Can You Be Arrested for That?

My favorite cane...
My favorite cane…

I have friends who are police officers. One, Carl, is actually chief of police for a district in our area. I see him most Sundays, and tomorrow I plan to ask him, “Can you be arrested for that?” I love his sense of humor and he and his wife, Pam, are two of my favorite people. Though I know he will be witty, I also know he will be straight with me. Anything that pertains to the law, he’s gonna be frank with me.

Maybe I should back up though, and tell you the story? <grin>

First of all, I’m really tired. I could list you dozens of citations that link differently-abled people with fatigue and insomnia. I’m usually good about listing all those for you, but honestly there are over 26,000 articles since 2012 alone. (Yes… I counted, or rather Google scholar did!). But I digress…

When I’m tired I have a little more trouble filtering what I say. I am much more apt to just say the first thing on my mind. I’m trying to live with the “pause – respond” method (thanks for that Toby Mac post, Helen), and being mindful of not saying the first thing that comes to mind really helps. When I am tired though, I’m less likely to turn that filter on.

I have a dog in hospice care at home (sweet, retired Chloe), and I am very likely involved in way… too… much. Finishing my dissertation, teaching four classes, volunteering at a number of places; the list goes on an on. Just color me tired. This tired woman, with turned-off filter, entered Giant grocery store on Thursday. Milo-bear (my current service dog from Fidos For Freedom, Inc.) was tired as well as we had just completed a long training at the county police academy and he had a fairly long demo (that he NAILED). I only needed to get a few things, and so encouraged Milo for a last push before heading home.

When I’m tired, I wobble. <ahem> Ok. I wobble all the time. However, I wobble MORE when I am tired! I had one of the smaller carts, Milo, cane, and enough time that I did not need to rush. This didn’t seem to matter. I was a mess. I even wobbled when I moved my field of vision from one shelf to another. Being late-deafened, I do not always hear things in a big, cavernous store with lots of tile and hard surfaces. I turned suddenly, and almost plowed into a man standing there shopping with one of those hand baskets. He threw up his hands and watched me wobble, screech (just a little), and grab for everything stationary in my vicinity.

No face plant (this time). I whooshed out a breath of air, and locked eyes with him and was getting ready to say, “Wow. That was close“. He beat me to airtime, however.

“Well you are more than a little pathetic today, aren’t you?” with a grin and twinkle in his eyes.

Now… I’m late-deafened. I often mishear things. My husband could tell you a thousand stories about WHAT I THOUGHT I HEARD. He’s one of the few voices I can hear on a telephone, and has never let me live it down when he called and said, “Dinner at six?” I misheard and thought he said, “Dinner and sex?” Maybe inside I was thinking, “yes, please“, mature adult that I was said, “Excuse me…?” Yeah. That one has been hard to live down.

So this smiling man with a twinkle in his eye standing there waiting for me to respond, may NOT have said, “Well you are more than a little pathetic today, aren’t you?” I had to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe he said “phonetic“. Eh, likely not since I only screeched and had not said anything.

Maybe he said “poetic”. I could dream.

Maybe he said “prophetic“. Perhaps he sensed I was getting ready to assault him.

To clarify, I said, “Ummm, pathetic?”

“Yes”, he replied, “because you….” his voice cut off because at this point? I had my cane raised.

I poked him with it. HARD. I’M pathetic? You’re the pathetic piece of humanity standing there making snide comments about people who are a little different than you!” 

He rubbed his chest where I poked him, mumbled something that I’m not EVEN gonna pretend I heard well or understood, and wandered off. I sat there hyperventilating.

Milo-bear looked up at me like, “Are we done yet?” cool as a cucumber. Me? My cucumber was fried.

As I stood there wobbling and taking deep, calming breaths, I gave myself a pep talk that the guy likely just had a poor choice of words. He seemed friendly, nice even. I’m sure he didn’t mean the way it sounded… the way I took it. I even had the grace to ask God that if He brought me face-to-face with the man later in the store, I would apologize and try to explain how his comment made me feel. Thankfully, I did NOT run into him, because… well I wasn’t really wanting to apologize.

Yes. I should have just moved on, or perhaps even “only” blasted him with my “how pathetic are YOU” rebuttal. I need to keep my cane to myself. (Can you tell I am preaching to myself?) Who knows why he chose the words he did. I make poor choices all the time.

And I do mean ALL the time.

