Even when we can’t hear,
Even when we fight him,
Even when we gave up,
I turn 30 years old very soon. Not sure exactly how I feel about being 30. I have a fifteen year old son, I’ve graduated college. and I’ve lived a pretty full life.
I’ve had many real milestones in my life but thirty will be a big thing I guess.
It has caused me to reflect back on my life over the past few years …
I was thinking about how this blog has been extraordinarily positive for me.
When I started it last year, I actually thought it might be quite sad in it’s tone, or perhaps too graphic or dramatic for most. It has surprised me how very positive everyone has been, and how positive I have felt.
I had a very hard time when I was a teenager, and in my early 20s. Many people don’t realize just how difficult deafness can be at times. It is a hidden disability, an isolating disability, because it is one that hampers communication. I’ve always tried to be positive but it’s often hard when you’re reminded how different you are all the time.
That’s why I elected for cochlear implants. A shot at bridging the communications gap I’ve known all my life.
I was in bed last night, trying to sleep, but turning all my life events over in my head, thinking about the journey that has brought me to this moment. It’s about 3am now, and as always I think the best way to cure insomnia is to get up and write about what’s keeping me up! Once I get it out, I’ll sleep well again. I think.
Sometimes I just can’t believe that I tried suicide. Sometime I don’t want to believe I tried.
When I was in college, all the difficulties associated with my deafness came to a point. I was different and I struggled sometimes. People thought I made it look so easy but inside I struggled. Inside I dreamed of a time when I could be normal.
It’s struck me that I’ll never be normal. But I’m also not less because I’m not like them, I’m not less because I’m a deaf girl in the hearing world. I’m just different.
I had struggled at the university. I didn’t know any other people who were deaf, and I didn’t identify with deaf people. No one understood what I had been going through. I was too anxious and afraid to tell people how difficult it was.
At that point, closed captioning wasn’t as widespread, so I was cut off from even little things like watching TV, or going to the cinema. I remember very clearly coming out of a cinema with all my girlfriends, and realizing I hadn’t understood most of the movie, and so I couldn’t join in with their conversation afterwards. It was a devastating feeling sitting quietly trying to follow the conversation around me, and not knowing what they were talking about. At that time if I couldn’t see the lips I couldn’t hear the words.
Another issue was where group work and lectures and tutorials were so hard for me to deal with, because I was struggling to hear what was going on. Going into school every day was stressful in ways I can’t explain even today.
I remember one tutorial where I was trying my hardest to lip-read everyone – the lecturer, and the students as they made comments and asked questions. Usually I was silent in these classes, as I wasn’t quite sure who was saying what. But one day I really thought I had a relevant and interesting comment to make about a topic we were discussing. So I put my hand up, said tried to communicate but in the end I wrote it on the board, and there was silence, deafening silence. The lecturer looked at me in a funny way, and said: “I just said that.”
I remember being so embarrassed. I never made another comment or participated in that class again. I remember how I knew just how different I really am. That moment it was painfully clear to me.
These are the awful parts of deafness. It’s a lonely thing to deal with. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Not even my worst enemy. People talk about deaf pride and the deaf culture. I’m living proof there is no pride in silence. There is pride in accomplishment, there is pride in achievement, there is even pride in family and children but silence knows no pride.
It got to the point where I was sure I was going to be dependent on my family for the rest of my life. I mean how could I get a good-paying job being deaf? I didn’t feel like I could relax even in the presence of friends because I was always struggling to hear them, so life was just one big constant source of stress.
I was most happy when alone or with Sarah. Without the stress of reminding people to look at me when they talk.
The worst thing was, I knew life hadn’t even really begun. I was so young still! I remember thinking: “This is not even the beginning. Life is just going to get harder and harder.”
The way I felt, life was already unbearable… And it was about to get a lot harder. Three years of college down and yet my prospects at anything but stripping seemed to fade.
The night I was the furthest down, I remember so clearly. The night I earned eighteen stitches and a lesson etched in flesh I’ll never forget. I’d earn my first trip to the psych ward for depression and cutting.
I’d had a particularly bad night at school, had a fight with my parents, I had a major fight with Sarah (both on skype), had a terrible, awkward conversation with a friend of mine – it was late at night, and as I walked through the darkened campus towards my dorm, I said to myself: “That is it. I can’t take it anymore.” That “I can’t do this anymore.”
The most enduring memory of that moment is how time suddenly stood still. All I can remember was the sense of calm that came over me as they put me in the ambulance and my vision faded. My breathing, the bright clear moon high above me, the darkened, damp air, the panicked dorm mates, the street lights. The smells and the breeze.
Everything became acutely clear and still. There was a heavy calm, a calm feeling in my chest as lights faded from my eyes, the first time that I had ever felt the calm even in my stomach.
That was what frightened me the most. How very calm I was as the world faded. I was so detached, so rational. It was like a relief and a wake up call.
What were the pros and cons of dying?
That ride in the ambulance. That night as my world feel apart and became so calm and clear.
I went through the pros and cons of dying that night. I couldn’t prove that what I was experiencing now would end when I died. If it didn’t end, would I be doomed to be stuck in this eternal moment? This gave me the most pause.
I also knew my parents and son would be devastated.
Finally I came to a decision. As I lay fading I said to myself: “No. Death is not the answer. I will not die tonight. I will find another way to end this feeling. But I will not die this night.“
Still in a transcendent state at the hospital I remember them admitting me. I realized how close I had come to death unintentionally. I remember my conversation with God.
“Father it’s been a while. Do you still hear me? Do you still care? If so please help me I know I’m sick. Please father if you hear me, if you care please help me.” My answer never came that day. Or perhaps it did and I wasn’t ready yet to hear it.
I slept, but it wasn’t like any sleep I’d had before. I closed my eyes, and lay in one position all night, neatly under the covers, unmoving until the sun came up. It seemed the night was over in a few seconds. I opened my eyes to find my parents standing over me, looking down at me with love.
Perhaps God sent my answer in them. I certainly wasn’t ready to hear him yet. It would be many years before my heavenly father would speak and I’d listen. Really and truly listen.
For once they look concerned but they didn’t look upset. And I remember mom saying, “I will help you. I’ve come to help you.” My father said “You couldn’t keep her away so we caught the first flight here.”
And I knew then that everything was going to be alright.
~Michelle Styles – May the fourth be with you in 2014..