… So Basically I’m GONNA LIVE FOREVER!


Green Tea from Costco … my favorite brand

Compelled to Change by Negative Triggers

About four months ago I caught a nasty 24 hour virus.  The only thing unique about this virus was the timing of when the symptoms appeared.  I had my morning coffee and THEN became sick.

Now you have to understand that I’ve been drinking coffee for twenty-four years.  After years of going to school and working I found that I was a 4-cup a day, coffee drinking addict.  I add that last part because frankly, my son reminds me that caffeine is a drug every chance he gets.  (Darn, those assigned research papers on drugs in 9th grade! Could I have known he’d take this information to his grave?)  I always get out of bed before my kids.  In part, the result that MY alarm clock (Chloe, hearing assistance dog) does not have a “snooze button”.  When it’s time to get up she… well, makes sure I’m UP! I normally hit the “on” button as I walk past the coffee maker.  Alternating between French Vanilla, and Hazelnut sugar-free creamers, meant my coffee was my favorite part of the day. I will admit that the fact I had some quiet time to myself during this morning period, also contributed to it being the favorite part of my day.

Nothing spoils “a favorite” like a virus.  When a stomach virus’s symptoms hit after having only consumed your morning coffee, little else “reappears” other than that coffee! I won’t go into all the gory details, but suffice it to say that I can no longer even SMELL coffee. Being married to a psychologist, I’m assuming I’m experiencing psychosomatic symptoms.  The reality is I may simply have a very good memory. All I know is that I can no longer drink coffee.

But when one is addicted to caffeine, (repeated for the benefit of my 18-year-old son who continues to remind me about common, over-the-counter and legal stimulants), one can’t just ditch the coffee and survive. Yes, I realize I might should have taken this opportunity to “kick the habit” once and for all.  Frankly, I love curling up with a hot cup of “something” first thing in the morning!  Desperate to find a quick and painless alternative “source”, I turned to green tea.

Change Can Lead to Discovery

I love the fact that someone MY age can discover something new.  Discovery?  I love green tea.  In fact, I drink green tea most of the day.  After consuming approximately 4 cups of regular green tea, I drink decaf green tea the remainder of the day.  In the four months I’ve been a tea drinker, I tried numerous brands and actually love them all.  I do have a favorite, however, thanks to the Christmas gift of one of my students who happened to stick a few tea bags of Kirkland signature ITO EN into her “goodie basket”.  (Thanks Sarahann!)

I received February 2009 Ladies Home Journal in the mail over the weekend. Saturday evening while trying to find something new to read before going to bed, I decided to curl up with the magazine (and a cup of decaf green tea of course!).  The article, “The Healing Power of Tea” caught my eye.  I learned that ANY kind of tea has health benefits, but green tea seems especially potent in protecting against some of even the deadliest diseases.

According to the article written by Paula Dranov, “… scientists are finding that drinking tea may keep your heart healthy, protect you from cancer, boost your body’s ability to fight off germs, strengthen your bones, prevent cavities and sharpen your concentration”.  Evidently it lowers your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as well as lowers the risk of plaque build-up in the arteries.  It may lower the risk of a variety of deadly cancers, and boosts immunity to ward of bacteria and viruses… you know, the kind that make you throw-up your morning coffee!  L-theanine  seems to heighten concentration, and another antioxidant found in tea may stave off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s! Tea even strengthens bones, and prevents cavities as it contains fluoride.

Now that I’m a tea drinker?  Well, basically I’m GONNA LIVE FOREVER!

Good can come from even nasty viruses.

Compelled to Change by Negative Triggers – Part 2

Change can occur by design, but for me it is often because I’m forced to do so. Does that make me stubborn? (Hmm, scratching head and pondering that). I think I’m just a creature of habit.  When change occurs in my life, it is usually because circumstances forced me to adapt.

No one ever asks for a disability.  Whether congenital or adventitious, disabilities simply aren’t something one HOPES to learn to deal with in their life.  I mean… life is hard enough!  Yet, those I know with disabilities seem to be masters at learning to adapt and to change.  That doesn’t mean it’s always done right – yet, change will happen. One must learn to do things a “new way”.  Many times a person has to learn to ASK for help. Sometimes it means giving up some things you really loved, and learning to enjoy “replacement” activities instead.  There are times you have to “take 5” and just feel sorry for yourself – as long as you get back out there and embrace life when your “5” are up!

I consider deafness and Meniere’s disease negative triggers. Yet the change wrought in my own life, has made me who I am.  I am comfortable in my own skin, with all my gadgets and technology. I’m totally OK with being accompanied by an assistance dog, and I wear my hair up so that my cochlear implant and hearing aid are visible. However, I didn’t start out this way. At first, those triggers only caused me to isolate myself. I lived in a 24/7 pity party. I’m thankful for all I learned through HLAA and from a well-read Bible.  Both were necessary and influential in my life.

Change Can Lead to Discovery – Part 2

Some people look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I explain I’d never want to hear normally (or walk a straight line). I like who I am. As I have not always “liked me”, I’m glad I can say that I do now.  Change ultimately can bring a self-discovery of talents, skills, interests and passions that one never dreamed of before. With a little direction and “cheerleading” from those who have “been there”, change can be an easier transition for those learning to “ask those tough questions”.  Why me? How can I cope? How can I work? How can I communicate? How can I ever be happy again?

