One year ago today, at this time (10:30 PM or so), I was at the wheel of the van, headed towards San Diego, California, with my children and in-laws in tow. It was a remarkable trip for a lot of reasons...it was largely unplanned, very quickly thrown together, and the passenger list was actually decided upon just that day. It was a fun idea that snowballed rapidly and turned in to an incredible trip. One thing that none of us counted on when we planned this trip, though, was that I would be completely deaf for the entire thing.
That morning my brother-in-law preached to fill in for our preacher, who was out of town that day. While he was preaching, I heard a sharp "pop"...it actually startled me quite a bit...then the tinnitus roared to life, and Doug's voice got softer and softer. Within minutes, I was only hearing the loudest of sounds with my hearing aid.
I didn't even pause from packing from the trip. The whole hearing mess had started one year earlier on March 30th, 2006, when I suddenly lost about 5 decibels in my one good ear smack in the middle of a conversation. It never came back....but over the next few months it fluctuated a good bit, getting worse, then bouncing back. Several times I thought "this is it!" but it always came back, leaving me feeling a bit like the boy who cried wolf, so I finally learned to ignore it.
This time, I suspected that things were different....I'd never heard that pop before...and it sounded awfully final...but for all I knew, it would come back. And I figured that if I was going to go deaf, I could do it just as well in California...and have a lot more fun doing it there.
Two weeks on the road was quite long enough for me to know that it wasn't coming back. I ditched the hearing aid about halfway through the trip...the sounds I was hearing were too muffled and annoying to be any use. I had brought my first CI, the infamous Thing 1, along on the trip, but wasn't in the mood to deal with it, so I just enjoyed the trip in silence. The Grand Canyon wasn't any less grand because I couldn't hear, and the Whataburgers were just as tasty, and if the kids fought all the way there and all the way back, it didn't bother me a bit. I was on a road trip, people, and life was good...I'd deal with it when I came back.
Between March 25th and November 20th, my world was largely silent. I did make a bigger effort to wear my first CI and actually had some measure of success with it, but the sounds I heard and felt with it were so uncomfortable and disconcerting that after a few months I largely abandoned it, wearing it only when I felt it was absolutely crucial. I learned that if I went to Wal-Mart or to church or out to dinner without being able to hear, the world didn't come to an end. It was kind of a clumsy existence...people had to repeat themselves a lot, and often conversations were just cut short because I got tired of trying to keep up, but I learned something...that the quiet life was OK. When I wore my hearing aid, I wore it nearly 24 hours a day...I think that I was actually somewhat afraid of missing anything. When I didn't have a choice anymore, I discovered that the world kept on going whether I could hear it or not.
It was a lonely summer. I didn't invite a lot of face-to-face communications with anyone...it was easier to avoid them than to struggle through them. I did go to the Hearing Loss convention in Oklahoma City and that was a great thing for me...meeting other people who understood how I was feeling was so validating for me...they made me feel so perfectly normal instead of like the deaf outsider that I had allowed myself to become.
In November, blessed with a brand new cochlear implant and a massive support system comprised of real life friends and family, an army of bloggers, and deaf, hard of hearing, and CI buddies all over the world, I joined the ranks of the hearing once again. I was one of the lucky ones who had great hearing straight out of the box...and it has changed my life. I learned so much about who I was and what I wanted and who I wanted to be during those quiet months...they gave me lots of opportunities for contemplation...and with my new ear, I was ready to take on the world. I still have days where I feel a bit whiny and grouchy...hey, when it's 70 degrees one day and snowing three days later, and it seems like winter's never going to end, and I'm working more hours than I can keep up with, every now and then I like to indulge in a brief pity party. However, for the most part I look for and find joy all around me...and I'm so grateful to be where I am today.
One year has made such a huge difference. I'm not sure I would have chosen it to be the way it was, but I wouldn't trade it for all the gold in China...it's been a huge blessing to me in so many ways. It's amazing how much things can change in a year, isn't it?
Thanks again to all my supporters...the money total keeps growing and growing and growing!! I am well over 800.00 now and the donations keep coming in. You have no idea how grateful I am!!! You are making such a huge difference...and you are being a HUGE encouragement to me as well! I have the AWESOMEST cheerleaders!! THANK YOU!
Let me ask for prayers here for Daddy...he apparently brought malaria home with him from Nigeria. He started feeling really bad yesterday and they started him on the medication for it right away. I do expect that he'll recover quickly, but I know he would appreciate the prayers very much!!
The meltdown at work produced results...Monday I had the privilege of personally overseeing them change my available hours on the computer...to no more than 25 hours a week...and the manager and I went over the schedule with a red felt-tip pen and he lightened up my workload for the next couple of weeks as well. I feel like I can BREATHE again...it's SO nice!! I am off for the next two days. Tomorrow I'm going to catch up on house and computer work, and Thursday the girls and I are indulging in a little retail therapy (they're all out on Spring Break this week)! Hooray! :)
My computer crashed earlier today, so I've been re-installing all night...still have some work to do, so I'm going to head out and get busy. Love y'all....... :)