I always saw the world as an amazing place: I had friends, I would play outside, I would do my school work and I would do what any happy, healthy kid would do at 10 years old. I thought my life would always be as easy as it was before I turned 11, when suddenly I couldn't hear my mom call me to come for dinner. She didn't believe me at first, which is understandable. She thought I was just being a kid, but it didn't stop. I continued not being able to hear and it was getting worse the longer we waited. After bugging my mom for about two weeks, she finally decided to bring me to the doctor. They informed us I was going deaf. I will never forget the words the doctor said, ”Emily has holes in her ear drums.” My heart sank hearing them. I was confused; how does that even happen? We don't really know how it happened. My ear drums just started to disintegrate, showing my hearing bones and it will continue for the rest of my life. My mind was racing with all this information.
There I was, completely confused, being told my hearing loss is going to get worse with time and there's nothing they can do about it but give me hearing aids. I was excited about that, until I went to school the next day. I had short hair; everyone could see them and they were not shy about making comments. Remember when I said I had friends? That was not the case after they saw my two new best friends behind my ears. Everyone treated me so coldly, like I was disgusting for something I couldn't control. I would be called names and notes would be passed around about how “I'll never get a boyfriend” now that I’m deaf. If someone told me becoming deaf would show me so many people's true colors, I would've done it quicker.
I was in middle school the year after I got diagnosed. I was known as “the deafy,” which hurt a lot. Bullying turned into harassment, with people throwing things at me, ruining my expensive clothes, telling me to do things to myself I wouldn't wish upon anyone; all because of two tiny things dangling behind my ears that help me function day-to-day. Middle school was probably the worst time to be deaf for me, but it also showed me how different my life really changed after my hearing changed. I was always confused as to why everyone cared so much about whether I could hear or not. I still haven't found out why and I don't think I ever will.
In high school, I also got bullied, though this time for more than just my lack of hearing. These were the years I learned to cope with being deaf and of not caring what people had to say about me. I would stand up for myself when anyone would bully me. During the pandemic, I really started to feel better about myself. I started to go to therapy and also found a way to cope, which became art. I'm glad I became deaf in some ways because I wouldn’t have found art, nor would I have been inspired to go to college to become an art teacher.
Now at the age of 19, I can finally say I'm proud of myself and I'm proud to be deaf because it is who I am. It was terrifying at first because if I wasn't bullied, it wouldn't have affected me as hard as it did, which made coping and realizing I was becoming deaf a whole lot harder. People are going to be cruel in life and though I have had a lot of struggles because of my hearing loss, I learned to see the bigger picture and the beauty in it. I learned that no matter what, I can't change for people, especially people that don’t even like me. Being deaf has taught me so many things about myself and has even helped me realize my self worth, though some days are harder than others.
It wasn't the fact I became deaf that affected me as much as it was everyone’s reactions to my disability and newfound problems. The fact that something that should have affected me hurt everyone else around me to the point where they wanted to physically or emotionally hurt me, hurt way more than anything else. On the other hand though, being deaf opened my eyes to how cruel the world could be and how hard it can be on people who are even a little different. I don’t understand why society has made the assumption that disabled equals bad, but in my mind, disabled equals strong. I always look back on how I viewed the world before and how I view it now: if I never became deaf, I don't think I would have ever become me: Emily Gervais, the art major.