Tuesday, April 18, 2017

5 Years

It was five years ago today.  I lay looking at bright lights, keenly aware of the medical hustle and bustle in my peripheral vision.

Aren't they going to be drilling a hole in my skull soon?  Should I even be awake to realize I'm in the operating room?

These were my final thoughts before I went under anesthesia and officially turned bionic.

April 18, 2012: The day I got a cochlear implant.

Looking back, it should have felt like a big deal.  I hadn't heard "normally" since I was nine, or perhaps not ever-- not that it mattered how long I had been hearing impaired.  For most of my life, it was difficult to make sense of sound.  The age of nine carries particular significance given I was that age when the school nurse told my parents something wasn't quite right.  It was then, I started to feel different.

In the months that followed, which turned to years, I occasionally sunk into a world of self-pity which varied from moments to hours, at least internally.  On the outside, I was social, cheerful, and dare I say, confident, but on the inside...  I look back and... I was a mess.

In the decade that preceded April 18, 2012, I struggled all day every day.  I worried my kids would call for help and I wouldn't answer.  I agonized over whether I'd advance in my career, questioning how a person so hearing impaired could possibly rise to the top, or even at all.  I cried after seeing friends and family, believing I was incapable of  connecting with others, too focused on trying to understand what people were saying to me to build the deep friendships I craved.  I was tired, and beyond frustrated.  Even my sweet husband knew there was nothing he could say or do to ease my pain.  I'm a "talk-through-things" kind of girl, and there have only been select times when I was so pissed, I couldn't speak.  

It was always my hearing.

I likened it to the worst possible circumstance you could wish upon your enemy, a prison that swallowed and taunted with its suffocating grip.   I despised it so much, that to cope, I pretended it wasn't happening.  I did everything in my power- all of my focus and energy-  to avoid having to publicly acknowledge the haunting existence of my hearing impairment.  It was exhausting.

By 2012, I only heard 15-20% around me.  So when I got the audiologists' green light to go through with a cochlear implant, it felt like a new chapter... at least, sort of.  But it was never just about the hearing.  There was an even bigger deal. 

For me, it occurred April 1, 2012.

Prior to then, I rarely spoke a word about my hearing loss.  I had incidents when others would ask me about it- my child's pediatrician, an attorney when we closed on our first home- and I'd freeze in a bubble of shame.  I couldn't even respond without crying.

But finally, I spoke. 

The truth is I had drafted my first blog post in snippets here and there throughout many years.  In notebooks and journals, and post-its I scribbled my truth.  But it was April 1, 2012 that I was brave enough to share.

I wish I could describe to you what it felt like for me to finally let go of trying to hide something that was so persistent and shameful.  There was a weightlessness to that moment, a vulnerability, sure, but it was coated in freedom, as if a wall of bricks that surrounded my body had finally been knocked down after twenty two years.  The cries that poured out of me after I pushed PUBLISH was the most cathartic and powerful moment I've ever experienced in my life.

Fast forward to seventeen days later when a surgeon was slicing into my head... that wasn't such a big deal.  Being myself was.

Five years has passed, and my life has surely changed.  It's been an incredible journey, and there's too much that has happened to put it all into a single blog post.  Maybe soon, I'll share more.

To summarize, at least hearing-wise, I have amazing days, some where my understanding of sound is so crisp and clear, I feel like I'm dancing when I walk.  Whoo!  Those are happy days.

In between, there are absolutely shitty days where it seems I'm surrounded by chaos, like hundreds of people gargling at once- no joke- and those days make me want to throw my implant processor out the window, have a good cry, go to bed, and start again the next morning. And the next day, maybe it's better.

A cochlear implant is not a cure by any means.  The bionic world I experience-- well, it's life, filled with ups and downs, surprises and disappointments-- but it's truthful.

THAT'S where the success story lies: the truth.

On my 5 years + 17 days anniversary of living my life-  my real, God-given journey- I look to you and pray you'll do the same.  I pray that if you have something- and we all do- that you'll experience the surrender I'm unable to justifiably describe, knowing that one day you will reach the point where you'll look back and say, My GOD, why didn't I do that sooner?

And yes, it will be a big deal.   But in time, as the glare of exposure dims, you may even come to embrace and honor and grow to love the crazy deal that's true to you.  My prayer is that you'll own it, because it's yours.