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I didn't really like myself much while growing up. I had a mild hearing loss that the school system saw as deafness, and I was repeatedly encouraged to just sit quietly and not distract the real students. No effort was made to face me when speaking, so I struggled to catch what was said. I joined the Air Force the minute I graduated high school, and found an environment in which I could see my value. That helped turn me around. 12 years later, I was declared unfit for duty due to panic attacks and other psychological injuries. I was told I was entirely worthless and unable to work or do anything else. I sat on the sofa and didn't try doing anything for the next 10 years. OK, I did try for the first year -- determined to prove them wrong. Then I realized that they weren't wrong. I was severely impaired. I sat down and became depressed by all the things I could no longer do and saw myself from their view. By then I had the wake/sleep cycle of a newborn.

One day, after 10 years, I saw a news report about people getting their hair cut for free because they were donating the hair to Locks of Love -- an organization that makes wigs for children with medical hair loss. The donated hair must be 10 inches or longer. Well, after sitting on the sofa for 10 years neglecting myself, my hair was considerably longer than 10 inches! I finally found something I was good at -- growing hair! I asked Mom to cut it off, and I sent it in. I've done it 3 more times since then.

I learned something that day. I learned to concentrate on the things I could do.

I took a long look at my life and realized that my family was helping me stay home, and their constant reminders of what I couldn't do -- even things I could -- was crippling me more than anything that was wrong with me. I gave away nearly everything I owned and moved across country to a place where I knew no one. People would meet me as myself, and not be able to compare me with who I'd once been. I could discover who I was now, and move on.

It's been 15 years now since I left the AF and I have finally begun to built a new life. I volunteer with a group (Adult Loss of Hearing Association) that helps people with hearing loss. From the moment I introduced myself in the support group, I've been seen as a mentor for others. I was amazed to discover that my 45 years experience living with hearing loss, and over 20 years experience wearing hearing aids, has value to others. My disability, which I used to see as a defect, is now the basis of my recovery. I can help others adjust, only because I'm differently abled as well. Giving guidance to others helps make my own losses productive. I live in a 55+ community, (10 years too soon) and help the older residents with things they can no longer do. Watching people adapt to the progressive grinding of time, I'm inspired to keep trying to find ways to live this life as best I can.

I still have trouble thinking clearly sometimes, and my moods still spike and drag when I try to push myself too hard. If I sit on the sofa, I seem to be able to keep my moods even, but who wants to live like that?! Sometimes I don't leave my house for days at a time, and I spend too much time sleeping away the day. Then, I again focus on all the things I can do and I start over. Again. I've noticed over the years that this helps keep the cycles getting shorter and farther apart as time goes on.

As a hard-of-hearing person, I know that adaptive skills take time to learn, and don't make up for the abilities I've lost. Yes, I can drive, but I have other losses I can't overcome by myself. I can't get news from the air -- think of your ability to hear a loud speaker, TV, or radio broadcasting emergency instructions during a disaster. I have to be told directly, and that means having someone nearby remember to run over to tell me. How likely is that when everyone's racing around in a panic? For daily frustrations, watching the TV news is difficult, since the closed captioning only includes the questions a reporter asks, and not the answers! I usually agree, that it was a good question, but that doesn't inform me of much. Eventually, a newspaper will show up, and I'll be able to catch up.

What skills to overcome your blindness have you mastered? You must have adjusted somewhat over time? I'd like to hear about something you can do.

With a supportive soul,


(Namaste = The Spirit in me greets the Spirit in you. -- a Sanskrit greeting of inclusion and equality.)

PS, how does your reading system translate the words I emphasized with bold text? Is there a better way I could do that?
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When Life Gives You Lemons
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