So perhaps I need to practice the “pause method” even more:


Denise Portis

© 2016 Personal Hearing Loss Journal


It Can Be Small Things…

Deborah Marcus, friend and photographer, explains, "I love to hear how what I capture and share gets people to notice stuff they'd probably overlook". I have learned much through seeing what she sees through her camera lens.
Deborah Marcus, friend and photographer, explains, “I love to hear how what I capture and share gets people to notice stuff they’d probably overlook”. I have learned much through seeing what she sees through her camera lens.

A dear friend and fellow “hearing again with a CI” friend, Deborah Marcus, has a knack for capturing the kind of photos that has me sucking in my breath and having to pinch myself to remember to continue breathing. She finds the smallest detail and creates a visual memory by “pointing and clicking”. It’s a talent, and one I don’t have. So I enjoy seeing the small things through her camera lens that I would normally miss. Why do I miss them? I’m not looking…

The Problem With Health Challenges

One of the biggest problems with health challenges isn’t pain. It’s not fatigue. It’s not the stigma. It isn’t depression, anxiety, or any other comorbid diagnosis. In the years I’ve lived as a disability advocate, writer, and mentor, the biggest danger of living with chronic health conditions and challenges is that it can make a person extremely self-centered.

It’s easy to do. No one understands except perhaps others we’ve connected with who “live the same”. The people we love may be supportive or stumbling blocks. They may be our biggest advocates, or the pain in our… erm… behind.

Take Deborah’s photo above. Now me? I love daisies and any type of flora that is yellow and white. But ya know? I’d walk right by this flower and only think, “what a pretty flower!” I don’t stop, grow quiet, get down on my knees, and really open my eyes. If I did that more often, I’d see the gorgeous wee bug. (Entomologist, I’m not…)

It can be the small things that make an ordinary moment in time, something to be celebrated. When we become self-focused, it is impossible to see those small things and we miss celebrations.

Pity Parties are still Celebrations

Don’t get me wrong. I believe it is healthy to have a good ol’ pity party from time to time. After all, a party is a celebration … of sorts. ♪♫ It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want too…♫♪

Learning to adjust to new challenges can be exhausting. Some folks with chronic illness or invisible disabilities may find it very therapeutic and healing to bawl their eyes out (Borchard, 2014). In “7 Good Reasons to Cry Your Eyes Out”, Borchard (2014), explains all the GOOD that can come from a good ol’ pity party.

But self-pity is dangerous and different than an occasional pity party. Self-pity begins and ends with self-focus. When we are entirely focused on ourselves and our own problems and difficulties, we cannot see the small things and miss the celebration. “We are bombarded with opportunities to feel sorry for ourselves” (Smith, 2004, para. 2) and if we become self-focused our camera not only fails to capture the beautiful bug, but we miss the flower as well. As a matter of fact, we may only see the dusty road in front of us as we trudge along feeling sorry for ourselves.

My Life is Hard. Can I Learn to “Really Look” Again?

Life is hard. I have heard from many readers who live with chronic conditions and invisible illness who know that they will wake up with pain and fatigue, stress and anxiety, and go to bed holding hands with the same bed fellows. However, many of these same people have learned that in spite of their circumstances, they can make a difference.

They have set short and long term goals… and are seeing them fulfilled.

They have reached out to mentor and volunteer… forever changing the life of another.

They have learned to adjust and evolve, rolling with the “punches”… teaching others by example and living with courage and perseverance.

They have learned to stop focusing on self… and can see the small things. They are celebrating.

I’m still learning how to do this myself. Believe me, when I reflect on “things we should do”, I’m sitting in the front row of my own classroom. And sometimes, it isn’t fun. Last week we had StRaNgE weather. It was in the mid-70’s one day, and in the low 30’s the next. Sunshine to snowflakes. For folks with Meniere’s disease this means you walk as if strolling on the deck of a ship – IN THE MIDDLE OF A FREAKING HURRICANE.

Rushing from my car to my 11 o’clock class, I was trying to hurry Chloe out of the wind and drizzle and hustle 100 yards into the building. One thing folks with Meniere’s disease do not do well is hustle. Not even with blinged-out cane and service dog. So I slipped on some leaves plastered to the sidewalk and fell on my hip and rolled to my caboose. I sat there a second with Chloe, wagging her tail beside me, perfectly content for a spontaneous pit stop. Since I was already SITTING, I let her go leash length to do her thang. As I moved to get up, my “no slip” (*rolls eyes*) boots slid some leaves out of the way as I struggled to rise. I noticed that the leaves had left perfect “leaf footprints” on the white sidewalk in a beautiful display of “peek-a-boo” gone right. I stood there and said, “well celebrate THAT!” I’m learning to look, and it only took 10 seconds. I remembered that leaf pattern long after my britches dried out. It was worth remembering; worth celebrating.

