“Hearing Again” Woman #7

FOR TODAY… February 26, 2010

Outside my window…

Oh my! The wind is really strong today! The trees and bushes are whipping about as if in a dance competition. Right now, the bushes are winning hands down.

About 70% of the snow has melted off. Our once spectacular drifts are now mere 2-3 foot pitiful, sloshy, masses of dirty snow. I hate it when all the beautiful “white stuff” no longer IS.

Lots of traffic in the cul-de-sac this morning. Why? It’s a cul-de-sac, not a through street!

I am thinking…

About my little sister and her family. It’s so tough being unemployed. We were there only two short years ago. Other than a health crisis, I’m not sure anything is more stressful on what is normally a solid family unit.

I am hearing…

… the result of all that wind. The trees may be dancing a merry jig in an attempt at “one-upping” the bushes, but the noise they are making sound like bees. Yeah, I know strange. But in trying to discover a way to describe the sound I’m hearing, I can only come up with the very angry noise of bees.

I am thankful for…

… the fact we don’t have a lot of bees around here. I’m allergic. Those epi-pen shots and subsequent ER visit are never very much fun. I think it’s a RIOT how these prompting questions sometimes get me off on a tangent!

Seriously, today I am extra thankful for steady employment for hubby. He pays our bills (barely), and it is steady enjoyable work for him.

I am wearing…

A tan sweatsuit, tennis shoes and a cream-colored turtleneck underneath. It’s cold! I’m also wearing glasses, which for me is WEIRD. I have very itchy eyes, and opted to do without the contacts today. I think the itchy eyes are from the increased usage of our furnace making the air extremely dry. My skin is dry as well… where did I put that Neutrogena Skin care cream?

A Cochlear Implant

… is wonderful when you want to hear the evidence of what your eyes see in that WIND.

I am remembering…

… the fact that 4 years and 9 months ago, I couldn’t hear the sounds coming from things my eyes could see. Not blowing, dancing trees and bushes, nor people’s words coming from their mouths, the clickity-click of my keyboard, the whir of the ceiling fan overhead… and so much more!

I am going…

… to Fidos For Freedom tomorrow and bonus – – Kyersten is off so she can come with me! I really enjoy these trips to and from the training center. She loves helping out there and working “spare dogs”, and it is something I am glad to share with her. She’ll be gone this fall, and I’ll certainly miss this one-on-one time with her. Sniff.

I need to…

Fold a load of towels, remind my son to vacuum, and finish a research paper for my class.

A disability is NOT…

… always easy. Case in point, my Meniere’s disease/rainy weather caught me by surprise this week. After a couple of unexpected falls and resulting bruises, I allowed myself to feel sorry for myself for 5 minutes. I set the timer, wailed, Chloe let me know when the timer went off, wiped my tears and blew my nose… and GOT ON WITH LIFE. Poor Chloe isn’t sure what to do when an alert is suppose to happen but I’m wailing into my pillow. Her normal, eager bump/kisses are a tentative tap with a paw. I look up and she wags her tail cautiously. Poor thing isn’t use to my pity parties even after being with me as long as she has. Maybe that means I don’t have them very often?

I am currently reading…

Still finishing up “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism”. It’s a tough read I think. His logic and my logic don’t follow the same course. It’s more than the fact that he’s a man and I’m… not. It’s a good book… just tough to plow through. Terry bought me a surprise book though! That alone is impetus for me to finish up the other book. (For… ya know I cannot read two books at once – just not possible!). He purchased John Ortberg’s “The ME I want to be: Becoming God’s best version of you”. He is my favorite author and I have all of his books. I can’t wait to get started. When I read something he wrote… I change. Morphing into something a little better, finer, and more pleasing to God. I just love his writing style. (FUNNY!)

I am hoping…

… for so many things I can’t list them here. Many are constant prayer requests, some are simple quick wishes like a cup of hot cocoa!

From the kitchen…

Tonight we are having steak, biscuits and asparagus. Kyersten works tonight and is not crazy about red meat. I take advantage of Friday nights to have our red meat each week. The guys feel like they’ll perish without it. (rolls eyes)

Around the house…

… it will look pretty good around here once my son vacuums!

