I Would Rather Walk with a Friend in the Dark, than Alone in the Light

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I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light — Helen Keller

I graduated from Walsh High School in a rural area of Colorado in 1984. Fast forward 34 years <wince> and I am graduating again with now my final degree. In 1984 I was a healthy young woman with a moderate hearing loss in one ear. In 2018 I am a middle-aged woman in a perpetual state of getting healthy <wince>, profoundly deaf (and “hearing again” as long as I am wearing my bionics) and an adult with disability from Meniere’s disease and Post Concussive Syndrome.

It may surprise you to learn that I am happier and healthier (emotionally and psychologically) than I was at the age of 18. Life has been hard – and continues to be, but doesn’t everyone experience that in some form or fashion? My challenges have made me who I am today.

The 2018 Denise, has found a life worth living by embracing my unique challenges and focusing my life and energy in the disability community. Oh yes! It’s hard sometimes… dark even; however, I am amongst friends, fellow warriors, super heroes, and advocates.

May I just say, “THANK GOD FOR THE INTERNET”? There are numerous research studies that support that the Internet has connected, educated, and created a platform for advocacy for those with disability. The community, the friends I have found over the last 34 years has made every challenge I’ve shouldered worth it. Most of the people with disabilities I have come to know have different challenges and diagnoses. Yet all work hard to experience the best quality of life they can. We use a variety of accessibility tools, medications, assistive devices, and medical procedures to maximize every opportunity while insisting on a productive and meaningful life. We are stubborn. We believe in self-care. Our priorities tend to be the things that really matter. Some of us are Spoonies.

My dissertation, something I have become quite passionate about, revolves around the theory that traumatic events and diagnoses do not have to destroy a person. As a matter of fact, a wealth of research (my own included) supports that these events can stimulate growth – the foundation of Posttraumatic Growth studies.

This doesn’t mean that I do not have bad days. They happen. Those bad days are something you recognize and experience as well. Yet I have learned that walking in the dark and challenging path of life with disability with all OF YOU, is far better than any walk I took on the lighted, well-tended path alone.

My challenges are progressive. Do you know that doesn’t even bother me? I’ve learned how resilient I am and I have learned to:

  1. Reach out to my community when needed for support
  2. Ask for advice and work-arounds
  3. Find new ways of doing things
  4. Rely on a loyal service dog for minuscule but necessary tasks I was too afraid to bother others with
  5. Believe in myself
  6. Pray hard – but work harder
  7.  Never stop learning
  8. Believe the future is accessible
  9. Stand with others
  10. Be vulnerable and open about the good and the bad

uphill-battle

I’ve also learned to CHOOSE HAPPINESS and to do my best to spread that message. It may seem like a difficult choice some days, but cognitive psychologists agree that if you deliberately change your thinker (your chooser), it will change your feeler, and show in a change in your behavior. It is amazing what “choosing happiness” can do to your personal outlook. Don’t be afraid to embrace the days you scream and cry and cuss up a storm (sorry mom). Those days will happen as well. I have learned though that if my focus is positive advocacy and choosing happiness, those screaming days are few and far between.

I’ve always admired Helen Keller. This intelligent and gifted woman had neither sight nor hearing. Yet Helen learned that her life “in the dark” was pleasantly full of like-minded friends and associates. She knew the value of walking in the dark with a friend. I hope you can learn to embrace that mindset as well.

L. Denise Portis, Ph.D.

©2018 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

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Deaf/Blind for a Day?

usakeller2.jpg Helen Keller with President Dwight D. Eisenhower

A friend of mine named Bob MacPherson (owner and moderator bhNews, a listserve to which I belong) posted the following article: Helen Keller

I have no idea where he found this, but he’s always been incredibly gifted at digging up interesting tidbits that no one else seems to know about. Even people without disabilities or physical challenges appreciate Helen Keller and her life. I remember reading books about Ms. Keller when I was in grade school back in the 70’s.

In the last couple of weeks, one of my classes was “Deaf for a Day“. Due to a few very negative reactions from students and their families, as well the counter reactions from my family and online friends who were looking forward to the assignment’s conclusion, I decided to not discuss the assignment in class this year. I chose to have them write about it instead, and I really look forward to reading what they “learned”. (Hey! I’m wise enough to note my own emotional limitations by which to handle topics that are painful for me!)

I suppose since this is still on my mind a great deal due to everything that happened, Bob’s article on Helen Keller got me to thinkin’…

“Hey! I should remove my cochlear implant and hearing aid… wear a blindfold… and be Deaf/Blind for the day! After all I have several very dear friends who have this combination of challenges!”

Well my husband put a quick stop to this idea. He has numerous emergency room bills from falls I take when I have full use of my sight. He wasn’t about to allow me to take away yet another sense. stick-in-mud.jpg(He can be a real stick in the mud! Kidding) It didn’t seem to matter that it’s been a full 6 months since I’ve been to the ER for an accident due to my poor balance!

I did find myself longing to experience a deaf/blind day as two of my dear friends live this every day. (I posted about them recently here). It is my opinion that the best way to understand how another lives, is to “walk in their shoes”.

As I often do, I digress. Wasn’t it incredible that being deaf AND blind, Helen Keller still learned to speak so well that her enunciation was perfect? Not even someone talking with her on the telephone could tell she was deaf/blind by listening to her voice! Helen Keller learned to SING? It’s an incredible skill and testimony of hours of practice and work to speak well when deaf/blind. But to sing as well? (Honestly, my jaw dropped open when I read this!) I am only “late-deafened”, and was a member of different choirs in high school and college. Think you’ll ever hear me sing now? Think again. When I sing I use my hands now, not daring to trust that I may possibly actually sing in tune with my voice. I do sing around the house sometimes, but it’s usually when I’m hooked up to my Sennheiser TR 820 listening to iTunes. I’m fairly confident that I’m not singing in tune, judging by the winces from my family and Chloe!

Helen Keller is a great example… I suppose in many ways a hero to me. She is the author of several books. I think it’s time I re-read them.

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary