Time Lapse

One of my first photos, 1966 with my mother and older brother, Lee.
One of my first photos, 1966 with my mother and older brother, Lee.
My life today...
My life today…

Oh to be able to see a time lapse of your life! Recently, someone I knew from “my old hometown”, posted a video of a rose blooming in a time-lapse segment. Just a little over a minute long, I sat spell-bound as I watched. Here… lemme share a little spell-binding:

So consider yourself bound by a spell!

Erm…

Moving on…

When I think back over my life, I know that at no point did I foresee who I would be in 2014. I had no plans for a traumatic brain injury at the age of 6. I didn’t put down “late-deafened adult at 25” as a life goal. I never had a hint that I would deal with Meniere’s disease on a daily basis.

There are few things I desire in life. I feel blessed in what I have. However, if I had to explain a “main theme” on my “Bucket List”, I would have to say my heart’s desire is a slow build to real beauty. Just like the rose bush above in that my imagination could not capture what was to come AFTER TIME.

What I think is beautiful today is not at all what I thought was beautiful at 6 years old, 16 years old, or 46 years old. Outer beauty is fleeting and temporary. Outer beauty needs a number of “props” just to pass as beautiful. Things like make-up, proper lighting, staging, and other “props” that are not really a part of the person. Now that I’m 48, beauty is truly an inner kind of spark.

A friend of mine, Deborah, celebrates a birthday today. She is one of those “slow build to beauty” kind of people. The longer I know her, the more her beauty is revealed to me. She has a heart for people and a passion for making a difference.

Just Because You have Broken Parts, Doesn’t Mean You are BROKEN

Years ago when I decided to embrace who I was, life became easier. I stopped trying to hide how I dealt with challenges and decided that being REAL was much more nurturing for my inner Denise.

My ears don’t work without the aid of bionics. My balance causes me to fall – a lot. My most “frequent” view is staring at the sky while I “get a grip”. (Hey! At least this means I get outside a great deal!). I may have broken parts as a person with disabilities, but I am not broken.

Neither are you. Do you live with disability, chronic illness, or life-changing diagnosis? You may have broken parts but you are not broken. Some of the most courageous people I know are folks who live with challenges. If we could look at a time lapse of your life, what would it show?

Sure. We would get some indication of dealing with tough times. We would see wounds. We would also see numerous victories. I’m fairly certain we would see a slow build to beauty, however. It helps to take a step back and look at the big picture from time to time. After all, living with challenges can cause a person to get bogged down in “today” and just surviving. May each of us remember to review our time-lapse life and celebrate the beauty.

Denise Portis

© 2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

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♫♪ Gloom, DESPAIR, and Agony on Me… ♫♪

I dunno... maybe it was the hound dog I fell in love with?
I dunno… maybe it was the hound dog I fell in love with?

I have a confession to make. I loved CBS’s “Hee Haw”. Growing up I had three television channels. Thank goodness CBS was one of them. I’d list everything I loved about “Hee Haw”, but frankly I loved EVERYTHING about “Hee Haw”. I’d be listing instead of posting! Some folks hated it – even some of my siblings. But I was a true fan. I loved all things musical, even the “Lawrence Welk Show” and the “Donnie and Marie Osmond Show”. Go figure.

One of the weekly skits was done by a quartet (sometimes trio) of regulars singing “Gloom, Despair” written by Roy Clark and Buck Owens. It is a “right cheerful song” – <BIG GRIN>. Here are the lyrics:

Gloom, despair, and agony on me Deep, dark depression, excessive misery… If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all Gloom, despair, and agony on me…

If you’d like to listen to the lively tune, CLICK HERE.

Now that I’m in my late 40’s and have some “life” tucked under my experience belt, I hum or burst out in song far more “Hee Haw” songs than Lawrence Welk or Donnie and Marie tunes.

