The way I see it: Empish Thomas

We introduce this series to give our writers an opportunity to share their own experiences and stories with you. Each one will offer a different perspective of the phrase, “The way I see it.” Like all of us, Empish has to solve problems that come her way. She shares her determination, use of adaptive technology and problem-solving tips that allow her to accomplish her goals with vision loss.

We all have problems and challenges in our lives. Financial, career, relationship and health problems tend to be at the top of the list. Now, add a visual impairment to that and then you’ve really got something! This has been my life for the past 20 years. I dealt with financial problems, career challenges, relationship blunders and health issues. Yet I have positively solved these problems and found workable solutions. I do not allow my vision loss to be an additional hindrance. Effective problem solving has become a key to my success in life.

When tackling a problem, I begin by being honest with myself about my strengths and weaknesses. I assess my situation, looking at what I am capable of doing to address the issue. Some problems are small and I can handle on my own like using adaptive technology to read my mail. Other problems, like grocery shopping and filling out forms, are big and require assistance. It is knowing myself and what I can handle in order to solve that problem. 

The second thing to problem solving is knowing how much energy and time I want to spend. Sometimes there are problems I can solve on my own but the time, energy and effort could be better used elsewhere. So, occasionally asking for help to get things done faster is a better way to go. Don’t get me wrong, I am an independent blind person, but I also believe in being efficient and productive. I have the same 24 hours in a day as a sighted person, but things sometimes take longer because I am disabled. My time is precious and I want to spend it wisely. Therefore, I have no qualms about reaching out for assistance. I have solicited help from friends, family and volunteers that work with the blind and are even hired for it. Regardless, receiving help from others has enabled me to work smarter, not harder, and preserve my energy.

When solving problems, I check my mental and emotional state. Problem solving can take a toll on my psyche, especially if I am working on a large problem. Recently, I had a situation where I was paying a bill through my bank online and it was not received by the biller. Initially, I contacted my bank for support but their efforts were lukewarm and the problem was not solved. I began to get frustrated and annoyed with my bank because of their apathy in wanting to help me resolve this problem. I realized instead of continuing this fruitless course and being upset with my bank, I needed a different approach. So, I took matters into my own hands. I reached out to the biller and together we were able to find a solution. I have learned that just sitting there being distressed doesn’t solve anything; rather, I need to calm down and shift gears.

I don’t problem solve alone. Sometimes, I pick up the phone or send a quick email to a friend or colleague to brainstorm about a solution. When I do this, I contact the most appropriate person. If I am dealing with a problem around blindness, I will contact one of my blind friends. If the problem involves a career situation, I will contact a work colleague. I believe two heads are better than one. When I share the problem with another person and get their perspective, it not only takes some of the stress off but opens me up to other ideas in solving it. 

Lastly, when problem solving, I have learned to let go and walk away. Not all problems will be completely solved. Not all problems will be solved today, tomorrow or even next week. I have come to terms with that in my life. If I notice that I am spending too much time and energy on a problem and it is causing emotional or physical stress that is my cue to back off. I have come to understand that in time, things will get resolved. When I have more help, knowledge or energy, I can approach the problem again with a fresh perspective. No need to wear myself out. I have found this approach works pretty well and things pan out in the end.

My methods to problem solving have come through trial and error and with the help of adaptive technology. I don’t profess to be perfect at it. Since problem solving is a part of daily life, I will keep working on my problem solving strategies.