Natasha Lepine’s story begins in British Columbia, Canada, with stunning landscapes ranging from snow-capped mountains to ocean shores. When she’s not enjoying the outdoors, she is either painting with acrylics or snacking on strawberries and croissants. These days, Natasha says, “I’ve begun embracing the ‘deaf world’ a lot more, and I find that it brings a sense of fulfillment to my life.”
An Abrupt Change
About 5 years ago, Natasha became half-deaf in an instant. There was no warning; her right ear ached one moment and was deaf the next. As a result, she now relies on her left ear to navigate everyday situations. At first, there were small factors to take into consideration, like asking people to speak louder and avoiding noisy places. Yet, soon she found herself facing employment issues with limited alternatives and resources available to her. Overwhelmed with the amount of change, Natasha found herself in limbo. Which world did she belong to?
Natasha was unsure about how to express these experiences until she realized that her friends often related to her hand-drawn comics. She then sketched out the basics of her journey in eight panels and shared it with others. To her surprise, she felt a deeper sense of understanding from people who had no prior knowledge of the deaf experience.
In search of people who could directly relate, Natasha also posted on DeafandHoH.com’s FB group and was overwhelmed by uplifting responses. The comic generated many responses from people who were also half-deaf or had other similar stories to share. Many people loved the comic with comments like: “I’ve never felt so seen and understood.” While others also praised its visual depiction of sudden deafness.
The Journey Continues
In Natasha’s day-to-day life, she still needs to remind those around her to be considerate of her deafness (e.g., standing on her left side, speaking clearly, etc.). This lack of deaf awareness, however, is a society-wide issue that includes both the government and able-bodied citizens. Natasha also explains that “[a]lthough it’s rare for someone my age to experience severe sudden hearing loss, the fact that I can’t apply for disability or easily obtain tools that might help me is disheartening.”
After living over two decades of her life as a hearing person, Natasha felt a sense of denial after becoming half-deaf and had fears about how it would impact her lifestyle. Natasha has now accepted that life will not be the same as before and it has brought her peace. Thinking back, she says, “I wish I had done it sooner.” Recently, she developed a new nightly routine with her husband to learn American Sign Language (ASL) via YouTube. Her favorite part is signing “goodnight” before falling asleep and practicing again in the morning.
After opening up about her experience through visual art, Natasha says, “[it] has inspired me to engage more with the community, to really step into the ‘deaf world’ instead of dipping my toes in.” She is hoping to dive in and continue telling her story through more comics, or even a zine! This time around she would love to include more detail, as well as informational material. At DeafandHoH.com, we are excited to see how her comics will continue to build bridges of communication and understanding for everyone!
Want to see the comic for yourself? Check it out here: www.facebook.com/groups/deafandhoh/permalink/10159464829287309
If you want to stay up to date about Natasha’s projects, make sure to check out the links below!