Bedridden for today

I have chronic pain. I have had it for over 12 years now.

Quite often the pain leaves me bedridden for most of the day. I only really get up to go to the bathroom; but for the rest of the day I am stuck to my bed. Today was one of those days.

I was really dreading this day since I have my last and most difficult final exam is two days. I was praying that I wouldn’t be struck by pain to the point of a bedridden state on the day of my exam, as that is what happened last year. I remember waiting anxiously outside the examination room praying and praying whilst lying curled up into a ball on the sofa.

But today, I spent the entire day lying down, curled up into a ball, sometimes with tears streaming down my face because the pain is unbearable and relentless. I try to fight the pain, but I know it’s futile. I become overwhelmed with stress because I remember that there is so much to study, but I can barely keep my eyes open without experiencing a migraine, and the stress only makes the pain worse. I am forced to relax my mind and body and to trust in God. Thank you M for being with me and praying for me.

Even as I am typing this, I am in considerable pain, but I must distract my brain from focussing on the pain. I am tempted to complain, but I am reminded that God is sovereign. My inability to do anything highlights my weakness and fragility and reminds me to put my situation into perspective of eternity. My momentary pain or suffering (although it feels like forever in this moment) is fleeting. Perhaps what I needed most today wasn’t to cram my brain with more study, but perhaps it was to rest. God reminded me that my body is weak, and without rest, I would not be able to function optimally, both physically and mentally – which is what I need most in my last exam, which requires me to problem solve on the spot and to give an oral response to questions I am asked, straight away. It is extremely daunting as I struggle greatly to communicate eloquently and to express myself well.

But I refuse to give in to my worries.
I will continue to entrust all of these anxieties into His hands.

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Oatley Park, NSW

Today was an interesting day. My mum invited me to go walking with a bunch of middle-aged Chinese uncles and aunties whom she had never met but are from the same hometown, Hainan Island. It’s really interesting that even though they don’t know each other, it doesn’t matter, because culture brings them together.

I originally just wanted to go because I have been having a lot of difficulty sleeping and thought that tiring myself physically would be a good idea, and being surrounded by nature and having time to myself to reflect would be great. But as always, things didn’t get exactly as I planned…

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A beautiful day.

I realised that walking groups like these are actually the perfect opportunity for fellowship and gospel conversations because basically you’re stuck with one another for a couple of hours.

Along the way, a conversation arose about a certain parable from the bible, ‘The Parable of the Lost Son’, and by extension, the rest of Luke 15 on the parables of the lost sheep and coin. Thankfully, I knew the parables quite well because in the past I had memorised them in order to do bible storying with an international student I was discipling about 4 years ago. Amongst many things I was able to explain the bigger picture and explain how the parables relate to the human condition and the character of God; his grace, mercy and love. It really amazes me how the past training I have received has led me to this point today. Even though I was sleep deprived and exhausted, God used me in my in my utter weakness to display His gospel; the good news of Jesus. God is truly amazing.

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Walking through the mangroves

We walked a track that was supposedly a 4.8km circuit but we got a bit lost a few times so it took us about 3 hours. It didn’t feel that long, especially with good conversations, fresh air and the surrounding nature.

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A cliff-view lookout

I wouldn’t say that Oatly Park is breathtakingly beautiful, but I definitely did feel a sense of peace just walking through the trees and around George’s River. I suppose it really depends how you allow yourself to see the world. Some may just see these photos and think, ‘that’s nothing special and definitely not insta worthy’, but I think if you allow yourself to be fully immersed in nature, you will start to appreciate the little things; how the water glistens and seemingly changes colour as you walk along shore, or how rays of sunlight shine through the gaps of the trees and creates beautiful shadows; or simply even the crisp fresh air that Chinese people don’t take for granted considering how polluted it is in China.

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Walking along George’s River.

If you ever visit Oatly Park, it is a pretty easy walk following the walking track that goes around the entire park. There are some steps along the way but they aren’t very steep and are quite stable.

But most importantly, take your time to breathe in the beauty of God’s creation!

 

3 down, 2 to go

It has been an almost unbearably long week. I had three final exams this week each worth 40% of my final grades. As the days go on, I become more weary and less motivated to study. My energy levels are low as I get less and less sleep. Not because I’m up studying, but because my mind just cannot rest. I only slept 3 hours last night, but strangely enough I don’t feel tired…but my body is twisting and groaning in pain as it continues to bear the burden of sleep deprivation and a bunch of chronic illnesses.

Despite all of this, a verse that I memorised (from before I even declared myself a Christian) echoes in my head to the tune of ‘Bad Romance’ by Lady Gaga (the work of my youth group leader at the time):

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life

Philippians 2:14-16

I lie in bed now reflecting on my actions these past few weeks (and years) and bring to mind various incidents every day of when I was short, snappy and impatient with my family members. I remember blaming it on lack of sleep, or hormones or stress but I can’t shake the remorse that I feel every time it happens. I know that I have hurt them time and time again with my harshness but the worst of it all is that I blame everything but my own ungratefulness, lack of self-control, impatience, arrogance, etc.

And you know what? My family who love me the most, take all of this trash from me every single day without complaining. They give me grace that I don’t deserve. It reminds me and points me back to God’s grace, kindness and unconditional love. I don’t appreciate my family as much as I could, and even more so, I don’t appreciate God as much as I should and could.

Having even just a moment to reflect is so important in helping me to put things into perspective, but also to help me to acknowledge my sin and to repent. These past two years have been a great struggle and a testing of my faith, but I hope that I may continue to persevere and be refined in the process.

3 exams down, 2 to go! The most difficult ones yet! I shall keep clinging to God for strength in my weakness and be reminded that no matter what, it’s who I am in Jesus that counts.

Cancelled Appointments

I’m walking a bit faster than I’d like to and my breathing is becoming quicker and more shallow with each breath.

I should have taken the bus to prevent this from happening but I had already resolved to walk since I woke up early and wore my runners.

I make it on time. With two minutes to spare. I say a quick prayer, take a deep breath (as deep as I could which was not very deep) and walk inside.

“Hi, I had an appointment at 9.30…”

“…sure, let’s have a look…”

“I’m sorry, but your appointment was cancelled…”

I let out a sigh of disappointment? Relief? I’m not really sure. The receptionist continues to apologise and I find myself reassuring her. She proceeds to do a bunch of things to try to help. But at that point, a part of me just wanted to give up. I tell her it’s okay and that she needn’t try anymore, but she insists, so I let her. So, I decide to keep the door open for a bit longer.

I leave the place somewhat relieved. I step outside and feel the cool breeze and warmth of the morning sun peaking through the maple trees and I breath it all in with thankfulness to God for His glory and magnificence revealed through His creation. I smile, because I know I’m loved.

Although it was tempting to think, “Man, well that was a complete was of my time which I could have spent studying”. I know that it wasn’t a waste at all. I know that everything happens for a purpose, and I was thankful that I stepped out of the house to get some fresh air, get a bit of light exercise, listen to a podcast on suffering, reflected and meditated on God’s word and even did a little grocery shopping to prepare lunch for my family. My heart and mind was filled with peace and I was reminded that God ultimately knows exactly what I need most, because I wouldn’t have done these things otherwise, and probably would have been at home grumbling and complaining about not being able to focus on studying.

As I am writing this, I am feeling a bit dizzy and light-headed probably from the lack of oxygen to my brain but I won’t let it bother me because I’m feeling inexpressible peace and joy. I pray that I’ll continue to find quality time to spend with my Heavenly Father, and to be thankful for every situation that I’m in, including this difficult time right now.

All praise and glory be to God!

The role of an Audiologist

As a student in my last semester of Clinical Audiology and studying for my final exams, I just wanted to take some time to reflect on what I have learnt over the past two years.

There is so much that I’ve learnt that it hurts my head, and sometimes I am left wondering what the primary focus really is. I’ve learnt all these concepts and theories but predominately, there’s a whole bunch of things that I have quickly forgotten…so here I am thinking, what is really the most important quality of an Audiologist?

I remember in my very first day of class, the lecturer asked us, ‘why did you choose Audiology?’ and I remember that the general consensus was because we wanted to help people. The lecturer then told us that every year, the students all commence the course wanting to help people, but often by the end of the degree, they are too focused on the technical aspects of audiology that they forget the most basic and fundamental things like, thinking of the client as a unique individual and a whole person; yes, an actual person like you and me. Low and behold, that’s exactly what happened throughout the course of my degree. I became so focused on trying to keep up with all the theory and passing my units that at the end of each semester I’m left wondering, what did I actually learn? Don’t get me wrong, when I am listening to lectures and studying, I find it fascinating and can understand what I am learning most of the time, but because there’s just so much content to grasp, my tiny brain just can’t keep up. It fizzles and shuts down once exams are over after each semester, and I can’t seem to retain what I learn. I honestly am not sure how I have gotten this far into my degree, all I can do is thank and praise God.

So here are just a few personal reflections (of course this list is not exhaustive and is meant to be brief. I don’t want to go into too much detail as I could write pages and pages. Moreover, I am not an expert. I am merely sharing what I have learnt in class):

  • One primary goal is to improve an individual’s communication ability in order for it to help with different areas of their life.

    People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing often face many difficulties and challenges that people without hearing loss may have never thought of. As Helen Keller (who was both blind and deaf) once said:

    “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”

    Not only does hearing loss have significant social impacts, it also affects a person’s emotional and psychological wellbeing (which can stem from social isolation). It’s difficult to imagine a world without sound. But if you want to experience even just a tiny snippet of what it is like not being able to hear clearly, try wearing earplugs for a day and do your daily activities. But of course, take necessary caution for when you cross the road or for when you are in a hazardous environment.

