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There always seemed to be a thick veil between me and the rest of the world even now at age 44. I gradually lost more and more hearing probably since I was born. Although I am not totally deaf, my deafness has certainly affected my life. I have a tendency to withdraw rather than struggle with conversations since I didn't get the early education I needed appropriate to my deafness so I don't get the benifit of clear communication, except in writing and in one-to-one conversations with very accommodating people. The lack of family and community awareness about deafness, compounded by abuse issues have been really isolating. As I grew up, I functioned marginally in social situations and felt like a marginal human being. I still feel very awkward socially.

My abuse issues have caused me further isolation because they are something people generally don't talk about and would rather avoid, but I need to talk about these issues, and I don't have the luxury of avoiding them. My search for help has been a tough one because communication has always been so difficult. I have been lucky to find a few therapists who could accommodate my deafness and my low income. I've been even luckier to find therapists who had knowledge of recovering from abuse. I also use books in my healing - lots and lots of books. There is definitely a shortage of affordable therapists and social workers who know ASL and understand Deaf culture, deafness, and community needs. Most counseling agencies don't even know how to use TTY's. Most of us are not wealthy and need free or affordable community services. A lot of the services today are taylored for hearing people, group oriented and totally inaccessible to deaf people.

I live only about 30 miles away from a strong, active DEAF community, yet my signing is still very clumsy so it has been hard to make a connection. If I'd had the choice, I'd have learned to sign at age 8 when I failed my first hearing test instead of learn it at age 35. I got hearing aids when I was 25, but I never had much luck with them, so I finally started learning ASL about 10 years later. Better later than never at all. I recommend that even children with mild hearing losses (like I had 35 years ago) learn to sign the DEAF way early in life, because it is much harder to learn later, and mild hearing loss in childhood often means deafness later in life! Deafness is more common than most people think, and signing can prevent isolation from the DEAF community more effectively than speech reading and assistive listening devices can prevent isolation from the hearing community - not that I would discourage speech reading or other alternate modes of communication. It all helps, but I think it is important to have understanding friends you can have in-depth conversations with, not just the superficial conversations that lipreading permits.

I have found the Internet to be a great way to meet other abuse survivors and talk to other deaf people. Not all of us have the greatest signing ability, so writing is a great mode of communication for those of us who are comfortable with reading, writing and computers. I started using the Internet in 1998 because I was experiencing a major communication vacuum. I am always so happy every time I meet new DEAF people or DEAF ABUSE SURVIVORS on the Internet, so please, please feel free to e-mail me and talk all you want to me. I love to read and write, and I love to get e-mail.


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