I am so tired. I’ve never been this tired.
Yes, we’re alive. I’m sorry not to have written more, but as much as we thought things felt intense and busy before, yeah, that was the training period for intensity.
It’s like this: I can hear really well. Most days I only burst into tears a half dozen times because I’ve either heard something new, regained a lost behavior (re: listening without looking), or am just overwhelmed by the immensity of what it means. We hug a lot. And by a lot I mean any time we’re standing, we’re clinging to each other. Mostly it’s joy and relief, and the remainder is confusion and “hang on for dear life” stuff.
Andreas talks about meaning a lot. He has a way of framing a topic to be understood by an audience with uncanny precision. He knows how to get people to understand. In the case of my cochlear implant, well, it kind of defies understanding. So, we’re just kind of going with it. All our normal hearing impaired behaviors now feel awkward and strange. And since that was ALL our behaviors before January 29, we’re literally re-learning how to interact. It’s awkward. It’s often funny. We talked a lot about how stressful regaining hearing feels. This is how it feels…
A thought experiment: imagine waking up completely deaf tomorrow (sorry, this thought experiment is only for the hearing – I guess the rest of you can just switch of your HA or CI until you’re done reading). Maybe you had an infection; an ear ache/headache for a couple of days. Maybe you had an infection and you were given antibiotics or are on some other medication like a blood thinner. Some drugs are “ototoxic” which means they can damage the hearing organ (organ of corti). For the sake of argument, the drugs or infection attack your inner ear and you wake up deaf. (incidentally, this does happen – and more often than you’d be comfortable with).
What happens first? First, you don’t know you’re deaf yet, it’s quiet after all. You might sneeze, sniffle, or move a little. Silence. Maybe your ears are plugged in spite of not feeling any sinus pressure. You stick your pinky finger in your ears and realize the path is clear. You also realize that sticking a finger in your ear made no noise. You call out to a loved one but you cut yourself short. You can’t hear yourself. You throw off the covers and tromp down to the kitchen. No footsteps. No booming thumps down the stairs. In the kitchen you turn on the tap…no tap noise…no familiar clink of glass. The dog meanders over and startles you because you didn’t hear her nails on the kitchen floor. She then takes off and runs to the window. Her body is convulsing and recoiling like a shotgun. Nothing. The dog is barking at a passer-by and your only cue is to look past fido. The dog quickly stops and then runs to the door and starts barking. Someone is at the door. No doorbell. Still no barking. Should you even open the door if you can’t hear. You jump out of your skin when your loved one finally pokes you in the shoulder from behind. You turn and yell. They’ve been talking for a minute but you’re not hearing it. They want to know why you’re not getting the door or answering the phone. The TV is on too loud. You’re missing text messages. If you go to work, what do you do? First thing: go to the doctor. With deference to general practitioners, most could use a refresher on hearing. The doctor grabs the otoscope – the think they stick in your ear – and she takes a look around and doesn’t see anything unusual. She sees a pink eardrum with the handle of the malleus (the hammer bone) attached to the eardrum where it’s supposed to. Everything looks fine, but you’re deaf. You go to an audiologist who then tells you, yep, you’re deaf and it’s permanent.
Here’s the short list of what changed:
- shopping (talking to strangers)
- entertaining (talking to friends)
- no phone use
- increased text/email
- advocacy – telling people you’re hearing impaired/deaf and need their help to hear
- Work (whatever you do, imagine doing it without hearing anything)
Holy shit is right. Now do that in reverse, and that’s been the last 9 weeks for us.
The fact is that for the last month I’ve been utterly and completely exhausted and I have no energy to do much more than talk or listen to music. My brain is in overdrive. It’s not just my speech and hearing cortex that’s waking up. My cognition – how I think – is changing. Andreas says my sense of humour is getting bigger and funnier (thank goodness he thinks I’m funny). I’ve never studied psychology, but I’d swear that being able to hear yourself talk – the self feedback loop – plays a huge role in comprehension, understanding, and synthesis of ideas. It only makes sense. It’s hard to come up with a twist on an idea if you’re working with incomplete information. But I find I come up with ideas and complete them while I’m talking. It’s probably normal, but it’s new to me (at least new enough that I can tell it’s different).
“Get some rest.”
Easy for you to say. I’ve always been a good sleeper. I can nap anytime, anywhere. It’s almost a point of pride. This kind of tired is so far beyond that it’s not even in a movie – it’s in the sequel. Exhaustion is normal after CI activation. Part of my brain has been nearly dormant for most of my life and now it’s awake. Not only are my speech and hearing centres on fire, but my brain is acquiring a new way of interpreting the world (Andreas stops when I turn to see him come into a room – it’s just completely new behavior). It might seem silly, but it’s obvious that most of our social behavior is learned. I think babies sleep 18 hours a day because they’re sponging up all kinds of information. In mid-life I’m doing in the same thing. The nice thing is, when I feel like crying I just pour myself a glass of wine and declare “quality snuggle time.” It’s a bulletproof coping mechanism (with or without the wine).
We’ve been told it takes about three months for the adrenaline to ease off and I think that may already be starting to happen. The first month was a whirlwind (seriously people, where did March go? I had a birthday in there and it’s practically the only day of the entire month that I can remember). Now, we’re beginning to re-re-emerge.
Lots of stress, but good stress. Like the spectrum that my processor, “Mo” provides me, it’s a matter of filtering out the good from the bad.
Through our exhaustion we’re still delighted with the experience. We remind ourselves that we were hoping for “good,” and we ended up with “amazeballs.”
Hearing is worth losing a little sleep over. It really is.