The biggest plus to having a disability, is that one usually discovers what is really important. The things that use to “stress” me no longer do. (Likely, I have new stresses!). Life’s big picture sort of SNAPS into place when you have a disability. Family, friends, community, communication become really important. (Don’t believe for a second that someone who is deaf with a communication disorder cannot communicate.  You simply aren’t listening!).

At times “getting there” is not an easy road. But the discovery of who I “am”, allows me to help others and make a difference in my own small corner of the world. Do you feel “change” coming? Don’t run from it. Stand still and let it happen. With the right attitude, support system, and even childlike faith, change can create very real and positive discoveries for YOU.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Helping to Change a Fearful Heart

Kyersten and Tyco at Gambrill State Park, hiking near our home.

The Fearful Heart of a Dog

My family and I recently adopted a beautiful Norwegian Elkhound named Tyco.  Tyco is a year old male and came from a local rescue .  The rescue had picked him up from a shelter in Pennsylvania.  We have a form that his previous family filled out when they took Tyco to the pound to give him up.  All the problems they claimed Tyco had, we have never seen… but then again we don’t have him chained in the yard like they did.

My trainer (and friend) actually “found” Tyco for us, and they as a rescue always do some preliminary testing with a dog they take in for fostering.  She had told us that he was not aggressive nor mean at all.  However, although she didn’t think Tyco had been abused, it was obvious he had been hit.  When we first brought Tyco home, he was very timid around my husband and 17-year-old son.  It may be that he was not treated kindly by the men in his previous home.

Therapy that Works!

Tyco, like most puppies, chews.  When he’d pick up an iPod to chew on, (something my teens have now learned to not leave lying around), I’d say in an authoritative tone, “Tyco…. DROP IT!”  He’d drop it and sit apologetically with his ears down.  I’d come towards him to pick it up and say, “Good boy!  Good ‘drop it!’ “, and he’d cower and look away.

If we were all in the back yard “playing hard” with our canine family members, he’d cower in fear if we ran up to him to tussle over a ball… dropping it and cringing away.  So, I did what any good dog owner would do with a dog with a problem when people ran up to him in play.  I began running at him all the time in the back yard… throwing my arms around his neck and cooing, and praising him like crazy.  I gave instructions for the rest of the family to do the same.  He quickly realized that these boisterous “Tyco interceptions”, only meant lots of belly rubs and scratches behind the ears!

We’ve had Tyco for 6 weeks now, and he is still a little timid when verbally disciplined, but has really come a long way.  We taught him that we can be loud and even authoritative, but that we’d never ever hit him.  When he stops doing what we are fussing at him for, we immediately change our tone and praise him like crazy.  He’s “getting it”.  He wags his tail and “grins” at any family member loudly headed his way in a full sprint!

Denise with Chloe (who is off duty), brave enough to hike miles from home

The Fearful Heart of Someone New to Hearing Loss

Whether you lose your hearing suddenly, or have a progressive loss, it is not easy to go from hearing “fine” – to hearing poorly.  Every individual has their own issues.  These vary from person to person, due to factors which include: gender, age, relationship status, self-esteem, and even “faith history”.

My first reaction to hearing loss?  I dropped out of life. I holed up in my home and “waved a white flag of surrender”.  I felt powerless to fight the self-imposed isolation, and my self-esteem plummeted.  I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, and I’ve always been grateful I wasn’t working outside the home.  I’m sure I would have quit work unprofessionally and with a chip on my shoulder, certain that the hearing people I worked with were out to get me.  As it was my marriage and friendships imploded, and activities in my kid’s school and our church came screeching to a halt!

Therapy that Works!

Patiently and stubbornly my husband helped me see all that I still had to live for… in spite of not hearing well.  Even my audiologist handed me a flier about a support group that met in her offices one Saturday a month.  (Don’t you wish all audiologists cared enough about their patients to give them support information that will help them when they are not an an appointment WITH THEM?)

At the time HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America) was SHHH (Self-help for Hard of Hearing People).  Self help?  My first reaction was that I wanted someone ELSE to help me… I didn’t want to help myself.  I was a whiny, bitter, angry, young woman.  Finally, a friend at church who happened to be the leader of the support group, talked me into attending.  Part of going to a support group is the satisfaction and “growth” one experiences when you reach out to help someone who needs it more than you.  I needed plenty of help… AND FOUND IT.

No organization is perfect, and HLAA has it’s faults as well as benefits.  (On the side-bar of my blog, you will see the links to numerous organizations that help people with hearing loss.  All provide great resources, and serve a purpose).  In a support group, I was able to find people just like me… those who had lost their hearing later in life.  This meant the WORLD to me.

Now I am part of a hearing loss support group in Maryland.  I look for people with a fearful heart.  They are easy to spot!  They look like what I saw in my own mirror every day for a long time.  Sometimes that person needs somebody to catch their eye and then sprint towards them with open arms and praise them like crazy!  Sometimes a “fearful heart person”, needs another peer to quietly listen and empathize.  I’ve even met people that I could tell needed me to gently scold “DROP IT”.  Their fear and pain were destroying who they were meant to be.  They needed help to recognize that.

I see some of those changed people every month at support group meetings.  They don’t wag their tails like crazy, but their smile of welcome is like a beam of sunshine shot straight from what was once a fearful heart.  They hug my neck, but only briefly… someone has just walked into the building with a fearful heart that they recognize needs THEM.

The thing I love about HLAA, is that even if you do not have access to a local chapter that meets physically as a group, they offer support, networking, friends and advice through their online chapter and message boards as well.  You can live ANYWHERE, and find the help your late-deafened fearful heart needs!

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal