Trigger Warning: This story contains themes of attempted suicide that may be triggering to some.
“I was diagnosed with Bilateral Sensorineural hearing loss of a mild to moderate nature when I was 7 years old. This basically means I have hearing loss in both ears. Now, at 25, this has deteriorated from severe to profound.
The diagnosis itself was a mystery. I was born into a hearing family with no history of deafness. After diagnosis, my immediate family was devastated, and it was hard to believe. My mother often asked herself, ‘Is the diagnosis a mistake?’ She felt nothing but guilt and often questioned whether she had done something wrong. My grandparents were shocked and saddened too. My grandmother was emotional about the news.
When I was younger, I didn’t really understand the seriousness of the situation. I remember running into my classroom and excitedly showing everyone my hearing aids. They felt like an accessory at the time. They were just normal, beige hearing aids, which I decorated with a couple of stickers.
As I grew up, I became more aware of my deafness and my hearing aids. I began to resent them. I refused to change the batteries. My mother had to come to school and change them for me until my teacher got me to change them myself.
I started to compare myself to my friends and realized I was different from them. The real problems started when I entered high school. After leaving elementary, we started mixing with lots of other children from different schools in my area. I hadn’t grown up with these children, and they were not familiar with deafness. I remember starting high school and decided to wear my hair down. Walking to school with my childhood friend, I held my hair tight, to keep my ears covered as the wind blew. The closer we got to school, the tighter I grabbed my hair, to avoid my hearing aids being seen by other children.
I struggled through school and tried my hardest to keep my deafness a ‘secret.’ I remember in the second year of high school, I was speaking to my class tutor, and discussed how I was struggling with group work in drama. He suggested I tell the class I was deaf, to which I strongly disagreed. I wanted to do this in my own time when I was ready.
I left the classroom to meet with my ‘buddy mentor,’ who I met on a regular basis to discuss general problems I was having. I returned to my classroom, to see a sea of heads turn in my direction. I thought, ‘Why is everyone looking at me? Am I being paranoid?’ During break time, I asked two friends in my class. To my horror, they told me our class tutor told everyone I was deaf! I remember feeling sick, my heart was racing, my anxiety went through the roof. I was angry. How dare he tell MY story! Now, everyone is going to know. This news will spread around like wildfire. My friends reassured me… but I was right.
I had a few immature boys in my class, who would on occasions, make jokes about my deafness. One day, I walked into the classroom and sat by myself at my seat. Behind me, I heard, ‘Louise, Louise, Louise!’ I turned around and replied, ‘Yes?’ Then he continued, ‘Louise, Louise, Louise!’ I replied again, ‘Yes?!’ Then he replied, ‘GOD Louise, you are so deaf sometimes!’ and laughed. I remember turning around and feeling this painful lump in my throat. My eyes started watering, and I sat there quietly.
A few girls sitting at my table, a bit further up, witnessed this, but didn’t say anything and continued to chatter amongst themselves. I felt so alone and worthless. I often remember looking out the window and dreaming of leaving the school and feeling free, away from those bullies.
I often came across a large group of people, sitting in seats, on both sides of the narrow corridor. To their amusement, they all stuck their legs out, which meant I had to step over them all to get past and got tripped up several times. Why? Because I was the quiet, deaf girl, with no confidence. School was hard. I muddled through. There were lessons with videos that were not subtitled and ‘listening tests’ in our language classes. It was so embarrassing when we had to get other people to mark them, and then read our results out loud.
Leaving school felt amazing! It was a massive weight lifted off my shoulders! Going to university, I vowed to be open about my deafness and walked in on the first day with my hair in a ponytail.
I was so nervous, but I am proud of myself! I didn’t have any friends at university, but I did befriend my communication support, Elisabeth. She was an absolute lifesaver and supported me throughout the 3 years at university. She was very passionate about ensuring I was included in the lectures. She is most definitely, a friend for life. Having someone to talk to, rant to, and someone I could trust was what got me through university. I was going through a dark time when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and had a lot of personal problems that did not help. It was Elisabeth, who was there for me, as a trusted person to talk to. Since she moved away to another city, I often think of all the memories with fondness and miss her dearly.
The support I had from friends and family during these tough times, was amazing. A majority of them, except my mother, are not ‘deaf aware’ but I know they care for me deeply.
On a couple of occasions in my early 20’s, I sadly tried to end my life. I wasn’t happy with who I was and felt ashamed, lost, and alone. The first attempt, I walked up this huge bridge, very late at night. I wasn’t going to be stopped. Walking up the bridge was a blur. I vaguely remember everything going silent. I assumed it was my hearing and went to the edge and sat there bawling my eyes out. To my complete surprise, a policeman snuck up behind me and grabbed me, pulling me in from behind. He stopped me from making this terrible mistake. Also, in a way, my deafness saved my life. It made it easier for the policeman to save me because I couldn’t hear anything from behind!
My mother and my older brother tried so hard to be there for me and tried hard to understand. But it is difficult to understand when you’re not experiencing the deafness yourself. I often pictured myself being alone. ‘Who could love someone like me?’ I would constantly say to myself. I had a couple of relationships and one long term relationship, which did not end too well because it left me with confidence issues.
To this day, I still don’t think of myself very highly. During my ‘dark times,’ I had some very special friends who were there for me. My hearing friend, Abi, came to my rescue when I was feeling down. She arrived at my doorstep on ‘Blue Monday’ with a selection of gifts to cheer me up, the day after I had an emotional breakdown. She is like a big sister to me.
A year on, and I met an amazing guy! We both went to the same school together, but we never spoke, despite being in an English class together! I remember how I really liked him. But my confidence was at zero, so I never pursued my feelings, and instead, watched him date another girl. ‘It will never happen, Louise,’ I would tell myself.
A few years after leaving school, we both started talking and met up for a drink at our local pub. It went on from there and we started dating! He is now learning his British Sign Language Level 1 qualification, to make communication easier for us. He really is amazing and fantastic communication support when I need it. I still have moments when I feel guilty because I think, ‘He can do so much better than me!’ I must remind myself he is lucky to have me too. My deafness has changed my life for the good too. It has made me a more open-minded, caring, and incredibly loving person!
My advocacy began 6 years ago. I used my Twitter platform to casually rant about my day and the problems I was facing as a young, deaf person. Each day, my ‘following’ increased. I was surprised to learn people were beginning to relate to my tweets. 6 years on and I have been lucky to have been offered some amazing opportunities. I have been interviewed in the BBC News studio about my life being deaf and have been invited into the BBC Radio Suffolk studio to speak about my life and raise some deaf awareness on air. I have also acted as ambassador for a multi-national company called BT, which released a new text relay app for deaf people. My confidence has improved dramatically over the years. These fantastic opportunities that were offered to me really helped, and I am incredibly grateful.
My grandmother, who sadly died in 2019, was my hero. She was diagnosed with a condition, that consequently meant, she lost most of her sight. Along with my mother, brother, and grandad, she was one of my biggest supporters. Losing her, I fell into a deep depression again. She was the only person in my life I could relate to, in terms of disability. Losing her, I felt alone and lost. I lost my ‘second mother’ and I didn’t know how I would cope. My whole world was turned upside down. Meeting Jack this year, my mental health has since, stabilized and it has been over a year since I attempted to end my life.
I am a Deaf Awareness Advocate continuing to raise deaf awareness through blog posts and collaborating with different organizations to raise awareness. I aim to tackle the misconceptions about deafness.
I am currently on the waiting list for my very own hearing dog. Hearing Dogs For Deaf People, is a fantastic charity that trains dogs to become hearing dogs! I am so excited to have my very own dog one day. Currently, in my spare time, I like to walk other people’s dogs. I have found walking really helps my mental health and has helped to keep it under control. I am hoping one day to beat my depression and anxiety, but in the meantime, raising awareness for deafness and making the world a little more ‘deaf aware’ is one of my top priorities!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Louise Goldsmith. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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