One of my favorite things…

… is Earl Grey tea. I have a pot brewing in the kitchen right now. I can’t wait to get to it!

My husband…

… is not resting well at night. He resembles Darth Vader as it is with his sleep apnea gear on his face at night, but he’s been twitching and scrambling about the bed covers. I’m deaf (without my cochlear implant), but I’m not dead. He practically tossed me out of the bed last night at one point. I smacked his arm and told him to cut it out. I think he is having nightmares. I need to talk to him… BEFORE we turn the lights out tonight.

My daughter…

… doesn’t eat enough to keep a mouse alive. Ok, alright! Perhaps she eats plenty to keep a mouse alive… sigh. Yeah, she eats enough to keep a whole FAMILY of mice alive, but she doesn’t eat enough to satisfy MOM. She’s such a tiny little thing, and doesn’t eat the most healthy choices when she does choose to eat. I may have to start fussing at her again. Her clothes are loose and I’m going bananas sitting across from her at family meals seeing her 1/2 empty plate.

My son…

… is not gonna be happy when MOM comes stomping downstairs with an ultimatum about the vacuuming.

My assistance dog…

… is asleep in a sun patch. She and Tyco (our Norwegian Elkhound family dog) have been growling at the howling wind.

A picture to share from this week…

My new book!

Red Flag

I have little “red flags” in my life… or warning bells if you like! Really, we all need to have them, for they are excellent opportunities for reflection, brain-storming, and goal-setting.

Well a little “red flag” waved like mad right in my line of vision this week. When I stopped to heed my little “self-warning”, I was even able to trace it back to when it started. You see, I was developing a bad attitude! Not a bad attitude about any one person in particular, but towards a group of people. A bias, really! It all started when I went shopping at Wal-mart last Tuesday.

Oh Bruuuuther!

Chloe has a ball in Wal-mart. This is a good thing, for her enthusiasm is contagious and – frankly? Wal-mart is not one of my favorite places to go, so I can use a little infectious enthusiasm about the money-saving, weekly task! You see? There are a LOT of things to pick up off the floor at Wal-mart.

Chloe does an “automatic retrieve”. Granted, sometimes this is a real pain! For example, when you are in a store that is notorious for having things all over the floor, Chloe is stopping every few feet to hand me something! An automatic retrieve is when Chloe sees something that I’ve dropped, she automatically and immediately fetches it and brings it to me. She also does directed retrieves, which means she will fetch things I point at, or identify with words she recognizes. Having Meniere’s disease insures there are days that having to reach all the way to the floor, means I’ll also be sprawled out IN IT. Chloe keeps that from happening. If items are just laying around, Chloe really shouldn’t go and pick it up as it wasn’t something I dropped (automatic retrieve), nor is it something I’ve asked her to do (directed retrieve). However, coupons and bits of plastic have a tendency to “be stirred up, move, and re-land” as a shopping cart goes by. Since Wal-mart has shopping carts… everywhere… Chloe thinks every new thing that lands in front of her is something I need. For awhile I was telling her “phoeey” or “drop it”. This hurt her feelings. (She’s very sensitive). I didn’t want to break her solid retrieve commands, so I play along as she gets such a kick out of it and as it is such good practice.

Last Tuesday we were in the baking section of Wal-mart and I was looking for pancake mixes. A man and woman walked by me from behind. The man said “Oh bruuuuther!” very loudly as he walked by me. I looked up to see what he was talking about, just in time to see him tap his wife’s arm and point to Chloe and again explain, “Oh bruuuuther! Can you believe it? What will they think of next?” The MEANNESS pouring off of him completely shut my mouth. (Rare thing, THAT, believe me!)

I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped open. The sarcasm and disdain in his voice were very apparent. My mind raced with what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to explain that for ME, Chloe’s partnership was invaluable. I stood there trying to think of what to say, and how to say it… yet I was angry and hurt. He rolled his eyes and again looked at his wife. She said what I WANTED too… “Just shut-up Chuck!

The entire experience probably took 2-3 minutes of my time. Yet I stood there, rooted to the spot, for at least twice that long.

One Bozo ≠ Everyone Else

I’m not sure why I pondered and perseverated on that as long as I did. Have you ever had something happen before where you spent a great deal of time thinking about what you WISH you would have said or done? Little by little, I could feel my attitude changing.