I hope each of us who live with significant challenges can learn to see the small things. We can only do it if we learn to look and if we take the time to do so. We can only do it if we stop with what is natural – self-focus and self-pity. I believe no human is stronger than those who live with invisible illness and disability. I’m a wimp with little to no ability to see what is right in front of me. If I can learn, you can as well.

Denise Portis

© 2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Borchard, T. J. (2014). 7 good reasons to cry your eyes out. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from

Smith, R. (2004). Self-pity will destroy you. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from


Post-traumatic Growth (Part 2)


Post-traumatic growth. If you missed part 1 of this series, click HERE for that if you wish. In the first post we looked at what can cause post-traumatic growth, and what changes might occur in our lives as a result of the growth.

This week, however, I want to address the WHY behind growth. Have you ever wondered why some people come out on the other side of trauma a much better person? Why do some people give up, while others thrive? Is it something within the person themselves, or is it the environment they are lucky (or unlucky) enough to be in post-trauma? Does personality style have something to do with it? What decisions did the person make to get them through the worst of it? What was the time table of those decisions? Is there a magic formula? (Would you like to participate in a survey? It is very short, confidential, and your “voice” will be used in research about post-traumatic growth! Click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page for the link about the short survey)

These are all important questions. These important questions are difficult to answer, however. In all the years I’ve thought about these questions and other related “survival” issues, I believe little can be assumed and the variables are infinite. There are, however, a few key points that I think are valid. You may not agree with me and that is OK. After all, this is not a scientific analysis and I only have personal experience and the testimony of others to generate my list of probable reasons some people experience growth. So here we go! 🙂

Taking One Day at a Time

One thing I have noticed about people who experience growth, post-trauma, is that they do not start out with long-term plans. Especially in the beginning – you may be in survival mode. You go to bed each night with the sense of, “Whew. The day is over. I made it“. There is not any fanfare or celebration of the fact, it is simply what IS. You survived.

In that day-to-day survival you may have drawn on specific helps that for YOU, allowed you to make it through that day. It may be faith, a supportive person or persons, a mentor, a counselor, a cause or purpose… love. It may even be things that some people define as negative: anger, stubbornness, revenge, or even hate. By themselves one asks how can something so ugly be used to help you survive? These things may be inter-woven into your thoughts and feelings and played a part in your survival for that day. Positive or negative, it isn’t one specific, “magical” formula. I have met people from all walks of life with different supports in their life, some of whom have grown post-trauma and some who have given up.

For some, enough time has gone by that you may feel like you can begin to look and plan for further down life’s path. Just do not be surprised if something happens and you find yourself in survival mode again. It could be triggered by something that seems so irrelevant and inconspicuous. Why is this true?

I think it is because post-traumatic growth is a PROCESS not an outcome. Those who grow do so because they continue to “take one day at a time”. They recognize there will be setbacks. They recognize there isn’t a prize or even a finish line. They know and realize that life after trauma may include days in which you are only able to trudge through.


I have met a few people who insist that they made it through a traumatic experience and grew from it all on their own. They found the wherewithal inside themselves and pushed through the crisis. However, I believe that even those whose “claim to fame” is that they are completely independent miss the point. Someone, somewhere had an impact on who they are as a person to be the kind of survivor who could dig deep and push themselves. It may not be someone who stood right next to you while you began your “life after trauma”. It may be that it was a person or persons who impacted your life years ago.

For many, however, it is a current support system. You do not have to be married or in love. You don’t have to be a person of faith. You don’t have to have a BFF. You do not have to have a dog (grin). Sure… these things can be used as supports, but they aren’t necessary. I know this because I’ve met far to many people who have experienced post-traumatic growth who do not have these things. The key is that they reached out to something or someone.

