Thursday 30 September 2021

DeafGirly: How I feel about being deaf at work

It's been a whole year since I posted a blog on here. Life's been happening. And I guess I am no longer 'deaf in the city and having fun'... I am deaf in the countryside and having fun.

And I am still having fun. But it's a whole other kind of fun. It's an 11-hour working day, being a mum, exploring where we live now kind of fun. And I am here for that.

But it is exhausting. Particularly the work bit. Because in a virtual world, I now do all my communicating over video calls. Which means I am missing the full body language that helps me understand and piece together what people are saying.

And that means, more than ever, that I rely on the subtitles to help me keep up and feel included and part of things that are happening at work.

Microsoft Teams subtitles are not perfect but wow do I need them. They are not perfect in that one of my team mate's names comes up consistently as Bill Gates - and I do not work with Bill Gates. And that they don't translate acronyms very well. Or keep going when people talk over each other. Or decode accents brilliantly.

I feel like I am on the back foot a lot.

Luckily, I work with great people. Those who can see my eyes start to glaze over, read the panic in my face when I am being called on, or just generally know that I don't have a clue what's going on.

But all of that is exhausting. Listening is exhausting at the best of times. But listening from a grid of tiny faces is a whole other level of exhausting. Sometimes, I am convinced I am listening and I get to the end of a big group meeting and have no recollection of anything that happened. Because I am so busy listening, my brain forgets to store the information I am listening to.

When I first started writing this blog, it was because I felt my deafness defined every aspect of my life. And some of the writing helped me come to terms with that. In lockdown and remote working, sometimes I feel again as if deafness defines every aspect of my working life. 

Today, I had to articulate this on a really fascinating team-building exercise I was a part of. And for the first time in a long time I forced myself to really address how my deafness made me feel in the context of remote working.

This is what I wrote:

My deafness affects my ability to contribute. To learn. It dulls the impact that I can have. It excludes me from the conversation. It stops me feeling confident in my place in the world. And I feel sad, tired, lost, left out and isolated.

Do I think that 100% of the time? Absolutely not. But is it fixable? Not really no. 

But those feelings and acknowledging them took me right back to the early days of this blog. To when every day felt like that. To when I couldn't see how I was going to have a viable career.

As I was recovering from lipreading that two-hour team building call and drinking a cup of tea (while eating all the biscuits) I thought about what has changed since those early days of my career. And I think that it is my resilience and how I choose to handle myself.

Nowadays, I acknowledge I feel that way, then find the tools I know I have to help alleviate that feeling. It's not fixable. You can't fix deafness or the way it makes you feel. But you can chat to someone. Ask someone for support. Tell someone how you're feeling. Or just eat an entire limited edition Cadbury Christmas chocolate bar while lying in an exhausted heap on the sofa.

I also (hope) I keep the sadness and anger I sometimes feel about being deaf in a professional context and the anxiety I feel about it impacting my career out of my working relationships.  

I try to find constructive ways to convey this to my colleagues. Let them know when I need help. Or simply someone to tell me what the fresh merry hell is going on.

And I'm proud of that. It's been a journey.

It absolutely isn't easy being deaf. In so many aspects of my life. Don't even get me started on motherhood. But every day I try and work it out and do the best I can do. Because that's what 13 years of writing this blog has taught me I can do.

Happy Thursday peeps. It's almost the weekend. We got this.


DeafGirly: How I feel about being deaf at work

It's been a whole year since I posted a blog on here. Life's been happening. And I guess I am no longer 'deaf in the city and ha...