Today, I did something I’ve never done before…
I woke up with a pounding headache. My tinnitus was wailing like a Banshee and I knew I had a training course to deliver. I dragged myself out of bed, took some painkillers and the first of my daily betahistine dihydrochloride tablets and got myself ready for work.
Luckily, there was only a small number of people on the training course and the session involved a fair bit of individual attention from me to each of the learners so, despite their voices having to compete with the Banshees’, I managed OK. Keeping up with the direction of different voices and trying to hone in to do lip reading for the discussion part of the session – as well as remembering all the information I needed to impart- did take its toll and by the end of the second hour, I felt exhausted.
When it was over, the headache was back with a vengeance and I just felt I needed a ‘time out’. So, what was it I did that I’ve never done before? Well, two things really: firstly, I took myself off to my favourite cafe and I decided to have lunch alone. Usually, I would feel too self conscious to go into a cafe to eat on my own but today I didn’t care. I felt I needed to go somewhere to be nourished.
The cafe is such a haven of peace and tranquility that just being there puts me into a good mood before I’ve even tasted the food. I love the cosy feel, the pretty, homely decor and the cheery staff. As I peeped through the door to see if there were any tables free, I realised the one and only armchair by the counter was free: I took it as an omen that I was meant to go in and have some ‘me’ time.
I placed my order and once it arrived I did the second thing I’ve not done before in a public place when alone – I took out my hearing aids. Oh, it was bliss! I treated myself to the luxury of peace and quiet in a busy, bustling place. No clanking of cutlery on china. No trying to keep up with a conversation over the noise of background chatter. This was just what my aching head needed – silence.
Ordinarily, I feel panicky if I’m on my own and I suddenly can’t hear anything (like when my hearing aid batteries run out unexpectedly) but today, I embraced the lack of sound. Normally, I feel like I am continually trying so hard to hear all the time: actively ‘not listening’ was a revelation. It’s as though I had given myself permission to not listen out for anything. I just knew this would help ease my headache. Nothing bad was going to happen here so I didn’t need to listen out for anything, my senses had no need to be on ‘red alert’. I felt truly relaxed for the first time in a long while.
I enjoyed my lunch and caught up with friends on Twitter. I love how social media can instantly connect me with people without me needing to hear them. It gives me such a sense of freedom.
After a while, I realised the cafe had emptied. “I bet it’s quietened down now,” I thought and briefly considered putting my hearing aids back in – but I didn’t.
The next customers to come in were a couple in their late forties/early fifties. They were signing to each other. The man was looking at the specials board and signing the specials to his partner: another advantage to being deaf – you can communicate over distances without shouting.
I feel that after a year since becoming deafened, I am starting to have a different relationship with my deafness. Perhaps this is the ‘acceptance’ part of the grieving process I’ve read about.
I left the cafe feeling a hundred times better than when I’d entered and I know I will do this again. This was so much nicer than eating my lunch in my office and it was actually more relaxing than having lunch with a friend. So, the next time I feel overwhelmed by sounds or exhausted from lip reading – and when I need peace and quiet rather than company – I’ll be back in my favourite cafe, in a world of my own.
Angie is journalist, food and travel writer, photographer and co-founder of #Yorkshirehour on Twitter – as well as having a full-time job in local government. She’s also a wife, chicken-keeper, gardener, foodie and WI member, living in Glorious Yorkshire. Angie started going deaf in one ear at the age of 30, then suffered total sudden onset hearing loss in her ‘good’ ear in 2011. Her husband and her chickens keep her sane – or as close as she’s gonna get! You can check out her website, blog, twitter account, Facebook and Linked In.
The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, training and consultancy Deafworks, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Look, Smile Chat campaign, and the National Theatre’s captioned plays.