The fear and anger in saying it out loud: Russ’ story

I got a severe depression two weeks after joining Soundfair, in late March this year. I couldn’t explain it to my 78-year old self. I mean, I’ve lived with clinical depression since I was young. Nothing new in this. All the Soundfair staff I’d had exchanges with were kind and helpful. So why the kind of depression the medications don’t deal with? The type you just live a half-life through?

This Sunday afternoon in April, with nothing better to do in my disabled head, from one of my bookcases I picked up a collection of essays by a favourite writer, Nora Ephron. She scripted, among others, with her daughter Delia, Bewitched, You’ve Got Mail, and with two guys, my favourite, Sleepless in Seattle. I made a mugful of my favourite East Timor coffee, padded myself upright, and read two of Nora’s essays about people and journalism and integrity.

And here I am, late in the afternoon, sitting at my keyboard with a clearer mind and about to say what caused that depression: That I didn’t want to admit – officially – that I was hard of hearing, and have been for most of 30 years. Weird, yes? That I’ve worn hearing aids for most of 20 years, which means talking to audiologists and being told this and that about my hearing losses. Tinnitus, too for 20 – it’s a hissssing sound. Like that.

Go on, say it. I didn’t want to admit that I was hard of hearing, and tired and sad and angry and often embarrassed at moments for having to reveal my disability to anyone, like I do to shopkeepers with masks and in the open public area at my doctor’s, to the young receptionists behind their masks and their wide covid shield. To name two places. But now I can stop pretending because I’ve written it here. It’s outside of me. I’m going to mail it to Soundfair’s Storytelling Coordinator, like she asked. This writing is an example of how I try to speak to people when my ears and my fears can’t. But hey, the depression’s evaporated and I’ve written this, no stress. Like I wanted to. Another fragile belief needing encouragement.

Russ Griffin