Friday, 13 July 2018

Deaf Girly: Finding the good in my deafness

Most regular readers of this blog will know that I'm pretty comfortable with my deafness in the workplace these days.

I've got a job I love, where I am fully supported by amazing colleagues and my manager. I am pretty comfortable about talking about my deafness, too. Demystifying it. Putting it out there. Challenging people to think about what it's like for me. And I've had amazingly positive responses.

All these things are incredible. 


One of the toughest things is that I cannot overcome the exhaustion. And the frustration of how much better I think I could be if I wasn't deaf.

So let's start with the exhaustion. It's hard to explain this kind of tiredness. After listening on a call for one hour and trying to lipread, I feel like someone has dunked my brain in treacle, put it on a spin cycle and then demanded it run 100 metres in a straight line. My arms are like lead weights. My eyes hurt. Speaking feels like I've had a tongue transplant. Tears are so dangerously close to the surface of my eyes that they could sprout at any second.

I cannot work out how to stop this tiredness. The exhaustion of my brain trying to piece together the few sounds I can hear and make intelligible sentences. My brain is fit. But even this is sometimes a marathon too far.

The thing is also, I want to be on these calls. They are fascinating, full of good chat, information, insight and I know that I can often add value to them. If I can just get through the exhaustion.

And then there's the frustration.

I know the cause of my exhaustion is my deafness. Ands this makes me so frustrated. Except logically, the cause of the exhaustion isn't my deafness. It's the listening.

The other day, I had to turn my camera off and mute the speaker to have a little cry not because I was upset, but because I was frustrated and cross. 

This job is so utterly perfect for me. It's an amazing balance of pure geekery and creativity. It uses all my core skills yet pushes me out of my comfort zone. I am learning every day. I mean, jobs like these don't come along very often, do they?

But just sometimes, I allow myself to sit and think about how much better I could be if I wasn't deaf...

And then I berate myself for thinking like this because this is exactly the discrimination I have spent a lot of my working life fighting. And if I'm thinking it myself, how am I meant to stop other people thinking it?

So last night I sat down and wrote down all the things that make me great at my job. Instead of thinking about the floundering conference calls or the exhaustion, I focussed on the amazing relationships I have built around the world, of the creative work out there that I've been part of, of the ideas I have that change how we do things.

The list was good. It far outweighed the 'You're deaf' list. And actually if I am honest, a lot of my strengths can somehow be related back to my deafness. 

For example, I am a massive self-teaching geek. Why? Because I never really heard at school. If I wanted to learn something, I had to sit down and teach myself. So now, when it comes to learning new things, I think I have strong advantage. My teacher is there, ready and waiting – in the part of my brain that doesn't get exhausted.

And I guess that's what I am thankful for. Deafness can be challenging, emotionally exhausting and downright frustrating at times, but it truly has made me me.

If I wasn't deaf, would I be so bloody determined to get where I want to go? Would I be so observant of body language and be able to read conversations as they are happening and spot the people who are unhappy or have feedback they can't express on projects? Would I take everything for granted?

I honestly don't know.

When I think back to the me, before I knew I was deaf, I was a different character. Before I went really deaf, I definitely didn't try as hard at things. I did indeed take success for granted.

So yeah, on this Thankful Friday, I am thankful for the fact that there are some amazingly good things about my deafness. And if you think about them long enough, they will always outweigh the bad.

Happy Friday peeps


Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Celebrating the 4th of July

Apart from my own wedding back in December, one of the best weddings I have ever been to happened 20 years ago today, in London.

It was the summer I finished my A-levels. I was 17 and had travelled down to London a few days earlier to hang out with London Aunt and London Uncle. It was amazing weather like this, too. I remember because I had this stripy skater dress that I wore with my DC trainers and thought I was so cool.

I wasn't.

I was incredibly honoured to play the flute at that wedding - during the signing of the register. It was one of the last times I played my flute in public. Apart from my recital performance exam. Even then, I'd modified some of the notes to ensure I didn't miss them and sound like I was blowing into thin air.

I wore this amazing maxi dress from East. Pink silk with a floral print. I still have that dress and thanks to the 90s fashion revival occurring right now, it may well get another outing this summer!

That day taught me a lot about relationships and also weddings. It taught me that you can be best friends with the person you marry, that you don't have to invite a long list of extended family to watch you say I do, but that your friends will willingly cross continents to see you.

It taught me that it's incredibly hard to keep a straight face when one of the guests decides their wedding present is to sing a song, in a restaurant, after lunch, in front of everyone. And it also taught me that I really don't like cigars.

And so, every year on this day, I raise a glass to two of my favourite people and their amazing wedding.

Twenty years... feels like yesterday.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

5 Deaf Girly Life Hacks for Deaf Awareness Week

Deafness throws many things at me but one of the most noticable things is the ability to make me feel ALL the emotions possible in the space of about a minute.

Happy, Sad, Frustrated, Angry, Embarrassed, Shy, Empowered, Upset, Hysterical, Exhausted, Inspired, Creative

But how do I deal with them all? Aside from medicating with copious amounts of chocolate?

Here are my deaf life hacks:

1. Streamline your shopping 
I am not a massive fan of trying to interact in shops. There was the time I replied no to the 'Would you like a bag' question four times only to discover the shop assistant had been asking me to 'Enter my pin'. It was not a fun experience.

So now, when I go shopping, I use contactless, I take my own bags, and I use the self-service checkouts whenever possible. For things like shoes, where you have to try on things while looking at your feet, often with a hovering shop assistant, I buy them online.

2. Streamline your correspondence
I never, ever, ever, ever answer my phone. FACT. Every single place I am registered at - from banking to healthcare to education to work - has my email address. Also, I have voicemail so if it really is important - like the time I won a competition and they rang to let me know - they can tell me there. 

And did you know, that you can text voicemail files to other people so they can listen. Something I do when on the rare occasion I actually get one. FJM is an excellent secretary! *beams

3. Streamline your life admin
I am a bit of a tech geek, but it's mainly because technology makes my life so much easier as a deaf person. I have all the various table booking apps for restaurants, not just in London but wherever I am in the world. I have Uber for taxis. 

I have online booking set up for GP surgery, my bank manager has me on his email contact list, my hairdresser - well haha, actually I once tried to call him using the NGT Lite typetalk app and he hung up. He doesn't really do alternative technology. And so FJM calls him for me! But gradually, over the years, fewer and fewer things need me to use the phone, or hear. It's awesome. And the NGT Lite typetalk app - it really is very useful. If you haven't tried it already, do.

4. Streamline your social life
No, I don't mean cancel your plans and cut people out of your life. But consider what really makes you happy. I spent a lot of my twenties in clubs not hearing anyone and having a largely terrible time. There were amazing nights out in among those moments, but a lot of the time I found it really tough. Until I sat down and worked out what made those nights amazing and started to focus on that. For me, that's smaller groups, quieter restaurants and bars, one-to-one dinners, captioned theatre or movies. 

Also, I accepted that being deaf is bloody tiring. Proper lie-down-on-the-floor tiring. And so I started to edit the amount of socialising I did in order to make time to get my energy levels back up. And there's nowt wrong with that. I learnt to let go of FOMO and focussed on things that made me happy, rather than the things I thought I should be doing.

5. Streamline your sound
Earlier this week, I tweeted about the fact that I can hear next door's Nutribullet but I can't hear a fire engine that is about to run me over. So many of you came back with 'I knowwwww....' and your own tales of what makes your hearing random or unique. 

One of the best things I've learnt to do is say, 'I am having a quiet day' and taking my hearing aids out. Sometimes it's nice to slip back into that 2D world where everything is just muted and well, quiet. Other days, I whack on my hearing aids and crank up the volume and go out there and explore my 3D world in all its glory. 

And then, there's the different settings on my aids - the sound recover for cats meowing in low voices, the T-loop for focussed sound on one thing without background noise, the music setting with sound recover off in order to safeguard the pitch of the instruments I can hear. Of course, I will never hear sirens or birds singing but it's my world. And I love it. But for me, the empowering thing is choosing when I have each world. 

What life hacks have you discovered to make your deaf life easier?


Deaf Girly: Finding the good in my deafness

Most regular readers of this blog will know that I'm pretty comfortable with my deafness in the workplace these days. I've got a...