For the last four months, I have highlighted characteristics of depressed people from the book Breaking the Patterns of Depression by Michael D. Yapko. This last article of the series concludes with advice Yapko offers the reader on things NOT to do if one wants to break the pattern of depression. Following Yapko’s suggestions are my thoughts on how this advise might help an individual who is depressed over becoming deaf.
Do not compare yourself to others. A person who finds themselves depressed over late-deafness may ask “why am I so unlucky and burdened with this challenge when other people hear fine?” I think this person fails to realize that each person is faced with challenges in life. Some of us wear our challenges on the outside and some of us wear them on the inside, but we all have challenges. Ours just happens to be deafness. Spending time thinking that one is so unlucky to become deaf takes valuable time and energy away from learning the skills one needs to effectively cope with late-deafness.
Do not reject basic parts of yourself. Deafness is now a part of our life. I don’t know about you, but I sure did not want it to happen. The fact is that it has happened. To reject my hearing loss, is to reject a part of myself. We all know what it is like to feel rejected by others. Remember grammar school or middle school when kids rejected some aspect of your physical appearance or personality? Why would we ever want to do that to ourselves now at this stage in life and reject something that is a part of who we are?
Do not dwell on the past. We can’t change what has happened. Dwelling on the loss of our hearing can’t make our hearing return.
Do not create and dwell on negative possibilities. This is kind of hard for us not to do because we are traveling into a silent world on a journey we never wanted to make. That sets the stage for negative feelings and doubts that we will ever be able to learn other ways to communicate or ever be happy again as a deafened person. But if we continuously look for obstacles, we will make the journey that much harder and possible never reach our destination point.
Don’t ever give up. A clarification is needed for this one. Don’t ever give up on accepting deafness. It does not mean don’t ever give up trying to communicate as a hearing person. I lingered in depression for many years because I got confused about what not to give up on. I have always been a fighter. I naturally assumed that the battle not to give up on was to make myself hear and act as if I could hear. When I finally surrendered to hearing loss, I conquered the challenge of late-deafness and broke the pattern of depression.
I have been thinking a lot lately about late-deafened culture and whether or not there is such a thing. If reality is as I see it, then there is one. I know I have a need for one. Identification is a useful defense mechanism that has helped me to cope with late-deafness. Therefore, the cultural groups I belong to, associated with gender, nationality, and religion, have been extended to make room for one more: late-deafness.
Yapko, M. (1997). Breaking the patterns of depression. New York: Doubleday
(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.)