When You’re Going Through Hell…

“…keep going.”

I came across this delicious bit of inspiration on a particularly bad day: tinnitus and hyperacusis were battling for supremacy inside my cranium.  It was hard not to focus on the hellish noise, but these words caught my attention. They even made me smile, because they reflected exactly how I felt at that moment—hellish. And ka-ching! Suddenly my coping mechanisms, which had been cowering behind one of the rocks in my head, kicked into gear.

I shifted my focus to something else, a simple trick which helps minimize my perception of the noise, but decided against another favorite trick—a glass of wine which often helps reduce sound—mainly because I prefer not to drink at 11am.

When you’re going through hell, keep going.  This wonderful quote is widely attributed to Winston Churchill but, according to research by Quote Investor (QI), Churchill didn’t actually write it.  A best guess, also according to QI, was found in a 1940’s issue of the “Christian Science Sentinel” journal of Boston, Massachusetts.

Someone once asked a man how he was. He replied, “I’m going through hell!” Said his friend: “Well, keep on going. That is no place to stop!” 

I liked that quote even better, because it struck my funny bone. But really, where was the poor guy supposed to go next?

Regardless of how long we’ve had our hearing-related problems, there are times when the frustration can drive us to our knees. We let our head fall into our hands and think, “Why me? Why isn’t there a cure? Do I have to keep doing this for the rest of my life?”  

The answers:  Who knows. They’re working on it.  Maybe. 

Personally, I think these answers are rather positive. Certainly less negative than: Because you deserve it. There will be, but probably after you’ve passed.  Yes. 

What would happen if we clung to the hell of our situation and just kept moaning and groaning about our problem? I mean it should be obvious that nobody has tinnitus as badly as we do, or struggles as much to communicate!

Here’s what would happen: you would drive your family and friend nuts. And if that’s your goal, congratulations. But, also?  Your hearing wouldn’t improve. The head-noise wouldn’t go away. Self-pity is understandable, and sometimes it just feels good to give in to a wild, raving woe is me!  But after that, there’s got to be a tomorrow, a next step, a solution to try.

Your hearing loss, tinnitus and hyperacusis (or other hearing problems) may never disappear. When I was a teenager, a doctor who had clearly skipped the medical school course on “What Not to Say to Your Patients”, told me there would never be a cure for hearing loss in my lifetime. Well, he’s right, so far.  But in the many years since that rah-rah talk, I’ve seen and experienced amazing developments in hearing aids, cochlear implants, management strategies, and support networks of caring people that have helped me communicate well. The stigma is finally blowing away on the wind. And those miracles are almost (but not quite) as good as a cure. 

So, note to self: the next time I have one of those hellish moments, I’m going remember something that Churchill did say: “Never, never, never give up.” 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you for this piece. As a librarian who has worked with two cancer patients on clinical trial information and other options, the sister of a spinal cord injury survivor (and thriver!) and as a life-long learner with a personal love for helping individuals locate assistive tech that will enhance their learning, this post is a great motivator.

  2. You write about a most serious topic with your usual amazing wit. At the same time, I’m going to disagree with you – imagine (smile please)!
    a. the stigma is far from blowing away
    b. all the smiling endorsements of all the technologies, implants included, are misleading – there is often quite a lot of discomfort (physically), financially, and emotionally and of course, it’s far from normal hearing (as you say).
    c. i have always used the one “never give up” – in fact i have a mug I bought at the war rooms of Churchill in London that I love forever – and coming out of the doom and gloom is important, yes, and yet…
    d. if people would be more honest – at times, with others, with loved ones and with strangers too – about their pain, and discomfort, and feelings, and changed social situations, etc. – i think we could find better solutions that much more easily as a society (regional and global).

    Of course all the “groups” like the Canadian Association and HLAA and ALDA and many more, the CCAC included, offer balanced viewpoints many times. Yet so many have no connection with these good groups.

    Not easy for sure.

    Here’s another one: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Winston Churchill

  3. Most people are familiar with the 23rd Psalm. I personally have clung to verse 4 a few times. That’s where the shepherd say that he WALKS THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death. Nowhere does it say that he stops. … or “this, too, will pass”. Bad (nor good) rarely lasts forever.

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