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


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