I had a delightful surprise checking my “in” box the other day: an email from a New York City reader, Dr. Becky Clark, a clinical social worker and sports psychologist. In part, she wrote, “Like you, I am also a therapist with a passion for helping people, especially those of us with disabilities and PTSD/trauma.”
Clark’s life journey has included a number of detours. Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, she was physically and sexually abused, so much so that the abuse led to her having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and over time contributing to her becoming deaf. In spite of these hurdles, she went on to play basketball for the University of Tennessee under legendary coach Pat Summitt.
As for PTSD, 52-year-old Clark said, “I went through nine years of child abuse, including sexual abuse from a stepfather. Sports was my way to cope with it, along with music and my Christian faith.” For years, she wore hearing aids until in college she became almost completely deaf. To “hear” there, she started learning sign language. Doctors have never offered any plausible explanation for why she gradually went deaf other than the role physical abuse played.
She said, “While visiting Jamaica once, I was sitting down and reading near friends and the whole hotel suddenly went dark. Of course, with all the trauma that had been in my life, I immediately hit the floor and got into a defensive posture because of having PTSD. The people I was with just laughed. I soon learned it was common to have power failures in Jamaica.” She didn’t realize she had PTSD until learning about it while studying to become a clinical social worker. In a sense, she would become her own therapist.
As for being deaf, she said, “I can hear now because of cochlear implants in 2007-08. It’s been a miracle for me and I really can’t put it into words.” A cochlear implant involves the insertion by a surgeon of an electronic device that can give a deaf person some hearing.
Her life has had some remarkable transitions, she said, including one from her being able to hear to being deaf and then reversed, from deaf to hearing. Today, she has a private practice with deaf and hearing populations, is a public speaker, and has been involved as an advocate to raise awareness about child abuse.
For more stories of courage in disability, visit danieljvance.com or find them on Facebook at “Disabilities By Daniel J. Vance.” Blue Valley Sod and Palmer Bus Service made this column possible.