I have a red flag that I’ve set up in my mind to identify when I get an “us” versus “them” mentality. The “us” is any individual, including myself, who lives with a disability of any kind. The “them” are people who do not have a disability. When I start thinking or saying things like the following… I know I need to stop. That red flag will be

waving

like

crazy:

1. Well, you couldn’t understand because you have normal hearing.

2. You don’t know how I feel… you can’t! You don’t fall all day long and run into things!

3. You are a HEARING person. (Like that is a cut-down of some kind!)

4. If you could live one day in my shoes…

Those kind of thought processes tend to foster one major PITY PARTY. I can feel myself start to feel resentful. It can get ugly pretty quickly left unchecked. In this case… I let one BOZO represent everyone else I know. Truthfully, those with extreme prejudices are the exception, not the rule.

Battling a Negative Pattern of Thinking

So other than seeing that red flag, and recognizing my faulty thinking… what can I do? Very likely every person has a way to battle negative thinking that works for THEM. For me, I may do any of the following:

1. Count my blessings with deliberation and certainty.

2. Remind myself why ALL biases are wrong.

3. Make a list of all the people in my life who “get it” and do not have disabilities.

4. Hug and groom my dog, Chloe.

5. Listen to positive, up-beat music.

6. Do something for someone else for no particular reason.

7. If it would be constructive, confront an offender with grace, respect and firmness.

Red Flags are Good Things!

Do you have red flags in your life? These are necessary self-warnings that all of us should have! What are some red flags that you have and pay attention to in your life? Some of my own:

1. Spiritually: Does my walk TALK, louder than my talk, talks? Am I daily checking in with God through prayer and reading my Bible? Do I seek to be a blessing to others? Does that start at HOME?

2. Physically: Have a walked at least 4 days this week? Am I watching what I eat? Am I taking my blood pressure medication each day?

3. Emotionally: What have I done for ME this week to just relax and unwind? Do I need an attitude adjustment? Am I living in peace or allowing anxiety to wreck havoc?

4. Mentally: Am I growing? What am I learning in school? Am I giving my best to my team and individual assignments? Are these things helping me reach my goals?

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal


Turning Off An Alert

No worries... this is a staged picture. The tea kettle is cold, and a treat is on the stove to award a "Paws up" command.
No worries... this is a staged picture. The tea kettle is cold, and a treat is on the stove to award a "Paws up" command.

One of the things I really love about Fidos For Freedom, is that even when you have completed your training you receive follow-up support “for life”. I see Chloe’s trainer about 3 times a month and so when I decided I wanted Chloe to learn a new alert, I contacted Pat.

I was putting the tea kettle on the stove to boil and walking away to check my email in the mornings. It would “whistle” like crazy after I obviously forgot about it after walking away. (You’d think I could wait patiently for all of 2 minutes!) My kids are sleeping in this summer on days they don’t work… at least, they are if the tea kettle doesn’t whistle them awake after it has been boiling for ten minutes or so! They BEGGED me to stop leaving the tea kettle without watching it. Well, I knew one other hearing assistance dog at Fidos who alerted to the tea kettle for her partner. I asked Pat how this was done, and she gave me a step-by-step plan of how to train this alert.

It worked like a charm! In a matter of a week, Chloe was alerting to the whistling tea kettle. The only problem is that I found I now had to turn that alert OFF.

Chloe bumps things with her nose to let me know what is making the sound. If a kitchen timer goes off or my cell phone rings, Chloe bumps them with her nose. When I taught her to alert to the tea kettle, I was finally able to “just forget about it” because she understood that this was now a part of her job. She’d race to get me and then make sure I was following her into the kitchen. Before I could stop her she tried bumping the hot tea kettle with her nose. I screeched and scared her to death ‘mid-bump’!

I thought, “well maybe it is all in the timing…” I attempted to follow her much more closely when she came to get me to let me know the tea kettle was whistling. That worked on days my balance wasn’t giving me fits. However on rainy days when Meniere’s disease caused me to have difficulty walking fast, she would beat me to the kitchen every time! I had to screech at her again!

