I have rights. Just like everyone else, I have the right to leave my house without being scared. Yet I am – scared, I mean. I’m not afraid of getting killed or mugged. I’m not afraid of being put in jail or being in an accident. So, what am I so afraid of? Communicating with other people.
Silly, huh? Of all things to be frightened of, the one thing that terrorizes me is the chance that another person will try to talk to me. Or that I will need to talk to someone else.
Why? Because I dread the moment when I have to let them know I’m deaf. It’s the reactions I get that bother me the most. That and the fact that, when I let them know, I feel like I’m confessing to some unfathomable crime I committed or something. Like I did something wrong.
The reactions are always the same. Some people become bug-eyed and high-tail it away from me. Some say they’re sorry, as if they’ve caused it. And some even laugh it off and keep talking – even when I explain that I can’t lipread. When I ask if they can write down what they’re saying, some people just wave me off. Of course, we also can’t forget the ones who become angry and irritated – like I did something personal to them and they haven’t got the time to mess around with me.
Sure, there are many deaf people who can shrug it off or who have gotten so used to it that they don’t even notice. But that’s not me. I care. I notice. And it scares me. It intimidates me. It makes me want to stay in my house – locked behind a hard, wooden door – separating me from the cruel, cold world.
But is it really the world that is holding me back? Can I make myself so invisible that I can’t be hurt by the reactions I get from total strangers? I have the right to be treated well, but can I really control what other people say or do? I don’t think so. I mean, I may get hurt emotionally when I go out, but that shouldn’t stop me. I can’t control other people. And if they are so ignorant that they run for the hills or babble on even though I tell them I can’t understand them, that shouldn’t be my problem. In my head, it is, but it shouldn’t be.
I shouldn’t let my fears win. If I want to go out to eat or browse around the bookstore or serve on the PTO board at my kids’ school, then that’s exactly what I should do!
I have rights! Believing that and pushing myself to go forward may scare the heck out of me, but it shouldn’t stop me. And I don’t want to let it. So, I’ll fight. I’ll force myself to go out – to shrug off people’s reactions until one day I can be like the other deafies who don’t let it scare them. It might take a lot of time – years. But that’s my goal. Who wants to live in fear anyway? Certainly not me. So, look out world; I’m going to conquer my fears one way or another. One day, I’m going to leave my house and not think twice about my fear of communication. I know it. I have to believe it! One day…..