaking, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging one’s thoughts and bodily sensations. So, what does this have to do with meditation? Just about everything, actually. Jon Kabat-Zinn, pioneer of using mindful meditation for stress reduction, puts it very well.

“Practice moment to moment non-judgemental awareness.”

When we meditate, our goal is to achieve a calm and focused mind. When we add mindfulness to this mix, we are trying to have a calm mind while simultaneously being aware of our thoughts and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness mediation has lengthy list of benefits, ranging from higher brain function to less stress. I understand this sounds far-fetched, but seriously, mindfulness works.

Today, I had some spare time in between my classes. I found a secluded spot in the student union on campus and had a nice, short meditation session.

Me prepping for my meditation sesh in a secluded part of camus

Prepping for my meditation sesh in a secluded part of campus

Whenever I meditate I use the same routine. Firstly, I open this very useful app on my phone called Meditation Timer. It keeps track of how long I’ve been meditating and makes an inviting gong noise when I want to finish my meditation.

I divide my practice into three 3 minute parts, making for a total of 9 minutes of meditation. It goes like this:

  • Minutes 1-3: Meditating on the breath. During this first part, I am mindful of my breath. I focus on breathing in and out, as I normally would. If my mind wanders, I gently bring my attention back to the breath.
  • Minutes 4-6: Meditating on sounds. Now, I shift my attention from my breath to the sounds I hear around me. This an be anything from the heater vent buzzing, to the sounds of the cars passing by. I find this particularly enlightening because suddenly I realize just how loud the world is. It makes for great mindfulness.
  • Minutes 7-9: Meditating on touch and sensation. During the last part of my meditation practice, I focus on touch. The weight of my clothes on my body, the feeling of my body on the ground, the sensation of my eyelids touching one another. Once again, if my mind starts to wander, or I become distracted, I gently bring my attention back to touch.

By the end of my practice, I feel refreshed and ready to face the world once again. I do this often if I have to stay up late finishing homework and my brain starts to become lethargic. Just nine minutes of focus and I’m ready to go!

The view from where I did my meditation. A surprisingly nice day in Eugene!

The view from where I did my meditation. A surprisingly nice day in Eugene!

Best,

Sofia

 

IDSA Lyme Guidelines Protest in San Francisco Recap

Photo courtesy of Lymedisease.org

Photo courtesy of Lymedisease.org

Yesterday, Lymedisease.org  hosted a widespread rally protesting the IDSA Lyme Guidelines in San Francisco, California. The protest coincided with the IDSA’s annual meeting.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend, as I am in Eugene for school and could not make it down to California in time for the protest. I was there in spirit! Also, I was wearing my Lyme Disease Awareness t-shirt, so I’m going to count that.

My mom and dad did go though! They’re wonderful allies. 🙂 From what my mom reported to me, about 100 people came out to the protest. There was a Lymie rapper, various speakers, including former park ranger Jordan Fisher Smith from UNDER OUR SKIN, a stage for protesters to tell their stories, and a truck sporting a gigantic protest sign.

Here’s some pictures!

My mom's sign she took to the protest. The IDSA has it wrong!

My mom’s sign she took to the protest. The IDSA has it wrong! Photo courtesy of my mommy. 

Protesters and their signs. Photo courtesy of Lymedisease.org

Protesters and their signs. Photo courtesy of Lymedisease.org.

Jordan Fisher Smith, former park ranger and writer, from Lyme documentary, UNDER OUR SKIN. Photo courtesy of Kai West Photography.

Jordan Fisher Smith, former park ranger and writer, from Lyme documentary, UNDER OUR SKIN, speaking at the protest. Photo courtesy of Kai West Photography.

Lots of protesters and their signs. My mom and dad are on the far left! Photo courtesy of Kai West Photography.

Lots of protesters and their signs. My mom and dad are on the far left with their awesome sign! Photo courtesy of Kai West Photography.

 

It looks like it was a fun day! I really, really, really wish I could have gone! It’s events like this that really helps to spread awareness about Lyme. Though the protest probably did not make a difference in the minds of the IDSA meeting attendees across the street, it’s still important to come together and raise awareness to the passerby. 100 protesters is not exactly a large number and there definitely could have been more, but the important thing to remember is that members of the Lyme community came together to protest something that has affected all of our lives. And that’s really great.

Best,

Sofia