The danger of experiencing the worst life has to offer is isolation. Not solitude – something we all need from time to time to grow our souls – but isolation is the enemy of those seeking to grow post-trauma. Some folks have tried to tell me that they isolated themselves to survive. It hurt to much to interact with others “after”. If you isolate yourself long-term you are not going to make it. I’m not trying to scare you. We are human beings and at our very core we need other people. When you isolate yourself, another cannot find you to help. Those YOU were meant to help are also out of reach. The way to avoid isolation is to reach out. Join a support group. Go see a counselor. Write. You have to let others know you need them.

“And in this curious state I had the realization, at the moment of seeing that stranger there, that I was a person like everybody else. That I was known by my actions and words, that my internal universe was unavailable for inspection by others. They didn’t know. They didn’t know, because I never told them.” Kim Stanley Robinson.

An important side note? If you reach out to someone who needed you immediately after a traumatic event – a life-altering illness or diagnosis, the death of a loved one, victimization, violence, catastrophic loss – don’t forget to continue to check in with them FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. Remember. Post-traumatic growth is a process, not an outcome. They remember the anniversary of the death of their loved one. They remember the accident that changed their life forever. They still have nightmares. They still need you. Continue to be there for them. When something traumatic happens to you (when – not if), you will need people who walk along side of you until the end as well.

Finding a Purpose

No worries. I’m not going to spout off an over-used platitude about lemons and lemonade. When we experience something traumatic we become an expert – at times an unwilling one. No one understands you like YOU do. Some people who experience traumatic events, collaborate with others and see significant changes in laws, supports, or after-care programs. They have the passion to see it through and to demand change.

Others, however, may not experience growth in such a measurable way. Yet, they too make a difference. There is a person in my life who has advanced MS. She writes me about three times a year. Her letters are written in a huge font because her eyesight is so poor now. I believe it very likely takes her hours to write me one newsy email. For a long time she had no idea what those emails meant to me. And so I told her. She is a transparent, significant human being who just so happens to excel in encouragement. She has impacted my life. I tell her so. She doesn’t get out much and often isn’t healthy enough for visitors. But she can use her computer on a good day – and she reaches out. She chooses people she thinks she can encourage and writes them. She may have to nap the rest of the day just to recover. She has a purpose. She matters and what she does matters.

It can be big or small. It can be something related to what you went through yourself, or a path that simply has you helping others that may be hurting in a different way. Find something or someone to be involved with and do it with passion and a purpose. It is often that cause or purpose that sees you through those days you find yourself back in survival mode…

… because it is a process – not an outcome.

You, too – CAN

I tried to grow tomato plants one summer. After only 4-5 weeks, the plants began to die and I noticed a smutty, yucky, kind of growth on the leaves, stems, and fruit. Disgusted, I pulled them all up and soothed my hankerin’ for ‘maters by visiting the produce department and local farmer’s markets. The next summer I carefully tended to new “baby” plants and tried again. In less time, the fungus-like growth was back and I was mad – and hungry for tomatoes.

I had to empty out the large planters and scrub them down. I had to buy new top soil. I had to do – what I SHOULD HAVE DONE the first time ’round. By the early Fall, I finally had fresh tomatoes from my own backyard.

You may not be experiencing growth because you have isolated yourself. Perhaps you tried – too soon – to make long-term plans. Maybe you didn’t immerse yourself in a cause to fulfill that need we all have to have a PURPOSE. Maybe you aren’t growing because you need to transplant yourself.

Are you surrounding by negative people? Do people tell you that you CAN’T do that NOW? Sometimes well-meaning people promote fungus-like growth. They destroy our fruit. We need to set boundaries and show them we CAN. We need to find people who believe that we CAN.

I welcome your input and feedback.

Denise Portis

© 2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Parking Lot Adventure

Mom and I came out of the pet store with two huge dog food bags, a huge bag of litter, and three new litterboxes. It was starting to sprinkle rain, so Mom took her “ears” (her cochlear implant and hearing aid), out and carefully stored them in her purse. We made a plan: she and Chloe would make a break to the van and open it.  I would push the heavy cart to the van. Sounds deceptively simple right?

Mom and Chloe ran out into the rain. I pushed the cart and ran into the parking lot… in front of a car (don’t worry, they had stopped for me).  Suddenly, the three litterboxes fell from my cart, into the exact middle of the road.

Uh oh! MOM! THEY FELL! COME BACK!!!” I yelled, momentarily forgetting Mom couldn’t hear me without her “ears”. She continued to run into the distance. A woman standing on the sidewalk stared after her.

