Some of us before deafness was even in the picture had some hurts and wounds from our childhood, adolescence or young adulthood. Issues never resolved. Instead we filed these painful memories away in compartments of our mind similar to a file in a file cabinet. These files hold unfinished business that we never get around to tending to. We seem to coast through life fairly well day after day, so why bother spending the emotional energy to take care of business that we can file away?
Then deafness enters into our life. It wreaks havoc on our self-esteem and seems to hold a magnifying glass to files we never wanted to open. Suddenly without even realizing or wanting it, we are dealing with more than just deafness. It might take weeks, months or years to work through all the issues and to finally repair the damage caused by these hurts from the past.
It took me thirteen years to accept deafness. When I became deaf, I did not have a strong sense of “self” to be able to cope with a drastic life change such as becoming deaf. Deafness took away the little self- esteem that was holding me together. There were many times before I became deaf that my self-esteem was threatened but I usually managed to recover quickly. But becoming deaf was permanent. It was something I had to deal with day in and day out. Once I started to focus on dealing with deafness I realized that there was a lot more I had to deal with than just deafness to repair my self-esteem. I worked on past issues that I believe I never would have worked through if deafness had not occurred. Once I did work through these issues, I became the person I was meant to be. I rid my self of a bunch of old files that were weighing me down. That is why I often say to people that I like myself so much better now as a deafened person than I ever did as a hearing person. The issue is not that I am hearing or deaf, but the person I became and the unfinished business I put to rest.
(A reprint of an article I wrote 20 years ago, when I was the founding President of ALDA-Suncoast of Florida, a support group for people who have become deaf. The article appeared in the newsletter, ALDA-Sun. At the time, I was going back to school to change professions from being a foreign language teacher to becoming a mental health counselor.)