She started being really anxious to alert to the tea kettle! (Wouldn’t you?) Everytime she did her job, I ended up having to screech at her. For now, I am hanging out in the kitchen for the 2 minutes or so it takes for the tea kettle to whistle. I think I’ll time how long it takes to be “almost whistling” and set the kitchen timer instead. The tea kettle would be an important alert (especially if you ask my sleepyhead kids), but it isn’t worth a burn on Chloe’s nose or paw. It is time to re-think how I want to do this. For now, the alert needs turned off.

Conditioning

When I first began losing my hearing, a subtle yet negative pattern began to take place in the way I interacted with others. If there was a communication blunder, faux pas or misunderstanding, it was always the hearing person’s fault. They not only didn’t understand what I was going through, but they didn’t care! Or so I had convinced myself…

The reality is that my disability is MY problem. It’s not YOUR problem! I had to learn to be proactive – not REactive. It can be very frustrating to tell someone to please face me when they talk – AGAIN. But the truth of the matter is, I make as many or MORE mistakes than the hearing people in my life. I start conversations with someone in my family from another room almost on a daily basis. I can hear them responding, and have to quickly hustle into the other room to at least catch the tail end of what they said. If I cannot understand, I sheepishly have to ask for a repeat (Baa – BAAA)

After I joined HLAA and began to learn from my peers a better way to communicate and advocate, I realized I desperately needed to be re-conditioned. Through the beginning years of my hearing loss I had conditioned myself to believe and react in such a way that hearing people were out to get me and that I needed to harshly and sternly educate in bullheaded opposition in order to gain their cooperation. I desperately needed to turn off this “alert”.

As the result of having established a bad habit in the way I choose to handle conflict regarding communication, I had begun alienating people round me. Worse… my behaving in such a way only insured that the next hard-of-hearing or late-deafened person this “idiot hearing person” dealt with would receive a defensive response. Not only was I hurting myself, but others with hearing loss as well.

Once in awhile I meet someone “new” that has hearing loss and a chip on their shoulder. I want to take them aside and explain my own history and need to turn off an “alert” It’s not always the right time or place, but I have had the opportunity to do so a few times. Sharing my own story seems to mean more than fussing at them about what they are doing. Explaining how to communicate with me best is an important “alert” or task. But to do so the wrong way is not worth “burning” someone else. I was taught and encouraged to re-think how I wanted to convey this information. I had to turn off an old “alert”.

It is very likely that all of us have something we should change… a bad reaction we have towards others. Maybe it’s one person that really gets under your skin. You hear their name and your blood pressure goes up! It may be time to recondition a negative response. You may not even realize it, but you may be hurting your reputation by the way you choose to respond to even the mistakes of others. Your own reputation or testimony may not be all that is at stake. Perhaps you are making all Democrats or Republicans look bad. Maybe you are making all Christians appear holier-than-thou or judgemental. Maybe the way you behave affects the way others look at all people with hearing loss. If you recognize this, you can turn the alert off and recondition the way you respond. If I can do it, anyone can!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Major tail wag... guess who isn't normally allowed up here?
Major tail wag... guess who isn't normally allowed up here?
face-to-face-0021
What's a dog to do when YOU are down THERE?

Limited by YOUR Barriers

I’ve gone “round and round” about even sharing this with you, as I’ve already caught a lot of GRIEF from my beloved family. I decided to go ahead and post about it, however, because I did learn some things about myself and limitations.

About a week and a half ago, I got what SEEMED like a wonderful idea. I was sitting on my deck drinking my morning tea in the brisk air. Not a cloud in the sky, which meant I was going to have a “good balance day“. Chloe was dozing at my feet. The kids were still in bed. I had a great night’s sleep.

For the past several weeks I had noticed a dead vine hanging on the corner of my house. I also noticed that it was level with the deck in my backyard. Being the intelligent woman that I am (clears throat) I ALSO noticed that it was within arm’s reach of my deck if one was but to “lean a little”. When I first noticed it, my thought was that “I need to get Terry to remove that vine. It bugs me”.

Well sitting there on my deck and feeling particularly FINE, I decided that I would reach around the corner of the deck and grab the vine and jerk it off. Eyesore gone… and I didn’t even have to bother Terry!