Yeah! YOU GO GET THE CAR, I’LL STAY HERE!!” I yelled, as if that was our plan all along… in case anyone thought my mom had abandoned me… to be hit by a car… as I dragged my litterboxes and cart to the sidewalk.

Well, technically she had!  But… she didn’t mean to. I am a CODA – child of a deaf adult – and I was used to having to say, “Oh, she can’t hear me, I’m on my own for this one.”

Mom turned around when she reached the car and realized what happened. She stored Chloe in the van and raced back to help me.

I was howling with laughter at this point. I have a strange sense of humor.

Mom was laughing too. I probably looked ridiculous trying to drag everything out of the way. And so we laughed  in the rain, as we smiled apologies to cars and people.  We finally dragged our cartload to the van.

“What are you – deaf??” I teased when we reached the van.

Being a CODA has taught me a certain level of independence, learning to think for myself. When household accidents, parking lot accidents, losing someone in a store, etc. happen, I learned to calmly handle the situation myself or to walk to my mom. I can’t always call for my mommy…she can’t hear me. It’s something I learned and accepted.

Just like I know I can’t stand behind my mom and talk to her. Because 99% of the time, after pouring my heart out to her back, she’ll turn around and give a piercing scream, all because she didn’t know I was there!

Having a mom with a hearing loss isn’t a trial, it’s just different. My brother and I adjusted just like my mom had to adjust to her hearing loss. It affects the whole family, but it doesn’t have to be negative. We adapt and change along with her.

And it does give us extremely amusing moments…or extremely scary, because having your mom scream loudly when she turns to see you usually causes you to scream in return. Trust me. Ask Chloe.

Kyersten Portis


Kyersten’s mom lost her hearing when Kyersten was only two-years-old.  Kyersten has only known her “mom” as a person with hearing loss.  Kyersten and her family live in Maryland with a menagerie of animals.

Deaf/Blind for a Day?

usakeller2.jpg Helen Keller with President Dwight D. Eisenhower

A friend of mine named Bob MacPherson (owner and moderator bhNews, a listserve to which I belong) posted the following article: Helen Keller

I have no idea where he found this, but he’s always been incredibly gifted at digging up interesting tidbits that no one else seems to know about. Even people without disabilities or physical challenges appreciate Helen Keller and her life. I remember reading books about Ms. Keller when I was in grade school back in the 70’s.

In the last couple of weeks, one of my classes was “Deaf for a Day“. Due to a few very negative reactions from students and their families, as well the counter reactions from my family and online friends who were looking forward to the assignment’s conclusion, I decided to not discuss the assignment in class this year. I chose to have them write about it instead, and I really look forward to reading what they “learned”. (Hey! I’m wise enough to note my own emotional limitations by which to handle topics that are painful for me!)

I suppose since this is still on my mind a great deal due to everything that happened, Bob’s article on Helen Keller got me to thinkin’…

“Hey! I should remove my cochlear implant and hearing aid… wear a blindfold… and be Deaf/Blind for the day! After all I have several very dear friends who have this combination of challenges!”

Well my husband put a quick stop to this idea. He has numerous emergency room bills from falls I take when I have full use of my sight. He wasn’t about to allow me to take away yet another sense. stick-in-mud.jpg(He can be a real stick in the mud! Kidding) It didn’t seem to matter that it’s been a full 6 months since I’ve been to the ER for an accident due to my poor balance!

I did find myself longing to experience a deaf/blind day as two of my dear friends live this every day. (I posted about them recently here). It is my opinion that the best way to understand how another lives, is to “walk in their shoes”.

As I often do, I digress. Wasn’t it incredible that being deaf AND blind, Helen Keller still learned to speak so well that her enunciation was perfect? Not even someone talking with her on the telephone could tell she was deaf/blind by listening to her voice! Helen Keller learned to SING? It’s an incredible skill and testimony of hours of practice and work to speak well when deaf/blind. But to sing as well? (Honestly, my jaw dropped open when I read this!) I am only “late-deafened”, and was a member of different choirs in high school and college. Think you’ll ever hear me sing now? Think again. When I sing I use my hands now, not daring to trust that I may possibly actually sing in tune with my voice. I do sing around the house sometimes, but it’s usually when I’m hooked up to my Sennheiser TR 820 listening to iTunes. I’m fairly confident that I’m not singing in tune, judging by the winces from my family and Chloe!

Helen Keller is a great example… I suppose in many ways a hero to me. She is the author of several books. I think it’s time I re-read them.

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary