What is independence?
Good evening blog readers,
I have been silent recently due to school and internship demands, but now I am back better than ever. I would love to link up with the NAS ladies, but today I felt compelled to write about and issue which is near and dear to my heart. Maintaining independence. Such a simple word which has huge implications. Here is more a bit about me:
For years now I have known my hearing in my right ear is limited. When listening to music with earbuds sounds are softer in my right ear. I notice I confuse letters that sound alike. If there is a lot of background noise, I find myself compensating by turning my left ear toward people to hear what is being said. If there is background noise and someone is talking to me and not directly facing me it sounds as if they are mumbling.
When crossing streets I’ve done a little dance to make sure my left ear is toward traffic. Some have mistaken these actions as blindisms, but there you go. That’s why in certain situations I struggle to face a speaker straight on. Last month I took a route to Temple I have taken many times, however, this one time (and no not a band camp), I nearly veered into traffic. I somehow didn’t hear the cars. Even though I chalked it up to those annoying chirpy lights, I knew something else was going on. I reached out to good ole’ Facebook and received a lot of helpful feedback from friends… I can’t thank you all for your encouragement and the many conversations I have had about accepting hearing loss.
I will be going to see a specialist in the near future to hopefully receive some answers, but right now I’m in the in-between stage of feeling torn. I went through one of, in my opinion the best blindness training centers which is in Des Moines Iowa. Not only did I make life-long friendships there, I also gained confidents I never knew I possessed. I worked my ass off in shop, Braille, cane travel, home economics and challenged my ideas of blindness in Business class. I came to accept my total blindness and dealt with the anger I felt toward my fellow students who had some remaining usable sight. While in training I relapsed into anorexia, bounced back, dabbled in school courses, discovered the profession of social work and took my first steps toward living on my own in a little hole in the wall apartment. Those years in Iowa were truly transformational and I can’t thank all who believed in me during those years when I didn’t have the courage to love myself.
On this sunny Monday evening, I am so thankful for the changes I made in Iowa and for the person I am today. Now, here is where I have some beef to contend with.
While in Iowa and after returning to Pennsylvania I attended two NFB conventions which were wonderful enriching experiences. Nothing compares to the feeling of being in a room of hundreds of blind people who get blindness, but what about those with dual sensory losses? Yes there is a deaf-blind devision, however the positive philosophy/belief doesn’t seem to trickle down. Hopefully that makes sense. Where do they fit in? Ok, if you are saying why don’t you include yourself in that category, well, I have to say I am not yet to acceptance. I still waffle between whether or not I have hearing loss even though I can name countless situations where I struggle to hear. Hmm, for my friends in the blindness community, I am sure this sounds familiar. I can relate to those with low vision who struggle to accept and learn alternative techniques of blindness. I am hesitant with alternative techniques such as using buildings to shoreline or the dreaded idea of ever using a sign to receive assistance crossing streets since my hearing isn’t always reliable. I keep telling myself once I receive a definitive answer/reason why from a medical professional then I will work on accepting doing things as a person with a hearing impairment or as deaf-blind. I know logically that probably sounds silly, but this is where I am.
Fortunately today is one of those days I have felt more confident about asking for help crossing the streets so I could feed my face with a yummy bagel, but there are those damn days when my pride gets the best of me. On these days I have this idea that I should be able to cross streets on my own, be able to auditorially follow someone who is talking to me in a crowded environment or just function as a vanilla blind person. I feel like a failure when I don’t measure up to my standards, so I write this post as a reminder to myself for those down days and for you who also struggle with hearing loss.
My definition of independence is getting to where you need to go in the safest way possible even if this means asking for assistance. Independence doesn’t translate to a concrete set of rules, rather it is fluid—it changes with the situation. Independence is about being practical, resourceful and confident in ones abilities. I am to the point where if an organization takes a position on what independence means, I “ain’t got no time for that!” Keep calm and cane on! Please share your honest thoughts.
Until next time,