Since meeting him, I've certainly taken the time.
Jeff and I were in the same vicinity minutes before he took the stage to speak. I said hello; we introduced ourselves. I had read his blog before the event, so I had a sense of who he was and what he was putting out there-- not to compromise ourselves, not to seek validation from others. In essence, Jeff Yalden is encouraging his audiences to honor their truths.
We chatted about his blog, and I told him about mine. Just the night before, Jeff was talking with his assistant about her brother, a man who has struggled with hearing loss since childhood. Just recently- at age 45- the man received hearing aids.
We talked about why this happens, what it is about hearing loss that causes so many people to stay struggling for so long. As I think about it now, I can offer a variety of reasons from my own experience. Ignorance, vanity, cost, getting by for so long and for the most part, managing, albeit unhappily-- these are all reasons why someone might stop from asking for help. I told Jeff about my own emotional/intellectual disconnect, how deep down I've known I would not be rejected for admitting the severity of my hearing loss. Still, the emotions held me back.
As a child and young adult, Jeff Yalden experienced his own set of challenges. I listened as he spoke of his once-strained and abusive relationship with his parents, and how when he graduated high school, he was abruptly kicked out and thrust into the overwhelming world of adult independence. He spoke of how people get by in dark times such as these, often sticking to themselves, avoiding the helping hands and loving arms of those around them.
It's so easy to think, "You don't know me. You won't understand what I'm going through."
I knew exactly what Jeff meant. I've often pushed people away as they've gently prodded me to let them in. I've held on tightly to my ego, refusing to let others show me new pathways. I knew if I revealed my broken self, if I spoke the truth of how much I needed their help, I would break down.
As Jeff spoke, I thought back to a few years ago. I had been offered a job that I really, really wanted. Two weeks before my official start date, my new supervisor invited me to a picnic so I could familiarize myself with my new coworkers and surroundings. After lunch, several of us walked up an enclosed staircase, chatting as we went.
When I started my new job, my supervisor indicated that on the staircase those people were talking TO ME. But I appeared to ignore them. Obviously, I hadn't heard them.
At this time, I was prideful that despite my circumstances, I often appeared as a hearing person (or so I thought). I was mortified my hearing loss had honestly revealed itself so quickly in my new professional role.
In turn, my supervisor kindly asked me a simple enough question: "What accommodations do you need to do this job?"
There it was: an offer of support, a new avenue to explore, and a possible way out from the daily anxiety I felt trying to pretend to be someone I wasn't. And you know what I said back?
"Nothing. I'm fine. I'll get by."
As the job went on, I grew incapable of talking with more than one person at a time, a task that was quite difficult in a busy office. To avoid phone calls, I often ran after people to speak with them, taking a ton of time away from my other work duties. To compensate, I often worked more than necessary, usually calling upon my husband last minute to pick up my children from long hours at daycare. I was left frazzled and exhausted both at work and home. I grew so stressed that on several occasions, I had massive crying fits at work, sometimes to the point I couldn't breathe (in front of colleagues, no less! AWFUL!). At one point, I actually grew physically ill and landed myself in the hospital for about a week.
All because I pushed help away.
It was unfortunate leaving that job; however, the bigger loss was that I was unable to be honest with myself. I learned the hard way that I needed to break down. I needed to reveal that pain in order to pick up the pieces and rebuild a more confident, secure, and capable version of myself.
I'm grateful to know that now... that it's okay to say, "Help me."
Thank you, Jeff Yalden, for the reminder.