A Stolen Life

stolen life

It’s that time of year again. The end of a semester. The beginning of “panic week” for students in colleges all across the country. For my own classes, this means that students are rushing to get it the extra credit because their grade isn’t going to be  what they’d hoped. I offer a fairly easy, yet time-consuming extra credit incentive.

– Read “A Stolen Life” by Jaycee Dugard

– Take a quiz on it (and pass)

– Turn in a 3-5 paragraph essay of your own reflections on the book

I’m always tickled at reading the student’s responses to this book. It’s an “easy read”, but difficult material. Jaycee Dugard writes about her long-term confinement after being kidnapped. Students normally respond with one of three attitudes.

1. They are ticked off. The theme of their essay is how unfair and unjust this case was. They are upset at all the many “players” along the way that should have seen, should have intervened. They yearn (and demand) justice.

2. They are shocked. Many are fully aware these horrible crimes occur, but to read a first-person account of someone who SURVIVED really leaves them wondering how the world can be so evil.

3. They are grieved. Some feel very down – even depressed – after reading the book. Many actually try to contact Jaycee through forums or email to let her know they look up to her and wish her the best. Some may have experienced some form of abuse themselves so they feel empathy as well. They admire Jaycee’s courage and resilience.

How Do We Respond?

While reading essays this weekend and assigning extra credit points to hyperventilating students, it struck me how similarly we tend to react to life’s problems and challenges.

I know plenty of folks who have responded to invisible illness or disability by being ticked off. They feel it is unfair they have to shoulder this burden. They may enter “offensive mode”. They make sure everyone around them are aware of the unfairness of it all, and to make sure everyone treats them with continued respect – disregarding the changes in their lives. After all, they didn’t ask for them.

Some people are shocked. The rug has been jerked out from under them and they are still sitting on their fannies watching the room spin. How did this happen? Why did this happen? I’m all ALONE! Someone HELP ME! They are often at risk to isolate themselves or become depressed.

Many people feel grief, actually going through the stages of grief as they learn to cope with their “new normal”. They may reach out to others – their peers who face the same struggles that they face each and every day. They eventually find – and become – heroes.

Do you feel that your invisible illness or disability has essentially “stolen” your own life? Do you feel out of control and unable to cope? Have you responded with anger, shock, or grief?

The Internet is a wonderful thing. I truly believe that people with invisible illness or disability are at an advantage compared to the lives of those who experienced the same before the Internet. It is a simple thing to go to your browser to search, discover, and benefit from online forums, support groups, and advocacy communities. You are not alone.

Do you feel as if your life was stolen? Jaycee eventually confided in someone, was rescued and reunited. Need a listening ear? I may be deaf but I listen very well. Or, there are many other avenues that you may find peers to help you through this time. Take part in your own rescue by reaching out. Reunion and a victorious, purposeful life may be just around the corner.

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal


One thought on “A Stolen Life

  1. Denise – Thank you for your offer to be a listening ear. You truly have the gift of empathy. I wonder if we go through these challenging and sometimes horrible things to acquire a deeper empathy for others. Or maybe there is no reason…

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