At the age of 9, I was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in both ears. For 22 years I rejected accommodations and often pretended to hear when I couldn't. In April 2012, I could no longer ignore my declining hearing. I FINALLY shared my truth, and made the life changing decision to get a cochlear implant. My journey began as a quest to hear, but it's so much more. This is my self-acceptance story. This is my search for CLARITY.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Life has been whispering to me over the
course of the last year.
I've known that I have been holding my
truth too closely. I've known I should share my stories once more.
But like many of life's journeys, the longer I let it go, the
stronger the case was for me not to return. It seemed too hard, too
much, to write any more about my hearing journey.
My life, and its inclusion of
progressive hearing loss, has offered its share of intense
frustration. Then there was the introduction of my cochlear implant
in 2012, and the shiny hope attached to it that life would quickly
get better. And then... there was its aftermath with its own
frustrations, and the disappointment when I didn't hear the way I
assumed I would.
Through the tears and tantrums, the
pity parties, and the anger over not being able to hear “normally,”
I have never doubted that this journey is exactly the life I am
supposed to be living. From the time I was a child, I instinctively
grasped that while I often resented my circumstances, it was a
journey meant for me. I suspected purpose behind it all.
When I started this blog almost three
years ago, that purpose became more clear. Sharing who I was- the
good, the bad, and the vulnerable- seemed to strike a chord in
people. I began connecting with family, friends and even strangers
in a more meaningful way, and because I opened up, I found others did
the same with me.
In 2013, I remember my husband, kids
and I driving to the ocean for summer vacation. I received a
message from a mother whose son was born with a developmental
difference. She shared her hopes that in spite of his challenges, he
would be able to confidently approach his life and accomplish his
goals. She revealed she was also printing my blog posts and saving
them for her little boy to one day read. Slumped in the passenger
seat, I read her message over and over again. I was so incredibly
moved, crying quietly to myself for miles as we drove down the
I felt as though my journey- and the sharing of it- was making a difference. It energized me. It freed me. It
encouraged a greater acceptance and self-potential than I knew I
And then I stopped. A busy life got in
Skydiving, Lake George. August 2013.
Those whispers-- they would come to me
in life's more interesting moments. The time I jumped out of an
airplane and couldn't hear a thing. The first time I saw a play and understood everything. The time I finally mustered
enough courage to ask for closed captioning glasses at the movie
theater, only to have them NOT work (resulting in free tickets- much
to my kids' amusement- for a future visit). The time I tried again,
and for the first time in ages, actually understood and enjoyed a
movie. The time I was accepted into a research study at Vanderbilt
University, and worked with the best in the audiology world to
achieve better hearing. The time my sister, also living with progressive hearing loss, pursued a cochlear implant and how her results differed from mine.
Enthusiastically posing during Visit 1 at Vanderbilt University, Nashville. July 2014.
Each time, a quiet thought would pass
through: You should write about that, Pam. And for a moment, I
thought I would, only to distract myself with life's busy excuses
Then 2015 introduced itself rather
I had a lovely reunion with my
childhood friends, one who hadn't seen me since I received the
cochlear implant. It's always fun to gather others' feedback as to
how they perceive I am hearing, and I was pleased she commented on
how much better I seemed to speak and understand. But she was also
mad at me. She had loved the blog, and felt it had helped people.
She was pissed at me for stopping.
The whispers were growing louder.
Immediately following the start of the
new year, a dear friend of mine revealed a truth that was a long time
in the making, plaguing this person's life with unnecessary
exhaustion and secrets. Remembering my own big reveal, and the
anxiety as to how people would respond, I can't even begin to express
how happy it made me to see someone I love finally choose a life of
greater authenticity. And then I questioned if mine was still in
that category, or if I was masking my disability once more...
A couple of weeks later, I learned a college friend had tragically lost his life in a car crash. I didn't know Jason especially well- we shared a few classes
at Syracuse, and lived near one another in our freshman dorm- but I
knew enough to know he was a nice person. Through Facebook and
mutual friends, I knew he had a good job, a beautiful wife he
adored, a sweet 1 year old baby... he appeared to be a good guy
living a good life. He was just 4 days older than me, a fact I did
remember from the drunken birthday celebrations during college life.
In the week following his death, I found myself wide awake one night,
mourning for his wife, son, and parents, acknowledging the
fleetingness of this life-- how often we save things for another
time, only to never get there. I knew I wanted to write again, and
I also knew I should.
A few days before my 34th
birthday, I received an email from a stranger named Joan. She had
found my blog about a month after receiving a cochlear implant, and
was struggling with painful “zapping” following activation, as if
someone was flicking her head each time a noise presented itself. It
actually took me a minute to remember my own experiences with this--
those moments a coworker would cough and it felt as though someone
was snapping a rubber band at my temples. Reading Joan's pleas to
provide her with hope, I felt grateful. I had come so far. If all
other instances were whispers, this occurrence was a loud smack in
the face. It was a blessing to connect with Joan. I needed to
write again, to share again, to connect once more.
I have yet to determine what will come
from this post, and any follow-ups to it, but I trust that sharing
these thoughts with you is what I should be doing at this point in
time. My life has always been richer when I share it. And I nod to
my whispers- my dear friend starting fresh,
Jason, Joan, and all the others leading to this exact moment.
life whispers, it can be tough to listen. But I should in this
journey, and I commit to trying harder.