Sometimes, maybe once a month, I'll lie in bed in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, lost in despair for about fifteen minutes, trying to come to terms with the ringing in my ears. I have tinnitus. A minor but incurable thing in my life, most of the time harmless and unnoticed, but every once in a while, the once a months I'm talking about, it transforms into something I can't stop thinking about, like a monster hiding in the closet (or under the bed, if I didn't sleep on the floor).
It might have been that one night of slightly too much partying. Or it could have been a couple years of unhealthy headphone listening habits. Or it could have been there all along. I'm sixty percent sure about each one, which means I have no idea. None of it matters, mostly, because the fact is I have it.
It's less of a ringing than a high pitched tone, but the word ringing conveys how annoying it is so it's the word I use. At first it was unbearable. It feels like a concentrated beam that is constantly shooting through the back of my mind. It almost has a physical weight to it. I guess that's what's exhausting. It doesn't hurt, and thanks to the wonders of the human mind, I forget it's there most of the time, and thanks to how noisy every thing and every one is around me, I can't hear it, most of the time.
It's in the dead of night that I start to panic. That I realize that I have this thing in me that will never go away. Once that thought is planted, it grows and grows in the darkness, and it feels like the ringing gets louder. Maybe it does, as a reaction to my worry. Since I can't sleep, I put on headphones to try to drown it out with music, which only makes it worse because I can still hear it no matter how loud I crank the volume (and then of course I turn it down because I know I'm making it worse).
And then I wake up. And realise that at some point in my worry, I fell asleep. That it either let me go, or I let it go, at least for a little while. That I can still hear it, but for some reason with the sun pouring in, or with the rain pitter pattering outside, it seems to have receded into the background. And then I think about the whole weeks at a time that I forget I even have tinnitus. How we got along perfectly fine, not bothering each other, not smothering one another. A peaceful coexistence. And then I start to think about if I would even be any happier if one day, out of the blue, it just up and left. Maybe I would be for a little while. But there are so many things to think about, so many things to worry about, so many things to be happy about, and an infinite number of things to ignore, this thing that consumed me for a little while, it's just like any other thing that consumes me for a little while. I'll forget it eventually.
There's a precious few moments in between thinking about it and drifting off to some other thought, or maybe drifting back to sleep, that I realize it's okay. It hasn't gotten any worse since it started, and I havent lost any of my passion for finding and listening to great music. It hasn't negatively affected me at all, really, except having to stuff earplugs in at concerts, which I should be doing anyway.
I'll forget about it. It'll come back, and I'll forget about it again. That feeling that I'll be fine... it's one of the best feelings in the world.