There is this saying, ‘I cried because I had no shoes, till I saw a man with no feet.” No doubt, our trauma is valid and we have a right to feel resentful, angry, sad, and hurt. Sometimes, we can get so focussed on ‘what’s wrong’ and lose sight of ‘what’s right.‘ I have learned that building within me a feeling of gratitude for my blessing helps me shift my perspective from lack to abundance.
Recently, I connected with Martha Tawney, a deaf woman from Poland who came to America to study when she was 21. She was born deaf but due to her mother getting German Measles while she was in-utero. Since I grew up with a deaf cousin, I felt immediately connected to her.
Like me, she too is also on this difficult journey of healing childhood trauma, scoliosis, back pain, and chronic fatigue.
Chatting with her, made me aware of the additional challenges a deaf person has in relation to life and particularly healing trauma.
We first connected on Facebook over scoliosis, a condition we both have. We both share the assumption that most cases of idiopathic scoliosis are due to having to repress our emotions when growing up.
Over the past months, we have been regularly sharing the ups and downs of our journey and sharing our discoveries i.e books, remedies, and other miscellaneous things that make a good supportive relationship. I thought my readers would find her story enlightening and helpful. It does help to put yourself in someone else’s shoes sometimes.
Here is her story in her own words, that she was gracious enough to share with my readers:
1) Why did you come to America? How has coming to America changed your life?
My brother knew an American lady who knew a little about American Sign Language and deaf culture convinced my mom and me to go to Gallaudet University (Deaf college) in Washington, DC. I didn’t want to come here but my mom sent me here.
After one year, I realized that I could be more independent here than in Poland. America has changed me gradually to learn independence skills. America has taught all immigrants to be independent.
2) Was America very different from Poland and how did you deal with the changes you had to cope with?
3) How did you communicate when a child?
4) Did you know English?
Yes. Started to learn English during 4th grade in Poland.
5) Was it difficult to learn American Sign Language? Was it difficult to switch from Polish to English when communicating?
6) How was growing up deaf in Poland? Are there any special facilities there for the deaf?
7) When did you begin school? How was your experience?
8) When did you realize you were different from everyone else and how did the realization impact you? Your self-esteem?
9) Was your family supportive? Or did you feel alone?
10) How did you cope with your loneliness and pain when you were a child?
11) When were you diagnosed with scoliosis? What treatment did you have?
12) Does anyone in your family have scoliosis?
13) Did scoliosis affect your body image? Personally, I was so ashamed of my curved spine?
14) How did you start trying to heal scoliosis naturally?
15) What physical exercises Do you do regularly for scoliosis?
Planks including side planks, hip bridges, and crawling.
16) When did you become aware of childhood trauma, and how it may have impacted your life?
17) Are you aware of the ACEs study? What do you think is your score?
No, I was not. Googled it to find it. My score was 6/10. Emotional and social problems are true.I remember that I was in constant fear during childhood and before puberty. It made sense to me.
18) Did you have therapy? Are there adequate facilities for the deaf in terms of healing from trauma?
19) What self-therapy do you practice?
20) What did you graduate in? And has it helped you find the job you dreamed of? Or do you feel deaf people are still discriminated against in the workplace?
I graduated with Associate Degree. It may be helpful to have available unlimited jobs. Some deaf people are still discriminated against in the workplace, for example, lack of ASL interpreters.
21) Do you feel there are fewer opportunities for the deaf in terms of career in comparison to normal people?
22) Did meeting your husband Robert help you overcome some of the pain and loneliness of growing up deaf?
Yes, it did help to have a partner who is also deaf. We understand each other well. Rob has his leadership skills and loves leadership for years. I am still learning a little about leadership. He is an extrovert – receives more energy from people. I am introverted – receive energy after spending quiet time.
23) Do you feel if you had grown up in the US your life would be better in terms of having better facilities from childhood?
24) Do you feel you have gotten better since coming to America, in terms of both mental and physical health?
Yes, over time.
25) Who is your inspiration?
My inspiration is Marshall Rosenberg of Nonviolent Communication. Reading his book has helped me reduce my social anxiety
26) Do you think the movie ‘Children of a Lesser God’ accurately portrays the challenges of a deaf person?
No, it is not today. It was the past. American Sign Language is recognized throughout the United States.
27) How are you helping other deaf people manage their life better? In terms of work and social life?
Both, Rob and I have worked for Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services. I have advocated for Deaf Refugees to manage their lives and to learn independence skills. We are also in the process of creating the Global Deaf Refugee Alliance. Additionally, we also arrange hikes and cookouts for deaf refugees. We can be contacted at the email address, [email protected]
28) What plans do you have for yourself in terms of sharing your unique gifts with the world?
Teaching peace in the mind, boundaries, and human rights.
Some of Martha’s Favorite Things:
Foods: Cherries and green grapes
Movies/TV Series: Grey’s Anatomy
Martha’s Favorite Books:
The Courage to Heal – Ellen Bass, Laura Davis
Extraordinary Healthcare – Sri Ananda Sarvasri
Learning To Communicate and Understand
How to Prevent Deaf Children from Language Deprivation?
Do watch these movies on the struggles a deaf person has to deal with, particularly in their relationships with family, friends, and society.
A Silent Voice – The Movie – It is about a deaf girl named Shoko who encounters a boy named Ishida in her elementary school who bullies her as she was deaf.
Children Of A Lesser God – It is a love story between an idealistic special education teacher and a headstrong deaf girl.