Now our deck has a barricade at the staircase, because the stairs are dangerously steep. We plan to replace our deck in the next year, and my biggest “plan of action” is to make a more gradual staircase to the yard below. For now it is barricaded so dogs do not injure themselves going 100 mph down the stairs. (It also keeps ME from thinking I can descend it safely!)

I told Chloe, “Chloe STAY. I’m going to just step over here and grab this vine.

As soon as I put my leg over the rail of the deck she SHOT out of her sit/stay and looked at me with “fear and trembling“. If she could have said, “What the HECK are ya doin’?” she would have!

I perched on the rail and pointed my finger at her and said, “Chloe! Sit! Down! STAY!” She lay there with her forehead all wrinkled up and eyes wide as I slipped my other leg over the rail. I remember thinking, “She is really a piece of WORK! I mean this is easy, it’ll take me 10 seconds!”

That’s the last thought I had.

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

If a person with hearing loss has a balance disorder as well, it just isn’t smart to do things… UP. High. On. Purpose.

Sigh.

I’m not sure how long I was out. When I came too, I could see Chloe barking from the deck above me. She was no longer in a down/stay. (Obviously, I didn’t fuss at her).

I lay there a minute to evaluate “where it hurt“. It only took a second to realize that it was my leg. A stick was poking out of my calf near my ankle and it certainly hurt!

Here’s a picture of:

STUPID:

STUPID
STUPID

LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES OF STUPID:

My ankle 10 days following STUPID
My ankle 10 days following STUPID

Chloe couldn’t get to me, and was barking like crazy. I couldn’t have been out very long, because I’m sure her barking would have eventually woke up one of my kids. She has a really loud hound bark, (not at ALL feminine!).

Barriers Put Up by ME

As I sat there pulling the stick out of my leg I began to talk to Chloe. As I talked, she stopped barking and just sat there looking down at me with a look of panic on her face.

The real dilemma? All the doors were locked! I was going to have to get to the staircase across the yard, get up the steps and over the semi-permanent barrier we had erected “for safety’s sake”. The door from the deck to the house was the only one unlocked. I could have knocked, but the metal security door under the deck to our laundry room is solid and doesn’t produce a very loud knock.

To make a very long … somewhat boring story – SHORTER (grin), I made it inside. It took me awhile, and I had to find my cochlear implant before even starting on the “trip”! Chloe whined her encouragement the entire way.

My kids were pretty surprised to come upstairs for breakfast to find me with my foot in the air with ice on it. Ok… actually I’m stretching the truth here. My kids know me. They weren’t at ALL surprised to come upstairs to find me with my foot in the air and ice on it.

They DID call dibs on who got to call “Dad” and tell him what happened.

Barriers Can be Good

I put up that barrier for a reason. It should have been a reminder to me just how high off the ground I was. The barrier was to serve as a preventative for descending to the yard below from the deck. By-passing the stairs all together was just a little bit STUPID. That barrier should have served as a reminder AND a preventative.

Sometimes we put up barriers in our lives to protect ourselves. Maybe you’ve learned the hard way to avoid critical people. You put up a block… a barrier to not allow people like that close to you. The barrier can keep people who aren’t “safe” for you emotionally, at a distance that is healthier for YOU.

But why do we sometimes slip a leg over the railing to by-pass the barrier? Why do we seem to embrace people who have a history of causing us emotional duress? Perhaps someone with an expression like Chloe’s, looks on in concern and asks carefully, “do you know what it is you are doing?” Ignoring the possibility that they may be right, you slip your leg over the rail anyway and think, “Gee! They are a piece of WORK!”

Friends? The only work is that long walk “home” after falling on your butt. It may take years even to get back to a healthy place. Almost “home“, and you step over a familiar looking barrier that you had up as a warning and preventative prior to being duped again.

Safe People

Surround yourself with “safe people“. These folks are individuals who bring out the best in you. They love you warts and all. They are an encouragement to you, and cheer lead you to reach for your dreams.

What’s tough is when some of those people who aren’t safe are related to you. There are times you have to interact, but you can learn to do so in a way that they don’t breach even the barriers you put up for them.

I am not encouraging an unforgiving heart either. If someone is truly repentant (meaning they have made a CHANGE) and want to be a friend to you again, you should be willing to trust they mean it. If their efforts fail, however, and they still are a “toxic person”, at least you have the experience and “supplies handy” to put that barrier right back up.

Sigh.

You know the BOOGER of it?

That. Vine. Is. Still. There.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Nightmare Trip

chloe-home-from-libery

Trip home:  Chloe kept making sure Mom was ok…

Kyersten Portis often writes for Hearing Elmo. She has only known “Mom” (Denise) as a late-deafened adult. Hearing loss affects the entire family unit, and my disability has made it possible that all members of my family are incredibly “ABLE”.

The scene was already something from a horror movie. It was late at night on HWY 501, and we didn’t know where we were going.  The road was out in the middle of nowhere. The mountains loomed around us and the road showed little sign of life apart from a few abandoned looking buildings. Off in the darkness one could see the dark emptiness of a valley. The road was winding, narrow, and the top speed limit was 20 mph in most places.  Your mind could conjure up pictures of Ax Murderers wandering along the road to murder and terrify… and umm – AX people.

We didn’t run into any Ax Murderers. Still, it was quite a scary trip.

We were traveling to visit a college I’m interested in transferring too in Virginia. It was up in the mountains. As the road became increasingly curvy, Mom became increasingly car sick.

“Why are we here? I have a balance disorder! I feel sick! I hate you, Terry,” she moaned from the backseat where she sat with Chloe. Dad at first defended himself, but then meekly apologized as she continued to pipe up at rather random moments that she “hated him”. (He said later she said the same thing when she was giving birth to me, so he figured she was just in pain and didn’t mean it).

Poor Mom. I offered to switch seats with her as I was in the front, but she refused. She finally started crying. After a couple of minutes, her crying stopped. I was relieved and glad she was feeling braver. I glanced into the backseat…

“Oh my gosh! She passed out!” I gasped. Dad flinched but kept driving. What could we do? We couldn’t stop, no civilization was in sight. (Besides, the Ax Murderers are out there!) Mom came back to consciousness finally.

She moaned, and asked if we were there yet (to which we lied and said, “almost”).  She asked Dad to turn out the headlights. When he said he couldn’t, she told him she hated him, and asked for me to help her find her cochlear implant (which was actually attached to her head) and passed out again. This time she hit the window. I yelped for Dad to pull over. I crawled to the back to where she was at poked her gently. Chloe came up to bark at shadows (perhaps Ax Murderers) and it seemed to bring Mom back to consciousness.  She asked why Chloe was barking and then basically repeated what she had said the first time she passed out. So… I sat in the back and held Mom up as she passed out another few times. I tell you what… there is nothing quite as scary as seeing your mom pass in and out of consciousness. I held my hand up to feel her breathing in and out, worried about how still she was.

We finally made it to our hotel. And Mom? Mom didn’t recall any of the events and felt bad about telling her husband she hated him a 100 times.

I was definitely thanking God she was okay and amused more than anything. She felt dizzy the rest of the night. I listened worriedly at the bathroom door when she took a shower, waiting for a “thunk” if she passed out. But she seemed to sleep it off and felt better the next day and was good on the way home.(We took a different route, and it was DAYLIGHT!)

Actually, the whole car trip could be seen as life with someone with a disability. As life became twisted and dark, Mom felt isolated from the world. But even in her isolation, her family was there. She was isolated from civilization, but we were there in the space (aka, car) with her. She may not have wanted to accept our help, but we were there for her. We held her up, encouraged her, and traveled to the end of the road with her. With God’s help, we brought her out of the depression and darkness and into contentment. Dad didn’t let her push him away, even when she said she hated him. He tried to fix it and carry her to safety. Chloe, didn’t know was going on honestly, but barked at the shadows that crept upon Mom. She stood over her in the dark, worried and trying to help. Many times Chloe helps chase away any gloom that Mom feels just because of her unconditional doggie love. I helped support her, and Chris prayed from home after getting a hysterical text from ME. Mom endured. And we arrived at the end of the road, to peace. We knew there would be other trips and roads, but we enjoyed the oasis of peace and look forward with the knowledge we’ll be okay. God is always there with us. And we always have each other =)

Kyersten Portis

(10 days shy of 19-years-old)    kyersten-brown-0021

Denise Portis

©2009 Hearing Loss Journal

“Cane” Shopping

I’ve been a little depressed the past week or so.  I took a pretty bad fall a “rainy weekend” ago, and had to follow-up with my doctor to make sure I hadn’t broken a leg, arm or rib.  I was covered in bruises for a couple of weeks.  I mentioned to my husband, that I noticed that if I use my umbrella on the right side (with Chloe in heel on the left), then I do much better on rainy days.