If It Weren’t for Bad Luck

Have you ever felt that “if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”? Have you ever felt as if you were facing “deep, dark depression”? I suppose if I had to pick ONE constant theme in various emails that I receive each week from readers, it would be that people with disabilities, folks living with chronic illness, souls who live with invisible illness… deal with depression. It can be mild forms and only a sporadic nuisance. Maybe it is something you deal with on a daily basis, however, and a more chronic and constant issue for you.

I’m big on citing scholarly research about various topics. However, depression is so closely linked with various disabilities and illnesses, that there are simply to many studies to choose from for this post! I, too, struggle with depression. Gloom, despair, and agony… well OK, maybe not that last one – grin!

Something I’m having to learn to deal with is that I also cannot take many medications available to some who struggle with mild, moderate, or major depression. Dizziness and vertigo are the #1 side effect listed by most – if not all. Having Meniere’s disease can complicate things. You already know I fall a lot. However, I also lose consciousness a great deal from the fact that my head makes contact with something else on the way “down”. Seven mild concussions in five years means that I have to traverse my life carefully and methodically. I have to make decisions to lesson my chances of getting dizzy and falling. What’s a person to do if medications increase your risk of other problems – like falling?

Medications are not the only way to treat depression. As a matter of fact, I believe research shows that best results occur when medications are coupled with cognitive-behavioral therapy. But if taking medications are not an option for you, what can you do? You do all you CAN.

1. Therapy

Talk with someone. If insurance or finances do not make this a great option for you, reach out to folks who may have training in various faith-based arenas like churches or community centers.

Unload on a trusted friend. But do it. Reach out.

2. Self-help books

You can’t go into a bookstore without finding that “self help” books evidently are big sellers. Some of them are actually written by people with real expertise, however. Do some research… find out what is good (not necessarily popular).

3. Join a support group

In a digital age, there are even support groups online. This can be great for people with schedule concerns or privacy issues. There is something pretty special about discussing topics of concern with people who live what you are living. Do you prefer meeting face-to-face? Check out your local library and see what groups might be meeting there. Check with a county commission on disabilities to see if there are area support groups. Consider starting one yourself!

4. Try an “alternative” option

Complimentary and alternative medicines have brought us to a place where meditation, chiropractic medicine, acupuncture, and biofeedback are options for some people. Even herbal remedies for things like mood and depression help some folks. Do your research. Talk to your doctor. There is evidence these avenues have helped people!

Not sure if your feelings of depression are something that actually needs to be addressed? Few problems just go away on their own. When you live with disability or chronic illness, depression can creep into the picture. Psychologists will tell you that it is a co-morbid diagnosis for many who have some OTHER diagnosis. Deal with it. Find something that works for you.

Comments and feedback are welcome! You are not alone.

Denise Portis

© 2013 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

What I SHOULD Have Said

I’m not really a history buff like some of my siblings, but I do like to watch the occasional autobiographical movie or read books on real people. I have, however, always been an Abraham Lincoln fan. I’m so excited about the new movie coming out and hope it does not disappoint. (Lincoln – the trailer). Needless to say, I’m also a big fan of President Lincoln’s quotations. Many of them I have memorized from my childhood and throughout my life.

In preparing for this post, a quote of President Lincoln’s came to mind: “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.”

I’m a big fan of using hindsight to our advantage. One of my favorite training exercises at Fidos For Freedom, Inc., is role playing… actually putting ourselves in scenarios where we face incredulous, doubtful strangers, belligerent business owners, or even just curious but nosy bystanders. These exercises have allowed me to practice what I need to say – not IF – but WHEN I need to have the words to explain my need for Chloe. I know I may need to defend my right to mitigate my disability with an assistance dog.

Experience Can Be a Harsh Teacher

Did you ever have something happen that was totally unfair? Feelings of righteous indignation and self-preservation well up and literally choke the words right out of you? I’m one of those poor folks who rarely says what I should have said  at exactly the right moment. Instead, my feelings are hurt; or, I’m madder than a wet hen. Not… that I’ve ever seen a wet hen despite my childhood experiences of owning and caring for chickens, but I digress..

Ever replay a hurtful or confrontational conversation over and Over and OVER again in your head… thinking about what you SHOULD have said? Well I take Abraham Lincoln’s advice to heart. “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” Now I’m the first to admit that one can perseverate on a past hurt and be much worse off than if you just let it go. I’m a planner though (at times to a fault).

If my feelings are just hurt and it is someone I don’t know well, I just let it go (though I may replay the entire horrible episode to my patient husband). If it is someone I have a relationship with, I may decide to let them know that I didn’t like how the conversation went and came away hurt and would like to discuss it some more. However, most of the things that hurt my feelings or ruffle my – erm – feathers, are comments from total strangers or mere acquaintances.

How many of you have heard these comments? :

But you don’t LOOK sick.

You were just fine yesterday. What’s wrong today?

You are feeling poorly AGAIN?

Are you ever well?

You seemed to hear me fine the other day on the phone.

Don’t you get tired of being so lethargic?

I think you are just low-energy.

You are such a drama queen!

Are you sure it isn’t all in your head?

I love my dog too, but I don’t self-diagnose a disability just so I can be with them all day.

Maybe you should see a counselor…

I knew you the first 20 years of your life. There was nothing wrong with you then!

Is this all for attention?

Don’t you worry how your family will feel having to pick up the slack?

People with invisible disabilities, illness or chronic conditions often LOOK just fine. Being late-deafened, I speak with little or any “deaf accent” or enunciation issues. With a cochlear implant and hearing aid (a bi-modal, hearing again peep with BLING), I often hear voices well unless there is a lot of background noise. If it is a sunny day, I not only may have very little “wobble” in my step, I may actually be able to move fast. So to look at me – well, I look fine! But on rainy days or in environments with tons of LOUD surround sound, vertigo can hit me like a freight train and cause me to walk as if I’m intoxicated. I usually clam up because if I speak I may vomit. (I’m serious…)

I have friends here in Maryland, and cyber friends I have come to know across the nation – many of whom are fellow bloggers. They have fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome. Some have assistance dogs, some do not. Some have been diagnosed with Lymes disease. Have you ever thought about how difficult it must be to have a chronic pain condition? And oh my goodness… talk about your invisible conditions! If you don’t know the person well enough to see the pain-filled eyes or pinched expression, you would never know that every step is excruciating – that even their clothing rubbing against their skin actually hurts.

Prepare – it Empowers

Those of you who live a life described above or know someone who does, my advice is to prepare. Use hindsight to your advantage. Think about an encounter that really hurt you – or made you squawk. Chances are, you will hear it again. (I know – GROAN – right?) Plan and prepare, even practice what you will say in the future should that same thing happen again. This can actually empower you to face that “next time” with a little more certainty and courage.

But Be Careful…

I do have some warnings, however. Even good things can become bad things.

1. Don’t be consumed by the preparation.

If all you think about is being prepared for a calm but meaningful/careful reprimand, you may unleash it with venom or saccharin sweetness. Your intent becomes a premeditated choice to wound. You end up saying the wrong thing or say it unkindly and in an offensive, war-like manner.

It could also become a set-up or scenario of revenge. Trust me. You do NOT want to live that way. (Tried it – not a winner any way you look at it).

Use your time wisely in reflection and preparation, but then let it go. If you are thinking about it constantly it should “wave the red flags” for you that it has become an obsession instead of a tool to develop positive responses.

2. Don’t look for what is not there.

After wobbling into the edge of the stove and spilling my coffee, I heard my husband sigh beside me. I turned (aimed) and yelled, “What? You think I like spilling everything I carry? You think I enjoy getting burned? Do you think I…”

He cut me off with a gentle squeeze of my arm. “Denise. I sighed because someone ate all my Lucky Charms.”

OH.

If you are reading this and KNOW someone who has an invisible condition, may I give you some advice? I know it must be frustrating to not ever really understand HOW to help or WHEN to help. But the best thing you can do? Listen and believe.

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal