Note: this story was originally published on Brett’s old facebook profile way back in March 2016. It went viral – by Brett’s standards anyway! No edits have been made. I hope you get to enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!
Tinnitus starting up can be hard to take
I was born profoundly deaf. What little hearing I had from the beginning, I tried everything to protect. At 17, some 23 years ago, as I was listening to some music as a typical teen, there was a moment when a part of my hearing, somewhere in the middle frequencies suddenly disappeared. The music was different as if a key instrument in track became muted. Thinking it was an oddity, I immediately put that down to a malfunction to the hearing aid I was wearing at the time. I investigated the hearing aid with a mini screwdriver and tinkered with them hoping to find the cause and rectify. After a few changes, I put them back on with no improvement or restoration of the hearing I had previously. I even used my back-up hearing aid as surely two can’t break at the same time. It made no difference. I spent the rest of the day disappointed and despondent.
The following day, I woke up and put the hearing aids back in, with anticipation and hope that my hearing could go back to where they were the previous day. There was no overnight change. Negative feelings surfaced and it seemed it wouldn’t go away at all.
Meanwhile, I had to cope with my hearing being very different. It was really hard to adapt, like a universe taking away the colours leaving behind only a greyscale.
The next day, I got the weirdest sensation. I was starting to hear some repetitive sounds in my left ear. I assumed that the hearing aid was faulty making these sounds so I took it out. Imagine my surprise and shock that even with the hearing aid out, I could still hear these repetitive sounds. This, well, totally freaked me out. I had absolutely no idea what was happening. I had thoughts of ‘there’s something wrong with me’. I was already faulty goods as a person with my considerably-less-than-stellar hearing, and now this was happening. I even double-checked to make sure I actually did take out my hearing aid so that there wouldn’t be any sounds in my hearing at all. Being freaked out multiplied. I screamed a few times along the way too. I rarely use swear words, but it was in plentiful supply.
My parents saw me, and like any good parent, they intuitively knew I was in trouble. Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do except get appointments with the local health service and have it checked out.
I was having horrible thoughts all day long, and the future looked so bleak and full of despair. “Why me?” “I’ve tried to be good and you do this to me?” (At least Father Christmas wasn’t so judgmental – I still got presents even when I was naughty!)
Throughout the day, with all these horrible thoughts, I was losing energy and zest for life. The noise in my ear got louder and louder, to the point that even I was making a fist and banging my head with it in an attempt to do something, like a loose part. What I hadn’t realised that I had been banging my head so much that I gave myself a headache.
I became so down, I started to fall ill. I became dizzy/vertigo, and my sense of balance had gone. Everything was spinning right to left. My freaked-out meter continued to accelerate towards 10. Overnight, my health continued to deteriorate to an extent that I couldn’t stand up safely and my reactions became somewhat uncontrollable. I was also sick, and the decision was made to go to the hospital immediately where I could be put under control and hopefully get treated. I enjoyed the ambulance ride with the flashing blue lights and seeing the traffic making way – a momentary experience of feeling more important than the other road users! It was a fleeting feeling, a break of what I was going through before I went back into my illness.
I was admitted to a ward and given some drugs to ease the sickness, painkillers, and some other stuff I never heard of. I didn’t care in the slightest what I was given, anything was better than what I was going through.
Overnight, I started to calm down and my nausea began to disappear. But none of the drugs had any effect on the noise in the ear. That was when the doctors said it was tinnitus. I had no idea what that word meant, and Google wasn’t around those days either, so I was completely dependent on the doctor’s expertise. The noise continued to increase in volume to an extent it was becoming unbearable.
I even tried to do something that I knew wouldn’t work. I curled up into a foetal position on the bed, facing down with my hands blocking my ears. Zero effect. Then I got the pillow and placed those over my ears. No effect. I was incredibly desperate that I wished I never had any hearing in the first place. I had so many thoughts of “just shut up and give me a break” I had no idea where to direct those thoughts to. That was why I kept having those thoughts – I needed something to blame. I had to admire my family’s courage and bravery because they often were the collateral for my destructive thinking.
I had a blood test to see if there was anything going on. When the results came back, to hear the words “Brett, the results do not show anything unusual.” I took that to mean that the doctors thought I was making it up and that there was nothing wrong with me at all! Suddenly I was having thoughts of “my family thinks I’m a liar”, “I will be rejected”, “I should be ashamed” and the never-ending-cycle of critical thoughts about myself in the eyes of others.
Learning the coping mechanisms
The doctors thought I could try some other drugs and see if they had any effect at all. One did, it brought about a quietening of the tinnitus, to a level where I was just about coping, and the other drugs had helped clear up my headaches and nausea, and balance was slowly returning. After a few days in hospital, I was allowed home.
I had an audiology appointment in the follow-up to discuss tinnitus and the techniques I could try to manage the condition. The most obvious one was the cassette tape in a Walkman (remember them?) so that I could listen to the soothing sounds of the waves gently crashing onto a beach. But the effect wasn’t what they said would achieve. Because I was far too aware of my tinnitus, that even while I was listening to the waves, I would be constantly searching out these tinnitus sounds to see if it really has gone. Well, I discovered that my tinnitus was louder than the waves. That’s easily rectified, just turn up the volume of the waves.
Unfortunately, every time I did, so did the volume of the tinnitus. Freaked-out-o-meter rising again! I increased the volume of the Walkman again, even though I knew something wasn’t adding up. As the waves got louder, tinnitus always was one step ahead. I had reached maximum volume on the Walkman and the loudness of everything was just way too dis-orienting. Seeing the utter hopelessness of the situation, I gave that up.
After a while, I slowly started to accept that tinnitus was going to be with me for the rest of my life and that I would just have to make the best of it.
The 3 Principles Paradigm
At 28 years old, my hearing deteriorated, with no apparent cause. My hearing aid could no longer make up for the additional loss of hearing any further and it was decided that I have a cochlear implant. I specifically asked for it to be in my left ear and had hoped that it might knock out the tinnitus too. Initially, it did, but longer term it didn’t make any difference whatsoever.
Over the years, the volume of tinnitus went up and down in phases and never bothered going for any further treatments. When it did go up, I remember that I was having unhelpful thoughts about them, even though I didn’t see them as thoughts in those days, I saw them as that tinnitus were giving me some horrible thoughts that I always failed to rise above.
I came across an understanding known as “The 3 Principles”, after seeing what it has done for other people’s lives – all of them having their lives transformed with grace and ease with whatever they had, and some were way more challenging than anything I ever experienced in my life.
I saw the Principles as a very keen area of study, and bit by bit my life began to get better. I thought I could apply the Principles to my tinnitus, but it never worked. Even though I was despondent, I continued to develop my understanding of the Principles and didn’t do anything with the tinnitus.
In October 2015, nearly 4 years after first coming across the Principles understanding, I had a chat with Keith Blevens and Valda Monroe, to discuss a very different kind of understanding of the Three Principles. In that conversation, I had the profound realisation that everything I had learnt about the Principles turned out to be a gigantic misunderstanding and that I was looking in completely the wrong direction. I became a “recovering 3-principles-aholic” (Thanks, Sue!), and thoughts started to fall away from my mind. My mind got quieter and out of that arose a peace – something I had not felt since I was a little kid.
A couple of months ago, out of nowhere and completely unplanned, I had such a profound realisation about my tinnitus. I saw the *totality* of thought creating my experience of suffering. 23 years of thinking about tinnitus just dropped away in that moment, and the most profound wave of peace washed all over me. Tears were falling from my eyes as I saw my own innocence over those 23 years of suffering. Insights followed. I saw that tinnitus never had any ability to take away my own peace of mind, it was only my thoughts that did. I saw that tinnitus never had any capacity to generate any thoughts so I could suffer. I was the one that gave life to thought and incorrectly assumed that it was tinnitus that did it. Basically, I gave away my own peace of mind and I never knew it. Suffering came to a permanent end.
That’s not to say that tinnitus has gone, it hasn’t. But it is much quieter than ever before. The number of these horrible thoughts have virtually disappeared. It seems to me that I am psychologically secure now and I didn’t do anything to make that happen!
Today, I even asked myself, if there was a cure for tinnitus, would I take it? I’m not sure I would. I have absolute peace of mind with tinnitus, and there is no way there can be anything better than having peace of mind. Why would I risk giving up my peace of mind? That doesn’t mean I don’t hope for a cure, I hope one day we will and that it will help people’s lives for the better. But cure or no cure, I have peace of mind and no drug can ever produce that.
I am certain that if it wasn’t for Keith and Valda introducing me to the Three Principles as a Paradigm, that realisation would never have occurred. It has also prevented me from misinterpreting what happened and filling up my head again with unnecessary thinking, losing my peace of mind in the process. The Paradigmatic understanding somehow has kept me in the direction of truth and deeper inside-out, with a continuing stripping away of redundant and illogical thinking.
I am phenomenally grateful for the paradigmatic understanding that Keith and Valda have introduced into my life. I am more authentic than ever before, and falling into the psyche-logic is by far the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve become a little funnier, wiser, cuter, playful, cheeky, and the best part is the connecting with people is now a doddle for me when it had been the hardest part in my formative years.