A Journey in Resilience
Imagine your whole world, as you knew it, was turned upside down overnight.
That happened to me.
At twenty four years old, on paper, I became essentially deaf.
I experienced a sudden and unexplained loss of hearing in my left ear – my “good” ear. Hearing in this ear had decreased from mild to profound hearing loss, and it is accompanied by intense tinnitus. A loud, unrelenting sound that does not have an external acoustic source — like a fire alarm bell and the static from an out-of-tune radio, all at once. I could hear nothing but that all day long.
Being born with a moderate hearing loss, I never felt as if I had a disability despite wearing hearing aids. Most of my life I have had a positive yet realistic outlook on my hearing loss. My parents raised me to believe I could accomplish anything I put my mind to.
Even so, the unrelenting combination of sound and non-sound shattered my resolve into a million pieces. It became even more difficult to do many things that hearing people take for granted. I could not talk on a cell phone (or any phone for that matter), I couldn't listen to the radio or watch TV unless it was captioned. As a once outgoing, very happy, and social twenty-four-year-old, these new challenges had affected me emotionally and physically. I found myself withdrawing from friends and family due to the effort it took to listen, and my inability to follow and participate in conversations.
You might think that while experiencing these difficulties, I turned to my painting. But, I couldn’t… even if I wanted to.
I had a major creative block. How could I create when so much had changed? I had experienced a major loss and was grieving what used to be. I had to stop working because it was getting too hard to do the tasks in what was once my dream job as a Deaf Education teacher working with families of newly diagnosed deaf children under five.
During my time off, I needed a creative outlet but painting felt too raw. So I turned to something new, calligraphy and design. Through lessons in Modern Calligraphy, I found the ability to focus on the letters and quiet the tinnitus. Learning calligraphy inspired me to create a wedding invitation suite for a friend, which turned into watercolor painting and finally, oil painting.
After three long years, in May 2016, I was given the ability to hear again through a cochlear implant. Now at twenty eight years old, I am learning sign language. It is a part of my identity: I am deaf.
But, perhaps most importantly, my heart is full because I am painting again.
To anyone else that is grieving and going through a loss, yeah, it’s hard. I found structure was the best way to help navigate an emotional creative block, and I would suggest giving yourself small creative assignments and celebrate the small steps.
Be kind to yourself. We are more resilient than we think and it takes courage to overcome adversity.