Getting Personal: Hearing Loss, Tourette’s and Depression

Shawn Jackson Deaf And Deaf Culture, Tourette Syndrome 1 Comment

Depression, as little as it is talked about in general, seems to come with hearing loss and Tourette’s like sweat and exercise. At least some of the time.

When I lost my hearing, I felt the world crumbling around me. I didn’t want to go outside. I just wanted to hide because I couldn’t interact with people, couldn’t hear the world around me and, to me, I didn’t add any worth to anyone or anything.

It was nearly the same with my Tourette’s but different. It was different because I was still a teen when I was diagnosed and, thus, had to go to school every day. I had to put on a brave, smiling face as if I wasn’t conflicted and hurting inside. This depression, coupled with the later profound deafness, made life very difficult for me. Maybe not in the way many associate the words ‘difficult’ and ‘life’, but it was a dark time I have not told anyone about until now.

After my Tourette diagnosis, I found very little to truly be happy about. I had at least 1 severe ticcing episode every month for the rest of my sophomore year. Words cannot express how low I felt when all eyes were on me or I had to be carried out of the classroom (or lunchroom) or when my classmates didn’t understand what Tourette’s was and elected to believe that I was faking it all for attention. At least they seemed to only think that in that first year.

tourettes-5-728Depression and Tourette Syndrome can be co-morbid, or co-existing, disorders. They can also not be. In many people with Tourette’s, depression comes part and parcel with the main illness in the same way that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) can. Of course, there are cases where it isn’t a co-morbid disorder and is a result of going through the emotions of discovery and adjustment. For me, it’s co-morbid.

The things that eventually helped me accept things were my family’s support, the support of my teachers and reading “Twist and Shout: A Touretter’s Tale” by Lowell Handler.

wpid-wp-1445382784863.jpegWhen I lost all of my hearing, I felt like I had not mattered at all. As I said above, I felt like I didn’t add to anything in my family’s lives or at work. I had been hard of hearing since I was in elementary school, but having nearly complete hearing loss was a devastating blow I had not been prepared for. Going from hearing to not hearing isn’t something to take lightly; and so, I fell into a deep depression. 

Unlike what I faced with my Tourette’s, I felt completely alone. I couldn’t hear any music, stories nor could tell what everyone was laughing at. It always felt like it was me that was the butt of whatever joke someone had just told. In all likelihood the joke wasn’t about me, but depression isn’t logical. The thoughts swimming around in your head are all negative and it’s far too easy to believe the lies they tell. I had thoughts of suicide rolling around but thinking of the pain that would cause my family continually snapped me back from feeding into it more.

The number one thing that made it easier to live with was learning American Sign Language and becoming friends with two deaf people, one of whom I’m still friends with today.

Depression is a constant battle many of us face. Some of us face it with medication, others face it with strength of will. It waxes and wanes, it ebbs and flows like a tide that hasn’t made up its mind as to whether to come in or go out. Whether you’ve lost your hearing or still battling with tics, please know that you are not alone! Seek us out, seek help and thrive!!! You are wanted and needed in this world. And that is the unvarnished truth!

“Life is like a huge math quiz. And in life, risk is part of the equation…”

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  1. Pingback: Catching Up: When Your Loved One Hears Again – Deaf/Tourette

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