— It’s such a treat to have guest writers here at “Hearing Elmo”. I welcome any and all, for we all have a story to tell, a life to share, and a voice. I am glad to offer “Hearing Elmo” as a platform for those voices. I have known Ruth for a little over 14 years. I met her at a national Hearing Loss Association convention, and then continued to touch base with her in various ways. Now we mostly connect through FaceBook and I am always tickled to see her recent photos. Ruth loves nature and has that special talent the really good photographers have–seeing things through their lens that are often overlooked by those of us who don’t stop to LOOK. When my balance issues become my “main issues”, Ruth reached out to encourage me again and again. (I have often wondered if I have been accurately diagnosed as many of my symptoms are atypical of Meniere’s). Ruth is a blessing – and lucky for you and I – a writer. I share a recent piece with you today! —
The abilities of people with chronic health problems are continuously redefined by fluctuations in whatever challenges they have: weakness, stiffness, pain, sensory disturbances, fatigue, endurance, or mental/emotional processing. Loss happens frequently.
Grief is commonly seen as the way to heal loss. In the case of continuous repetitive losses, a person can get caught up in a perpetual circle of grief. Instead of experiencing healing, the overload of negative emotions such as sadness and anger can cause increased physical problems. To maximize health, positive emotions are needed to restore balance.
How does one get from grief to happiness, when experiencing continuous losses? They do so by making a conscious choice to response positively vs negatively to challenges.
For the first fifty plus years of my life, I allowed myself to get caught in the perceptual circle of grief. I reacted to my losses with anger and sadness. I blamed others, from my parents to God, for my life’s challenges. My poor choices nearly destroyed my life.
Most of my challenges came from a genetic disorder called mitochondrial myopathy, a rare form of muscular dystrophy. The core of this disorder is the failure of powerhouses found in each body cell, to produce enough energy to sustain the health of that cell. Where ever these defective cells reside, the reduced energy results in inadequate organ function or even organ failure.
From my toddler years onward, the cells in my inner ears progressively deteriorated and died. By the time I was in my early 20’s, I had a profound loss of hearing. I was a survivor in the sense that I persisted in education until I got to the right career match for a deaf person. However, I failed to maintain a healthy emotional balance and consequently experienced years of profound depression. I was stuck in a perpetual cycle of grief.
As a young adult I began to experience progressive mobility challenges, and the grief cycle intensified. I didn’t take care of myself, physically nor emotionally, and consequently more medical problems surfaced. Finally, in my late 50’s, I slowly learned to focus on the good things that are a part my disability experience: my growing faith in God’s goodness, the love and understanding of my remarkable husband, incredible friendships; the cochlear implant enriching my life with sounds I had never heard; the freedom to participate in life provided by disability accommodations, including the use of my wheelchair. I have learned to see and remember the blessings of good days.
I recently experienced a 6-month miracle in which my mobility limitations almost disappeared. This miracle, which felt like it was here to stay, came to an end. I grieved its loss and the opportunities that ended with it. But now I can look back and smile warmly at the memories, much in the same way a wonderful vacation is remembered. I truly believe that staying positive and the prayers of many people energized my body enough to stop the physical backslide, maintaining about half of the gains I experienced. Though I continue to walk for exercise, it takes twice as long and multiple rests are necessary along the way. My freedom to participate is again dependent on my walker or wheel chair depending on the endurance each situation requires. But, I have learned, in spite of chronic disability and the doors it closes, to rejoice.
Ruth Ilean Fox