I just finished watching a Netflix series that featured incredible connections between dogs and their humans. All of their stories could genuinely pull you in, but I was drawn more towards the story of a former astronaut who got famous for posing with his two dogs for his official NASA portrait.
The guy’s name was Leland Melvin, and he is currently doing public speaking throughout the country. Interestingly, his story was that he almost did not make it as an astronaut because of a Water training accident that made him lose his hearing temporarily. I never knew about this before, but apparently, you could not sign up to go to space if you had a hearing loss.
Leland practically went into depression because of that, and the only thing that saved him was being with his dog at the time. Then, his hearing returned after some months, and he got to do the most fabulous job ever.
The reason why the astronaut’s story was very remarkable was that it hit close to home. No, I did not try to have a career in aerospace engineering, but I also suffered from a debilitating injury similar to his.
As a native of the Santa Catalina islands in California, scuba diving was most people’s favorite hobby while growing up. I was undoubtedly among them so that you would find me at the beach almost every week with my friends or family. I even enrolled at a local driving school one summer and proceeded to work as a part-time assistant instructor there in my late teens.
If you thought of my credentials, it would be easy to believe that I could do scuba diving in my sleep and be safe. I thought so, too. However, accidents could happen even to the best of us at any point, and I experienced that first hand.
I could remember it as if it happened yesterday. My friends and I were out to do scuba diving on a Saturday. We had all just gone back home after our finals in college, so we were looking to have fun in the best way we knew how. Our gears had been prepared beforehand, and we had a licensed diver with us to be sure.
Deep in the water, my friends and I were having the best time of our lives. Someone brought their GoPro camera, and we took as many photos as possible with the corals and the school of fish. But then, as we went a little deeper, my oxygen tank malfunctioned, and I was losing air in an instant.
I tried not to panic as my friends pulled me to the surface as quickly as possible. I believe the entire time that everything was still cool, but that was until someone shrieked, and everyone moved faster to get us to shore. As it turned out, my left ear was bleeding, and it was most likely due to the extreme pressure under the water.
That was the day I lost the hearing in my left ear. My right ear did not bleed, but I could barely hear through it as well. Worse, the doctors could not tell me if it was a permanent disability or not.
Getting Into Group Art Counseling
I could not be angry at anyone for what happened to me. I checked my gear before diving; it was utter lousy luck that the oxygen tank failed me.
On the outside, I told my family I was okay. On the inside, though, I felt lost. As a music major, my sense of hearing was super crucial if I wanted a career as a singer or musician. It was a blessing in disguise that the accident occurred during summer break, so I did not have to worry about classes for a while.
Whenever I felt depressed about my situation, I would wander around the beach. On this particular day, I came across a group of people with their easels and canvases out on the shore. I observed them for a minute, and everyone seemed so peaceful and calm. As they packed their stuff up, I decided to talk to their leader, technically an art counselor.
The counselor told me that her group consisted of individuals who felt depressed and stressed due to various reasons. I thought I ticked both boxes, so I asked if o could join their next group art counseling session, and she agreed on it readily.
Doing art as a form of counseling helped me find my center again. I saw the canvas as a piece of material that I could control, and I needed to feel that in my life. Painting the ocean – or at least trying to do so – made me more eager to continue my medical treatment so that I could get back out there again.
After almost three months of hearing almost nothing, it came back all of a sudden. I could not thank my doctors enough for their help, but I knew that art counseling had a special participation in my recovery process.