    Improving one’s communication ability does not necessarily mean hearing aids or cochlear implants (although much of the time it is). It could (also) mean recommending assistive listening devices (ALDs), educating about listening tactics and repair strategies to aid communication, as well as other options. But of course, this differs from person to person as there are many individual factors to consider, such as their specific listening needs, their type and degree of hearing loss, individual physiology, lifestyle, motivation, expectations, etc. Just because two people have exactly the same configuration of hearing loss does not mean they will have the same outcomes.

  • Audiometrist DOES NOT equal Audiologist

    Essentially, in Australia, Audiometrists are required to complete a TAFE certificate, whilst Audiologists are required to complete a Master’s degree. The scope of practice and services provided by Audiologists are much broader and more specialised than Audiometrists.
    Click here for a simple comparison.
  • Generally, Audiologists distinguish themselves from some medical professionals by steering away from the medical model, and instead, focus on rehabilitation and patient-centred care.

    Medical
    model says: I do this to you.
    Rehabilitative model says: Let’s do this together.

 

  • If I became an Audiologist, I would want to be an Audiologist, not a sales person.

    I would do my best to recommend things that I believed would be best for my client, and not to recommend anything for the sake of meeting sales targets or for financial incentives, as tempting as that might be, I know that it would not be glorifying to God, nor would it be loving or beneficial to others.

 

There are many other aspects to audiology that I could have mentioned, and I could have gone into more detail, but I thought I’d leave it at that, really just as a reminder for myself as well!

Final exam period

I am currently in my last month(!) of my Master of Clinical Audiology.

*deep breaths*

Every time I think about it, it’s difficult not to allow my mind to spiral out of control.

I will have the first out of five final exams on the 13th of November. For the past 2 weeks, I have been studying every day for approximately 12-15 hours a day (except Sundays because I make time to go to church, and the remaining time leaves me about 5-8 hours to study). I sound diligent, huh? But wow, I really feel the life draining out of me day by day; not that it is anything new. Honestly, I feel like I need to study this much because I’m not very intelligent, nor do I have good memory in general. Although audiology isn’t about memorising things, there are naturally a lot of things you need to remember as the course is extremely content-heavy and there are many concepts I find difficult to understand and grasp.

Which leads me to my next internal dilemma: if I have terrible memory and poor understanding, how can I become a good audiologist? Especially as I am not an eloquent communicator and have a tendency to dissolve into puddle in the face of social situations. Yet, I desire to work in a profession where I can have an impact on someone’s life by helping them; specifically, to empower someone to take ownership of their hearing difficulties and take action to improving their hearing health and thereby, their general well-being. Truth be told, I really don’t know how I have gotten this far into my degree. I was pretty confident in my first semester, but that all went downhill after that. I no longer remember the foundation knowledge anymore; the bread and butter. I think my arrogance and my anxiety started getting in the way. I was humbled by a particular audiologist and consequently I lost all confidence in myself, to the point where I would find myself blanking out and my heart strongly palpitating whenever I was faced with anything related to what I was criticised about. Thankfully, with much prayer, I am slowly regaining confidence in that area, but the damage has been done and has affected other aspects of my life that I was aware existed, but became more and more evident as time passed. Mentally, I am an absolute wreck and I feel defeated. Heck, I have been feeling this way since I started this degree at the beginning of 2017.

I have burnt out more times than I can even remember over the past two years, and last month I hit a new level of rock bottom. But maybe I’ll save that story for another time.

For now, aside from intermittently being bombarded about thoughts of the future (mainly in regards to work and relationships), I have decided on these things:

1. I will do my best to complete my degree. And if I cannot, I will pray that I will have peace with that (because if I fail more than one subject or the same subject twice, I get kicked out of my degree)

2. I will continue to pray for peace in regards to whether I will be able to find work next year or not, and whether I will be able to stay in Sydney (ideally, I would like to stay in Sydney and work after taking a break for a few months). I know and trust that God knows what’s best for me, better than what I know what’s best for me.

3. I have resolved to rest properly and fix my physical body and mind because it is in absolute shambles. At this point in time, I do not think it is wise to start full-time work in the state I am in. I will burn out for sure very quickly.

4. I pray that I will continue to trust God no matter what happens; to trust in His sovereignty and to align my will with His will. Over the past week I have been reminded by various people and situations to view my struggles in light of eternity. When I’m reminded that everything I am currently going through (whether joy or suffering) is temporary and pales in comparison to the glory that is to come. As a result, my worries and anxieties don’t seem so significant anymore. My utmost priority is living for God.

Remember this: I am still here today and have gotten this far not by coincidence, but by God’s grace, providence, sustenance and kindness.

All glory be to God!