Lipreading Mom’s Note: This is part of a continuing series about depression in women. Today’s writer tells about her life with hearing loss, single parenting, and finding hope and courage.
My name is Susan. I found out that I had a moderate sensorineural genetic hearing loss when I was 12 years old. When I was first diagnosed, no one in my family had a hearing loss. I remember being very angry at everyone, God, my parents and myself, and throwing my hearing aid across the room many times. Why should I be different from everyone else? I do not often share that I am hearing impaired. Hearing loss has become so much a part of me that I sometimes forget other people don’t automatically know I have it.
Personally accepting my hearing loss took another turn with the knowledge that I have passed this hearing loss on to my son. We found out my son had sensorineural hearing loss in the mild to moderate range when he was six. He is 16 now. My daughter does not have a hearing loss. Knowing that I can pass on genes for both normal hearing and hearing loss, and that it was the luck of the draw who would get what, somehow makes it even worse as I think that my son could have had normal hearing had things been different. It is a double bind as you know exactly how your child feels to go through this, and you feel guilt for passing on this gene knowing exactly the pain and challenges he may face; however you are also in the position to be the child’s best advocate as well.
Although we have a great relationship, with us both being hearing impaired the gaps created by not understanding what has been said between us is an ongoing aggravation, and has an impact on our communication and conversations. Each and every conversation is interrupted by “what,” “pardon,” “What did you say” and sometimes we each give up in talking to each other in frustration.
I also believe I suffered from postpartum depression with my son, but did not recognize it at the time. My son was one of those babies who did not sleep, therefore I did not sleep. One day I had had enough; I knew that I needed help. Being that I had a degree in psychology, I also knew of many resources. I found a program at the Hinks Treatment Centre in Toronto called “Wait, Watch and Wonder.” This program focuses on developing a positive attachment between parents and their children. I believe that my hearing loss plays a big part in my ability to connect and become attached to people, and now my own son. It has also been well documented that people with hearing loss are at greater risk for depression. This particular program has helped me develop a positive attachment to my son.
When my ex-husband and I separated true depression set in for me. Not only did I suffer from depression, but I had terrible anxiety that someone would break into the house and I would not be able to hear these burglars and protect my two little ones. This was a real concern for me. Many lights stayed on during this period. But we got through it.
Anxiety is a big part of my life. Situations that may be normal for hearing people can create anxiety for me due to my hearing loss and the frustrations of not being able to hear something. For example, going through the drive-through at McDonalds is anxiety-provoking for me. The speakers are very difficult to hear anything out of, and it is difficult to respond to something you did not hear. Buying tickets from the train or bus attendants all create anxiety in me. Both of the train and bus organizations have their attendants behind booths where they speak through speakers which muffle and distort sound. The speakers also cover the attendant’s mouths, which makes lipreading impossible. Sometimes I will totally avoid situations which I know may create high levels of anxiety.
I have tried different combinations of medications to treat both depression and anxiety. I take a small dosage of Effexor each and every day. I am currently seeing a wonderful life coach. The life coach is a tremendous asset to my life that has allowed me to explore many options I would have never thought of as well as look toward the future. This works well for me for now. Who knows what the future will hold
My life today is full. I am a wonderful single mom to two amazing teenagers. I have a great full-time job working with parents of young children. I own my own home. I have several close friends and a great family, and I have what I have come to think of as a mystic sense of hope that this has kept me going. I still get down as many people do. I recognize these signs. I choose either to let myself feel these emotions fully knowing that there might be something that triggered them and I need to figure out what it was. This is what I call my “DATA” kit. Depression Always Takes Away kit.
Recently I was faced with a situation that made realize that I need to advocate strongly for not only my own accessibility, but the needs of other hearing impaired people as well. I went to the hospital to pick up my mom, and the door of the wing was locked with a sign that told people to push the button, wait to hear the clicking noise and then enter. Of course I could not hear the click and the door remained locked. No other option was provided to open this door.
This situation is a good analogy that you need to step outside the box sometimes and find an alternative way to open the doors of communication that previously remained unopened or locked to you. After this incident I wrote the hospital and told them the challenges faced by a hearing-impaired person. They have contacted the appropriate managers, and they will be looking at alternatives. I will continue to push for these changes in accessibility for all hearing-impaired people.