Feeling Like a Weirdo

Always thrilled to have a guest writer here at Hearing Elmo. If you live with chronic illness or a visible/invisible disability and love to write, I invite you to post in this venue to share your story.

I don’t remember when Deb and I first met. I feel like I’ve known her “forever”.  We just “clicked” early on and she is now one of my dearest friends. Deb has taught me so much just by example. We have a lot in common, but are also different in many fun ways. C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” I’m thrilled to share a post from her and hope you will check out her photography site as well. Visions of Song

apropos of nothing

I was a little bit grumpy when I went into work this morning. Just your ordinary kind of grumpy, at least I think that’s what it was at the time. We had a staff meeting scheduled for 9:30. I was walking down a hall at 9, about to get some water from the kitchen, when I saw a teammate who said “we’re meeting in the first floor conference room”. Thinking I’d lost track of time, I said, doesn’t it start at 9:30? He shrugged and said “sometimes it’s different”. Later, I found out what he meant, but at that moment I was walking in the wrong direction, sans water, notepad, calendar, and orientation. I rushed to grab my things and when I walked in, everyone was seated. Now, let me mention that I am relatively new on this job, and the folks are really nice and teach me a lot about what goes on there. Today, though, I was already grumpy, and now I was LATE (and still didn’t have anything to drink because I’d forgotten to fill up in my haste). I sat at a place around the large, squared set up of tables, strategic for what I knew would be best for me, able to see the faces of everyone should I have trouble hearing anyone. My supervisor said “sit where there are papers” meaning the agenda and other materials. Well, the seats available were not strategic for me, and I was already feeling grumpy and it was obvious that I was late and slightly holding things up. I said “everyone forgets that I am hard of hearing and need to sit where I can best follow what’s going on. So, if it’s alright by you, I’m just going to get these papers and sit over here”, walking to where I intended to sit and feeling quite determined about that fact. Meanwhile, supervisor gestured as if to say “come sit by me”. I did not want to explain why that would not be ideal, and she was trying to be helpful, but it wasn’t helpful, and by the way I was feeling more and more like a grump at this point. Further, I was feeling like a weirdo. An oddball. Someone who needs something special. I deeply dislike standing out, or seeming like I need something unusual. Everyone else was sitting wherever they wanted to, and I had to have this mini-scene because, as I stated rather unprofessionally, no one seems to remember that I’m deaf and use cochlear implants to hear. At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, among cochlear implant users, I am a super high performer. I am pleased and even thrilled by what I am able to do hearing-wise. Then I get in a typical work situation, and suddenly: I’m a weirdo. It does not help that I am also something of an introvert, friendly, social, smart, funny, but I need tons of time to process and recharge. I really don’t think it has much to do with my hearing, either, as I had relatively normal hearing for the first 10, 12 years of life but was always this way. So I seem a little odd compared to the norm in terms of social interaction to begin with, and then there’s the hearing loss and the special needs.

Grumble.

You know? Most of the time, really and truly most of the time, I am OK with being deaf and hearing again with cochlear implants. I am glad to educate and inform and certainly to advocate for myself (although I have work to do in this regard, and tend to be much better at advocating for others). Today, I wasn’t in the mood. I finally got something to drink, and good thing, because I ended up sitting through three meetings before the day was done.

beverage at Davids Diner

It did give me time to forgive myself, for feeling badly, for not feeling comfortable about asking for what I needed. I was also glad that I have become that person who knows what she needs and while the sending of the message might be a challenge at times, I can say no, I don’t need that, I need another thing, and know how to pursue what enables me to perform and participate at work. I walked through my apartment door at the end of the day thinking I either needed a drink (the after-five kind), or a good cry. I remembered I had some delicious food to make for supper, and having eaten and cleaned up, I sat and wrote this down. I don’t feel so grumpy anymore.

Deborah is a bilateral cochlear implant recipient. She experienced familial progressive hearing loss, which presented at age 10. Her first ear was implanted in 2005, the second ear in 2008. A native New Yorker, she presently resides in the central Piedmont of North Carolina. She is involved with HLA-NC, and is passionate about issues related to substance abuse, addiction, and mental health, serving as coalition coordinator for Project Lazarus of Randolph. In her spare time she enjoys traveling as much as possible, and can frequently be found wandering the backroads and practicing nature photography in the nearby Uwharrie National Forest.

Pressure Cookers and “The BIG REVEAL”

pressure cooker

I can hear my grandmother’s voice saying, “Turn up the heat and see what boils out!” None of us like pressure.

None of us enjoy being stressed.

None of us “sign up for” difficult times.

Yet life is full of difficult times. It’s just the way it is. I use to get so aggravated at my mother for responding to my self-pitying tears and hiccup-sobbing announcement that “It’s not FAIR” with, “Denise… life is NOT fair“.

Life isn’t. Bad things happen to good people. Wonderful people suffer. Terrific human beings have their hearts broken.

Sucks, don’t it?

How a Pressure Cooker Works

I don’t know of very many people who own a pressure cooker. I don’t use one. I had a grandmother who used one fairly frequently, however. Why use a pressure cooker?

Pressure cookers essentially do two things.

  1. Raises the boiling point from about 212° to 250°.
  2. Raises the pressure inside the pot and forces moisture into the food.

Using the pressure cooker as a great analogy for LIFE, it helps us deal with higher temperatures, and keeps us from DRYING OUT. That’s right. When you are forced to deal with stress and pressures, you actually work out your “dealing with it” muscles and make it easier to handle the next burden. This is especially true if you are dealing with it often enough that you’ve developed good habits. New good habits include:

  1. Taking it to God and recognizing that “He’s got this”.
  2. Learning to ask for help from trusted friends.
  3. Learning to pace yourself; taking the time to rest when needed.
  4. Looking for the GOOD in a very BAD DAY.
  5. Burning your “Blame Game” after recognizing it is no one’s FAULT.
  6. Showing off your “BIG REVEAL”

That’s right. After the burner is turned down and the pressure is OFF, we lift the lid and  take our bows. The big reveal.

My former pastor from North Carolina reminded me however, that the “reveal” is often long before we lift that lid.

“The true test of character is not just seen in your actions but your reactions. We often like to excuse our inappropriate behavior by saying, “I’m sorry I was just under a lot of pressure.” But it’s the pressure that often reveals what’s on the inside and what we’re really like!” (Pastor Jake Thornhill)

While we are blowing off steam, we are also revealing to all who watch, who we really are. I have a dear friend who recently lost her young adult daughter in a car accident. As a person of faith, she knows she will see her daughter again one day. Yet, she has been very “real” in blowing off some steam. She is hurting. She misses her daughter. Her faith is strong. She’s dealing with it. However, I repeat: She is hurting. She misses her daughter. It is a poignant reminder to me that the very best people need our love, support, and prayers. Bad things DO happen to good people.

People who live with chronic illness, invisible conditions, or disabilities have good days and bad days. There will be days that you handle “your normal” in a positive, healthy way. There will also be days that you need to go back to bed and zip your lips because everything spewing out is pretty ugly. Not everyone is going to understand that. (Even some folks close to you won’t understand). Want to know some “ol’ sayings” that get on my very last nerve?

“What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”

“Shine – don’t whine!”

“Be better, not bitter”

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!”

If we take these oft-used encouragements too far in our attitude towards OTHERS who are going through tough times, we miss out on one of life’s biggest blessings. One of the quickest ways to alleviate someone else’s stress and pressures are simply to let them know you are there for them. Pray for them. Hug them. Tell them, “I care about you. If you deliberately look away when life increases the temperature under someone’s pot and assume “this is good for them”, you miss the opportunity to be used in a special way.  Throwing a chirpy little positivism at them will not help them. BEING there for them is what matters.

Love someone with significant challenges? You will learn what to SAY, and what NOT to say, to support your loved one best. Please allow me to mangle one more colloquial expression?

“A watched pot never boils”. Oh yes it does. You can stand there and watch the pressure gauge go up and Up and UP on a friend or loved one’s pressure cooker, and it’s going to boil. There is no escaping the heat. I don’t know about you, but I want to be the kind of friend who is there through the cooking process and present for the big “reveal”, for when the pressure is gone and the lid is lifted. That’s what friends do. That’s what support is.

Denise Portis

©2015 Personal hearing Loss Journal