Falling doesn’t make me depressed.  Bruises don’t make me depressed.  Mentioning “it may be time for me to get a cane for rainy days”, and darling hubby jumping all over it?  That made me depressed.  I said it half in jest, but he was completely serious.

I’ve been falling all my life.  I was one of those “accident prone” kids. I even remember one time in college, my RA told me, “Denise, you fall and run into stuff more than anyone I know!”  What is interesting to note, is that I didn’t have a significant hearing loss in college.  I only had a moderate unilateral loss due to a pedestrian vs. vehicle accident at the age of six.  (The car won)

I didn’t begin losing my hearing (sensorineural hearing loss) until I had a couple of babies at the age of twenty-five.  The hearing loss continued in both my ears for over a decade before I did anything about it.  All the while, I continued to “fall and run into stuff” a great deal.  It’s never been strange for me to be sporting bruises.  (The “ATTIC STORY” has become rather infamous!)

Somewhere along the way I developed a mild form of Meniere’s disease.  Without my cochlear implant and/or hearing aid, I have constant tinnitus.  But it is “manageable”, and I’m quite accustomed to the constant ringing when I’m not utilizing technology and bionics to hear.  I sleep very soundly “in spite of”.  Along with the tinnitus, however, I began to have vertigo and other balance problems.  It is worse when it’s a rainy day, so I know the weather affects it.  There is very little one can do for Meniere’s.  I cut down on salt, take Manganese tablets, and try to get a lot of rest.

Regardless, on rainy days I have to move carefully and methodically.  Chloe acts as a great counter-balance on stairs, ramps, inclines, slopes, etc.  However ceiling fans, fast moving bodies (like students running), or loud noises make the dizziness worse.  I face a flight of stairs “round trip, each school day.  I would think the stairwell is about 8 feet wide, but it is DEEP and STEEP.  Just standing at the top of the stairs and preparing to descend, the whole stairwell starts to spin, and I lose a great deal of my peripheral vision due to the vertigo.  It can be terrifying, but I’m confident for the most part and Chloe certainly adds stability.  On rainy days, however, you can multiply that terror times TEN.

If I happened to fall down THOSE stairs, there is no doubt I would break something.  It’s not that I’ve never broken a bone before!  My word, I’ve broken a femur, toes, fingers, my sternum, and cracked multiple bones as well.  But I’m rather terrified of that stairwell.  Perhaps it’s because I’m afraid I’ll hurt Chloe.  Perhaps it’s because I know how it would completely freak out the director of my school!  (grin)

To humor hubby, I’ve done a little “cane shopping” online.  At least some of them are pretty.

But darn… I’m depressed!  I find myself asking, “Has it come to this?”

But you know what? I can’t sit around feeling sorry for myself very long. I was taught to “belly-ache if you must”, but then recall how blessed you are!  And truly… I am very blessed.  With my cochlear implant I hear better than I had ever hoped to “this side of Heaven”.  I have a wonderful and supportive family, and a super assistance dog who loves to work.  The blessings FAR outweigh my little problems with balance.

I have learned to poke fun at myself when needed, and it has certainly made others more comfortable around my implant, assistance dog, and even dizziness.  But I really hate falling…

For now I’m “in shopping mode”.  At least they aren’t very expensive!  At least I’d only need one when the weather is bad.  At least some are pretty!  I could add a whole list of “at leasts”! I suppose that’s a form of counting your blessings.

For now, I’ll just “window/monitor” shop. At least… until hubby brings it up again.

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

Learning the HARD Way

Don’t you hate “lessons learned the hard way”?  I must be one of those stubborn “souls” that must learn things by bearing the consequences of unheeded warnings.  As a child, I’m sure my mother probably warned, “Clean your room or no watching Sesame Street and ELMO”.  Knowing ME, I likely closed that door on the messy room in hopes “out of sight, out of mind” worked with my Mom.  (Does that EVER… work with MOM?)

Even as an adult, I can still be stubborn.  I have a hearing loss, but “hear again” (in ideal situations) through the miracle of a cochlear implant.  I have balance problems due to a mild form of Meniere’s disease.  But every “lesson” I’ve learned, I’ve learned the hard way.  Anticipating possible consequences was never something I sat around contemplating.  For me… it had to “happen” before I learned to make necessary changes.

These lessons include:

My Hearing and Hearing Assistance Dog

1.  Have Size 675 batteries EVERYWHERE.  In the car and van, in Chloe’s vest, in my purse, in my training bag, in my Bible, in my jewelry box, on my dresser, and in Chloe’s treat bag.  Failure to not have them EVERYWHERE, results in my being caught “deaf” when my cochlear implant dies.

2.  When I get my “20 minute Beep” from my CI, start digging for batteries right away.  Otherwise, when those 20 minutes are up, I’m left having a conversation with someone with my mouth dropped open in surprise at the sudden silence.

3.  Have “clean up” bags everywhere for Chloe.  I even carry them in her vest pocket, that way they are always handy.  Just because she goes “potty” like clockwork at the SAME time, every day, does NOT mean that she will never “up and decide” she needs to go at some random location!  Failure to carry them with me all the time, means that I have to come back to that place to “pick up” after running home for the bags!

4.  Tell Chloe a basic obedience command once.  If I say it four or five times, she will learn to ignore me. Or worse yet, she “counts” and waits until I’ve said “Chloe sit” 5 times before doing it! Give the command after her name ONE TIME, and then correct with an immediate correction should she fail to follow through.

5.  If I don’t hear what someone says… even simply PART of what someone says… do not pretend I completely understand. Failure to clarify means I will likely say “that’s nice” when someone tells me their aunt passed away, when I thought they said “My aunt’s pants are gray”.

6.  Follow up important meetings with an email.  This insures I have received all the information correctly, and will even remind the other person about deadlines and issues we discussed.  Failure to follow-up will likely result in my forgetting something important as I did not hear clearly.

My Balance and Assistance Dog

1.  I wear bangs so that I don’t have to deal with the peripheral of ceiling fans.  Those suckers are EVERYWHERE!  My bangs keep me from easily seeing the rotation, resulting in fewer “tumbles”.  If I wear my hair without bangs because of fashion, I’m usually “in style” but looking up at the concerned faces of people standing over my prone body.

2.  Stay away from caffeine during the day.  Morning coffee is fine.  Soft drinks all day only insure that I am banging into everything by bedtime.

3.  If asking Chloe to brace, check our immediate surroundings first.  If she sees a family member nearby, she may “wiggle” in a brace causing me to fall.

4.  Do not allow anyone to pet Chloe in vest EVER.  If I break my own rule, Chloe will never understand not to “visit” when in vest.  Her moving suddenly or reaching for an outstretched hand means that I will fall. I will fuss at friends and family members should they think “Do not Pet” does not mean them.

5.  If Manganese is suppose to help the tinnitus and balance problems, then for Heaven’s sake TAKE THE MANGANESE.  It takes a good 3 weeks for enough to be built up in my system to work.  Pretend the Manganese is something important… like birth control or something!  If I don’t take it regularly, then I continue to have frequent symptoms.

6.  If someone close to me (KYERSTEN) begs me to ride a roller coaster, or other amusement park ride that actually MOVES in more than one direction, insist on watching from the sidelines.  It’s not like Chloe would enjoy it either!  Caving in to begging daredevils (KYERSTEN), simply means I’ll be sniffing smelling salts later.

7.  When taking a bath, do not lock the door.  Chloe can do a lot of things, but she can’t unlock a door should I fall.  (Like last night… behind a locked door… with a concerned assistance dog looking at all the bubbles thrown everywhere and unable to go get help!) Leave the door unlocked.  You can always throw a bar of soap should someone come in without permission.  (Not that the AIM of someone with balance problems is that great… but I can SCREAM).

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal