thanks to my grade 12 english teacher

For the longest time, I had no idea I was a good writer. My mom would always read my essays before I submitted them. She always told me I was a good writer, and even though she’s a teacher, I always assumed she was just being the typical mom who thinks their kid is talented. I would always get my assignments back from my teachers with grades much lower than I had anticipated. Slowly, I stopped making as much effort, because it felt like I could never be good enough anyway. I had been accused of plagiarism in high school, which was quite insulting. I have never cheated on any quiz, test, or assignment, and being accused of plagiarizing an essay I had worked hard on was very confusing to me. My teacher’s reasoning for the accusation was that it didn’t sound like me, so she assumed someone else must have written it. Essentially, she was insinuating that I could not possibly be smart enough to write such a strong essay. The only logical explanation was that someone wrote it for me. It couldn’t possibly be that I finally had an assignment that I took an interest in. Even after this, and explaining that I am in fact intelligent whether or not my teacher wants to believe so, I did not get the mark I believed I deserved. It wasn’t until grade twelve—the one year that English class was only one semester—that I had an English teacher who really made me believe in my ability to write. She really made me feel like I have a voice. Not only this, but she not once made me feel guilty or like I was faking any time I missed school for illness. Believe it or not, that’s a rare quality in a high school teacher, especially when combined with making students feel capable and valued. So shout out to you, Ms. Arseneault. When you told me that my multi-genre assignment made you cry, that was the moment I realized I actually had potential as a writer. I had always felt stupid getting back essays after my teachers marked them, but that day I felt so much confidence in myself and my creativity. I felt like I was finally being heard and believed in (by someone other than my family).

So to everyone who has ever thanked me for using my love of writing to bring awareness to the many issues I write about, you can thank my grade 12 English teacher Ms. Arseneault. Without her, I never would have started writing for fun, and I certainly wouldn’t have hopes and dreams of someday becoming a published author.

And to anyone who is a teacher or wants to become one, do your best to be the one that makes your students believe in themselves. I promise your little comments of encouragement make a big difference.

hospital noise

Patients snoring,

Monitors beeping,

Ears ringing,

“Get some rest,”

They say.

As if there is no noise.

Men yelling threats,

Nurses chatting,

An announcement over the loud speakers.

They wonder why I’m so tired.

I close my eyes.

Finally.

“I’m here for your vitals,”

I was almost asleep.

More beeping,

Being poked and prodded,

I’m wide awake once more.

“Sleep is important for healing,”

They say.

I roll over,

Close my eyes.

Tangled in monitor wires,

IV lines.

All the tubes and wires keeping me safe,

Now wrap around me.

The sun is up.

I never slept.

Too much noise,

In my head,

And in this hospital.

how hyperacusis effects my life

I was diagnosed with hyperacusis two years ago, but I’ve had it the majority of my life, if not my entire life. My symptoms have gotten worse recently, likely from the stress of this year, but also because the only viable treatment for my hyperacusis is constant exposure to sound, and I now spend the majority of my time alone in my quiet apartment. I’ve noticed more behaviours and habits I have due to my condition. Many of these habits are things I always attributed to my anxiety and depression, or what I assumed to be normal. It turns out these habits are because of my sound sensitivity, and not only that, but depression and anxiety can actually worsen hyperacusis if left untreated, and vice versa. These are some things I have recently noticed since being forced to spend the majority of my time alone.

  • I tend to watch TV at a very low volume that others have difficulty hearing. Typically, when watching TV or movies with another person, I have to set the volume between 12 and 20. Most days now, the since the beginning of the pandemic, I watch TV with the volume between 4 and 10. If it’s any louder, the noise stresses me out to the point I often have to pause it and give myself a break. It’s hard because I don’t always notice right away what’s triggering the sudden panicked feeling in my gut.
  • I need constant noise. Because my brain has the volume turned way up, I also have severe tinnitus, which can get pretty bothersome. I can’t use traditional tinnitus maskers and cannot afford the fancy devices that might help. I almost always have music playing, a podcast on, the TV on, or even just my loud fan going, so that I don’t hear the loudness of my own brain buzzing.
  • I avoid certain stores that play loud music. I can listen to loud music by myself, but if I’m out somewhere and the music is super loud, it’s instant sensory overload for me. Not a fun experience.
  • Similar to avoiding certain stores, I also tend to avoid crowded places that might be loud, like food courts and crowded bars or restaurants.
  • Thrifting stresses me out. One of my favourite thrift stores switched from bins of clothing, to metal hangers on metal racks. They probably chose the worst combination of metal-on-metal possible. I can no longer rifle through clothes for hours to find hidden gems. The screeching of the metal causes me physical pain and I usually end up leaving a lot sooner than I’d like to.
  • I often assume people can hear what I hear, but turns out most people actually cannot hear the high-pitched sound of the lights on a Christmas tree (which by the way, sounds very similar to some of the different pitches of my tinnitus).
  • I often have a hard time falling asleep. If the faucet in the kitchen drips, I hear it from my bed. I have a fan and air purifier in my room, which can usually make enough white noise to mask other sounds, but sometimes, if my anxiety is particularly bad, those are too loud.
  • Ear problems are extremely common in PCD, and usually adults with PCD have hearing loss and problems with excess fluid in the ears. When I have fluid build-up in my ears, everything is muffled, like my head is under water, but also so loud, like my brain turned the volume up even more.

These are just the things I could think of off the top of my head that I have recently noticed after lots of time spent alone. I’m sure there are definitely so many ways my hyperacusis effects my life that I don’t even realize.

an open letter to a triage nurse

On August 11th, 2020, I arrived at the emergency department of The Moncton Hospital. You were my triage nurse. You probably won’t remember me, assuming the way you treated me is the way you treat all patients. I won’t use your name. I will allow you the privacy and dignity you so hatefully made sure to take from me. If you were to stumble across this letter to you, I’m not even sure you would recognize what you did wrong. Continue reading “an open letter to a triage nurse”

stop making excuses to not wear a mask

**I would just like to add a little disclaimer that the following is based on my personal experiences, the experiences of those in my patient communities, my college education, as well as common sense. I have reactive airway disease, obstructive airway disease, anxiety, depression, migraines, allergies, and other conditions that are not important for this particular post. I am putting that out there, because most who deny the science behind masks enjoy calling mask-users “sheep”, and tell us we are mindless, simply because we are able to follow rules that were put in place to protect everyone and ease the stress on our healthcare system.**

I just came across one of the dumbest Facebook posts I’ve seen in a while. And I’ve seen a lot lately. The post was a list of excuses as to why a person doesn’t want to wear a mask and why it is “none of your business” if they choose not to. I truly don’t even know where to start. Continue reading “stop making excuses to not wear a mask”

i’m afraid of aging

If you didn’t already know, (are you new here?) I have a genetic condition called Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia. This disease is progressive, which means it gets worse as I age. As with any condition, PCD has a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms that vary over time and from person to person. For me specifically, my symptoms are much more severe than they were when I was a kid. I rarely go more than two or three months without a lung infection or an exacerbation that lands me in the emergency department. With every chest x-ray, I’m told my lungs “don’t look much worse than the last one” (which roughly translates to: “your lungs already look worse than they did two months ago, but not too much worse”). I’m only twenty five. Continue reading “i’m afraid of aging”

how to feel better when you feel like crap

We all feel like absolute garbage sometimes. At times, it feels like nothing will ever make me feel better. Other times, I know there are things I can actively do to improve my day. This list is mostly for myself, for the days when I feel miserable and like nothing will make me smile, but I’m sharing this with you, because if I can help anyone else get through a tough time, then why keep it to myself? Feel free to add your tips in the comments below. Continue reading “how to feel better when you feel like crap”