“I need help,” I said. I was a mother pleading for her child. The deaf child in me felt isolated and abandoned. I struggled to hear friends or a phone call. Constant vertigo and a roar in my L ear gave me nausea. It was no way to live.
My doctors of many years repeated hearing tests done a few months before. They’d heard my pleas for years by then.
“We can’t get approval for surgery,” they said. “There’s correctable hearing in the right ear and despite distortion and vertigo, you still have some word recognition in the left.”
“I have to be brought to my knees before receiving help with this?” I asked. I was that desperate. We’d tried many things and a cochlear implant was my last hope.
“I’m sorry,” they said. I soldiered on, took medicine to control vertigo, wrote, and spent too much time alone.
In 2018, after winning the Jung in the Heartland writing competition for my essay “Wild Nights: Grief Dreams, Mythology, and the Inner Marriage,” a friend put me in touch with the president of the Jung Association of Central Ohio. I’d longed to give a workshop on grief and mythology for years, but could I do it with severe hearing loss? I plunged ahead despite doubts.
“I’m very deaf,” I told the organizers, “but I’ll set up the workshop with a mix of presentation, individual writing, ritual, and group discussion. I can present ideas without a problem.”
“Let’s do it,” the Jung Society president emailed. “Our series is about Aging and Loss.”
We set a date, nearly a year away. I planned an event to accommodate worsening deafness. I longed to interact about ideas that matter to me, but could I do it? Determined (or stubborn), I trusted I’d find a way.
The roar in my left ear increased and so did the vertigo. I returned to my audiologists for another hearing test in November 2018.
“I think we can get surgery approved,” my surgeon said. “Your hearing is gone in the left ear.” I already knew my left ear was useless even with a hearing aid plus there was hope surgery would ease vertigo. I wept at the news. There was hope I would hear again.
I said yes to surgery knowing the workshop was only a few months after it. A week after sound went on in March, I knew hearing would be better than it had been for years, but I hadn’t expected such intense fatigue.
“You have all the tones and volume needed for normal hearing now,” my audiologist said 11 days before the May 17-18 workshop. “You’re doing unusually well and catching on fast.”
“But I’ve never been so exhausted,” I said.
He smiled and nodded. “Hearing with the implant makes the brain works hard to interpret bionic sound. It’s a foreign language and you’re a newborn in the world of hearing. It will get easier and hearing will improve and become less stressful. Give it a year.”
It wouldn’t get easier in time for the workshop, but I didn’t consider canceling. I could deal with exhaustion. Somehow I would. Somehow I did.
“Not a dry eye in the room,” one woman said on Saturday. I set the tone with openness about the grief of hearing loss, my husband’s death, and more. We shared our experiences and poetry. We learned from ancient mythological stories about grieving goddesses and wounded healers. We shared our desire to thrive despite our losses.
It may take weeks or even months to recover from following my heart’s desire. I’m still glad I dared to say yes.
Have you made a choice to push ahead when your body wasn’t quite up to it? My husband Vic was a champ at teaching despite failing health. I thought of him as I pushed ahead and gave a successful workshop. With gratitude to my hosts in Columbus, Ohio who supported me every step of the way. There was an audio recording of the workshop, so I’ll let you know when that’s available.
For another post about the wisdom of mythology, see Persephone: Finding Myself in Her Story. For a story about a presentation under challenging circumstances, see Three Lessons about Loss from My TEDx Talk. Everything had to be done from memory with no notes, but I pulled it off despite hearing chaos. After that, anything seemed possible. Even a workshop.