“The dog days of summer”… whew! Has it ever been hot here in my home state! I could take a repeat of last winter’s snows, believe me! I’ve always preferred 3 feet of snow to 3 weeks of 95 + temperatures! Because of the heat, Chloe and I have been forced to walk pretty late at night. At “twilight” it is dark enough that it isn’t safe to be walking. At least not in my neighborhood where people go 40 mph in a 15 mph zone.
To placate my husband, I make sure Chloe and I are decked out in a number of things that are reflective. I wear a reflective vest, and Chloe a reflective collar. The leash I carry actually lights up near the handle end, and it also sports “lighted bling” of various kinds. I’m sure from a distance we must look like Santa and his team of reindeer! Small price to pay … this GLOW IN THE DARK preparation — for a safe walk! I didn’t anticipate having to walk so late at night, yet preparation has made all the difference.
It is cooler.
We walk faster.
No… really! Not sure why that is, but the big “loop” we walk is usually 7-8 minutes faster than if we walk when there is more light. Perhaps because we aren’t having to stop to get Chloe re-collected after startling a bunny? Either the bunnies have an early bedtime, or they simply are not seen as easily.
Just Because it Wasn’t Planned, Doesn’t Mean You Don’t PREPARE
I know of very few people who planned to acquire a disability or to be diagnosed with chronic illness. I have become acquainted with people who have progressive hearing loss or are deaf, people who have lost their eyesight due to Usher’s Syndrome, people with MS, Parkinson’s, Meniere’s disease, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, people with fibromyalgia and many others who find that they are living a life they didn’t exactly “sign up for”.
So what do you do?
Give up? Try to get a refund? Sue?
Well… most of the people I know “deal with it”. They do so in their own way, and for some it may mean working through it. Working through it for some people may mean that they have a pretty long period of time either denying the problem or grieving the problem. Each of us do this, but some spend more time on these steps than others. That’s OK. I get really aggravated when I hear someone tell a person learning to live with changes that affect their life that they need to “get over it” and “get on with life”. I guess I’m aggravated because the person saying that usually does not have the same diagnosis as the person they are preaching at! However, I do sometimes see someone who DOES share the diagnosis “preach” the same. Just because YOU did not grieve your hearing loss — or whatever it may be that you are dealing with — doesn’t mean that other people deal with the loss the same way.
Once you do work through that process, however, you can start to prepare. Preparation is key. For me preparation looks like this:
1. I always have #13 hearing aid/cochlear implant batteries. I carry some in Chloe’s vest, the car, my pocket book, and Chloe’s treat bag. I have them in my bedroom and my office.
2. My cane is right by the front door. If it is rainy or if there has been a pressure system come into the area, having my cane “handy” insures I actually take it with me out the door. No one “messes” with where I put my cane. If you move it, you risk life and limb (grin).
3. I leave early to arrive early. Let’s face it. It takes me longer to get to where I’m going. For one thing I travel with an assistance dog, and I have to spend a couple of minutes allowing her to “do her thing” before going into a public place. I have to load her up safely in the car. I have poor peripheral vision on one side so I drive the speed limit in a world where no one else does. I allow extra time to get to places ON TIME. Sure! I’m early sometimes, but I am rarely late.
4. I never walk out the door without my cell phone… and I am ZEALOUS about making sure my phone has a full charge. As a matter of fact… I have my cell phone on my person almost every waking moment. (Perhaps something to do with having a kid in college in another state now?)
5. I make it a PRIORITY to get eight hours of sleep. This is so important, I schedule myself to get at least eight hours. Heck! I’ll be honest… I actually do better with nine, so if I can schedule that I do! Having a cochlear implant is terrific! I love being able to communicate without having to actually be in the same room with someone. I’m fairly certain it’s not AGE… it simply takes a LOT of brain power to communicate now! Who’d have “thunk” that communicating with a hearing loss could be so exhausting. It doesn’t seem fair that no calories are burned! It is mentally (and sometimes emotionally) exhausting to communicate with hearing loss. If I get less than eight hours of sleep, it is very noticeable that I do not communicate as well. Fatigue will do that.
6. I make sure I travel with information about service/assistance dogs. You never know when you may have access issues. As a matter of act this has been a pretty prevalent part of our lives lately. (See the links here (with a video too!), here and here).
7. I avoid sodium, limit caffeine (something I find nearly impossible), and take Manganese! These three things I have found to be very helpful in limiting the effect Meniere’s disease has on my own life. Manganese is hard to find too! (Magnesium is plentiful… Manganese not so much). Remembering to make these “BIG 3” a priority, really makes a big difference in how severe my symptoms may be when an episode hits.
8. I memorize and use lines that best describe my communication issues and how I can solicit positive responses. These include:
A. You speak wonderful English! However, I have a hearing loss so I have trouble with accents. Could you repeat that a little slower please?
B. I have trouble understanding in background noise. If you would face me when you talk, I should be able to speech read and hear with my CI (point to it) and hear you much better!
C. I missed what you said. What I heard was (and I repeat the parts I heard). Could you repeat what I missed? (This way folks aren’t having to repeat EVERYTHING).
D. It’s so noisy in here that I am having trouble pulling your voice from “all this chaos”. Can we step over there (points) to a quieter spot? I really want to hear what you are saying.
E. Do you mind if we sit down? My balance is “off” today and if we sit it will give me one less thing I have to deal with!
F. Let’s step over here to talk so that I can put Chloe in a “safe place” so she won’t get stepped on.
There are many more… but it pays to rehearse and have specific examples to communicate to others your attempt at being proactive to help yourself. I have never… not even one time… had someone respond to these types of explanations in a negative way. Preparing explanations like this keep me from slipping and offending someone by spouting off:
A. Geesh, your accent is killing me! I can’t hardly understand what you are saying!
B. Would you quit mumbling and speak slower please? Gee whilackers!
D. WHAT DID YOU SAY? (In a super loud voice trying to drown out all the noise. Now ever eye is on you and the person who was trying to talk to you).
E. (Denise is bumped and falls to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs… including doggie legs).
F. STOP STEPPING ON MY DOG!
Preparation = Ownership
In preparing and planning, a person with an acquired disability or chronic illness in essence choose to take ownership of their own life. It isn’t another person’s responsibility. It is ours. What ways do you prepare and “own” your life to better live with a disability or chronic illness?
© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal