As a surprise, my husband reserved a couple of nights in a motel at Ocean City, MD, while we were on spring break from work. (One of the perks in working for a college). Apparently March is the time to go if you are not a crowd lover – or “sun” lover. Too cool to lay out or play in the surf, but beautiful weather for walking and many opportunities for quiet time.
Chloe is normally “working” when she is in public. Determined to give her some time to just be a dog, I removed her vest for large amounts of time. She was at first a little timid about being without her vest. Once she saw some other canines on leash though, the wag was back in her tail. Even working dogs need down time. People ask me all the time if Chloe gets to relax. I always have to grin. Chloe is almost 8 years old and at home? Well, let’s just say she knows how to relax. She doesn’t wear her vest at home, but she still alerts to timers, my phone, or my name being called. But she naps (and snores), she plays with her buddy, Tyco (our family dog), she has several squeaky toys, she squirrel watches, and eagerly awaits family members coming home.
Chloe enjoys working though. She danced her way on campus just this morning and wagged her way all the way to the elevator. Sometimes I wish some of her “wag” would rub off on me as 7 AM classes on Monday seemed awfully early to me after a week off!
Everyone needs time off. It can be hard to do if you are working to pay bills, save money, or try to get out of debt. But time off can be in small, “mini” vacations. Even an hour or two here and there can be very beneficial in helping a person re-group.
People with DisABILITIES Need R&R too!
I have met a number of people with various disabilities that have confided that they rarely do what others call “fun” things. Think about it for a minute. If people who walk without assistance, hear without assistance, see without assistance, and speak without assistance enjoy things like movies, walking, reading a good book, or hanging out with friends, well? It just may not be that easy for others.
I like going to the movies. I went to see “The Hunger Games” over spring break with my husband and 21-year-old son, Chris. But I don’t get the same level of enjoyment out of movies that they do. Even with Chloe by my side, I am very disoriented in the dark, especially if my cochlear implant is picking up the very loud commercials and previews on the screen. As I make my way to a vacant seat, I am often fighting the effects of vertigo. After I get seated – hopefully in a place where people won’t have to crawl over my assistance dog and I – it takes a number of adjustments to find a good program on my CI to best hear the movie. If I do that, I sometimes find it difficult to converse to the person right next to me too. At times I miss things said in the movie. If I’m with someone I know well, I’m not bashful and will lean over and ask, “What did they say?” There are not any captioned theaters close to my home (although I am glad there are some within an hour’s drive), so most of the time I go to the same movies you would attend. However, not having captions mean I have to really pay attention! Can I just be honest and say that I’m unable to eat popcorn and catch an on-screen conversation at the same time? (BIG GRIN). I have to really focus and concentrate to understand what is going on. So it is still “fun” for me… just not perhaps the same level of “fun” it may be for you because it does take WORK.
For some, sitting down and reading a book may not be “fun”, and it doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy a good book. Some folks have trouble even holding a book, or turning pages easily. Taking a walk may relax YOU, but for someone who has Meniere’s disease it can be difficult to do a simple walk. My world constantly turns counter-clockwise. It is a slow rotation, mind you, but a rotation nonetheless! On high humidity days, the rotation picks up speed – one of the reasons I just don’t try to walk on days like that! So walking on a sidewalk in a straight line takes concentration. I have given up walking with family members. Although I enjoy the conversation, I cannot talk and walk at the same time! I can talk to my walking buddy, Chloe, and she just listens. I don’t have to worry about her end of the conversation and my having to make sense of what she said while still putting one foot down in front of the other. We love to go into the woods on trails and in grassy areas too. This requires even more concentration. I usually shut up at this point as I have to carefully balance each step. So yes… I enjoy walks but probably not on the same level you do.
Despite having to make adjustments and find a new way of doing seemingly mundane things, even folks who are differently-abled need to take breaks. Perhaps even a lot of them! They may be in the form of naps. I am learning that napping or resting is a necessary requirement for many people with certain kinds of invisible illnesses. I require 8-10 hours of sleep a night. (When I tell people that, they FALL OUT, but if it helps you get through a day “hearing well”, you do anything necessary). Others may require a nap – or TWO. They aren’t lazy. They aren’t depressed (although just like anyone, people with disabilities can and do get depressed). They simply require some extra rest in order to continue a day’s work.
Careful not to judge. You may wonder why someone doesn’t enjoy the same kind of “down time” you do even though you have the same disability. Each person has individual differences in their disability. I have a friend who enjoys running in his spare time. I’m talking about REAL races… the kind where you take off after hearing a starting pistol! He’s an incredible runner and does very well. He is a bi-lateral cochlear implant user. When I first met Sam, I was astonished to hear what he did for fun! Having hearing loss and balance issues, running isn’t something I can enjoy.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t look for others who are struggling with some of the same issues. We can mentor, give advice, and support someone else in a way that will give them the tools they need to live a victorious life. But do be aware that you may share a diagnosis, but have different symptoms, struggles, and issues. We can still be a listening ear and give encouragement. Just be careful about insisting on something that works really well for YOU, because it may not work really well for them.
I’d really love to hear about some of the ways you choose to unwind! What do you do to relax? What is FUN for you? What do you need to do in order to enjoy some of the things others do without accommodation?
© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal