Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Hearing?

It’s tough when you believe you’re invincible and then BAM! you get deathly ill out of no where.

I was ten years old and thought nothing bad could ever happen to me. I was an active and social child. At the time I got sick, I was involved with martial arts, working my way to a yellow belt. In fact, I was in class the day it all started.

It was July of 1999 and I was practicing  for an upcoming test to get my next stripe (for those who don’t know, you receive x-amount of stripes on your belt before you move on to the  next color belt). I was in the ring with a few of my peers and our teacher when I suddenly got extremely overheated (quite quickly) and dizzy. My mom took me outside where it was slightly cooler until I felt okay enough to return back inside.

The next day I started experiencing headcold symptoms and was even told by my doctor that it was nothing more than just that. But it kept getting worse. On top of that I was experiencing excruciating migraines (I have suffered from them since I was 4 years old but this was the worse they had ever been). This went on for less than a week. Class was Wednesday night and by that Sunday, I woke up early screaming, not knowing who I was, my family was or where I was.

The next thing I remember, I was laying in a hospital bed staring up at a bunch of doctors who were staring down at me.

The illness I had? Encephalitis. This virus attacked my brain and when it was done running its course, I was left legally blind and legally deaf.

Now, I know the title of this blog post is titled Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or  Hearing and that’s because the blind part of me is pretty straightforward. I just tell people I have problems seeing and it is usually left at that. Being Deaf is a bit more complicated. The Deaf world and culture is an amazing thing to be a part of and I am so grateful to have been given the chance to appreciate life through a different view. But because I can hear (only to a certain point) and “speak well”, it is difficult explaining to others, and because of that, I myself have trouble figuring out where I belong.

I used to tell people I was Deaf but then I’d get the confusing looks and questions: “But you can hear?” and “But you speak really well.”, because you know you can’t be considered Deaf and be able to hear or speak well. Then I started declaring myself Hard of Hearing and found that this was much easier to explain when the question came up as to why I have hearing loss. But truth be told, I don’t feel like I fit in any of the three categories. I don’t feel like I fit in with Deafies because I’m not savvy when it comes to sign language or the Deaf culture. I don’t feel like I belong with hearing people because I can’t hear half of what they say and I don’t feel as if they truly get me and my situation. And as for Hard of Hearing, I feel as if I’m just kind of like, “Hey, I’m here…”. 

We all want a place where we belong and maybe one day I’ll figure out where mine is.

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3 thoughts on “Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Hearing?

  1. @Candice2016, first of all, awesome job posting this!
    I’m sorry you have the awful feeling of not fitting in anywhere, even though you have the right to feel included everywhere. It’s hard for me to see that so many deaf people feel like they cannot be a part of deaf culture just because they do not know sign language fluently. If you are being made to feel that way, then you are probably hanging out with the wrong deaf people. Deaf IS a culture just as ASL IS a language. You belong, and you have every right to be in the deaf culture. Rikki did a great video on her first time going to be with deaf people (i think it was her first deaf fest) anyway, she’s right, you need to take a deep breath, and do it. The inclusion you feel in deaf culture, when you find the right people, will make it better. Deafies are some of the best people around.
    Dont stress over ASL, it’s always been a huge debate in Deaf culture, but you do what’s comfortable for you. And if need be, get ahold of me. I’m here and I support you, as I’m sure Rikki does. She is an amazing young woman. Good luck to you Candice. 🙂

    Like

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