Overcoming another road block

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Even though I had dealt with the changes in my body and the deaths of my parents I was unable to handle life very well. The emptiness was still there. When I started to manage the geochemical lab the stress made it harder to keep my head clear. I felt like all the nerve endings under my skin were jumping to the surface. I saw my doctor who put me on 40 mg of Paxil antidepressant medication. It took the edge off my anxiety.

I took Paxil for four years until my final year in the Architectural Technology program. During that year a feeling within me grew that said the Paxil was no longer doing anything for me. I weaned myself off Paxil over two months and found my nerves were no different. I was right. Paxil was no longer helping me cope. “Why am I taking this stuff?” I asked myself. I was handling life well enough even though Paxil wasn’t helping me so I stayed off it.

Also during my final year at college I found I couldn’t afford my condo anymore. Catharine had been separated for two years. So she and I started a partnership. We searched for a house that she, Sarah, Matthew, Tessa and I could live in. We found one and we had a home. I invested money from the sale of my condo in the house to lower the mortgage payments. It went unsaid but Catharine and I both wondered how this was going to work out since we hadn‘t lived in the same house in 26 years. With some give and take and understanding Catharine and I got to know each other better than when we were kids.

I continued with my studies and graduated with an Architectural Technology diploma in June, 2005. The program had taught me a lot of new things such as building construction techniques and codes. As it turned out I would never work as an Architectural Technologist because of another blow as a result of the radiation therapy I had as a child.

Two weeks after I graduated from the Architectural Technology program and three weeks after getting back from setting the date for plastic surgery I suffered another big drop in my hearing. This time it was my left ear and again it was overnight. I woke up one morning in June, 2005, with profound deafness in both ears. I was left floundering.

Suddenly the phone was virtually useless and face to face conversations were difficult at best. It was yet another frustration and I was exasperated. Here I was trying to make a life for myself, and had a sense of getting somewhere, only to be kicked back. Again I had to regroup. Now depression more than anxiety ruled my life. In hindsight this was a blessing in disguise. I was forced into making another life change that would be very positive for me.

“Now what do I do?”

Any job that required me to answer the phone or talk to people was just about out of reach. I couldn’t call to inquire about a job. Even if I got a job interview I wouldn’t be able to get through it without frequently having to ask the interviewer to repeat him or herself.

I went to see Patrick, my audiologist, who fitted me with hearing aids that made me fairly functional with face to face conversation and I could use the telephone with difficulty as long as it had a volume adjustment. For three years I used these hearing aids and I avoided using the telephone as much as possible. My confidence with the phone was completely shattered.

My saving grace when I lost the hearing in my left ear was that I was living with Catharine and her kids. After a few disastrous attempts at trying to answer the phone Catharine said, “Brian, don’t answer the phone. If it’s for you we’ll tell you.” Catharine helped me with the important calls so that I could catch everything said. I was fortunate to have friends who were understanding and patient with my difficulty when they called.

A month after my hearing loss I expressed my frustrations about my dilemma to Catharine. She suggested trying to do things online. I had thought of it but not seriously. My email account was all but dormant. I hadn’t surfed the net much for anything. Catharine’s suggestion made sense though. I started to look for things to do on the net. I hear email just fine.

A whole new world of things to see and do opened up to me. Google and Wikipedia became routine for anything I wanted to look up or know about. There were websites to look at, newsletters I signed up for and I patted myself on the back the first time I watched a YouTube video. Now I don’t know how I managed without it. Of all the things I found on the net I was most intrigued by copywriting – the craft of writing ads, brochures, articles and, best of all, getting paid to do it. I decided to focus on what I considered to be my last remaining asset – writing. I was more comfortable writing than with anything else. It had always come easily to me.

Once I decided on copywriting I read all the books and articles I could find. But reading about copywriting wasn’t enough. I needed a qualification. I found “The Institute for Copywriting” in England. This was my first online course. When all the assignments were completed The Institute mailed me my diploma.

I had my diploma but I came up short of starting a career in copywriting. I was used to taking courses. When it came time to put into practice what I had learned I faltered. It was as if someone was reaching through me from behind, grabbing hold of my sternum and pulling me back. My nerves and self-doubt would take control of me. But the willingness inside urged me on.

I continued to look into copywriting. I spoke with a copywriter from Utah who was very patient with my difficulty in using the telephone. He had learned copywriting through American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI). I decided to take that course. In November, 2008, I went to AWAI Bootcamp, a copywriting conference in Florida. The main reason I went to Bootcamp was to meet people working in my chosen profession. I attended some very insightful workshops and met 300 copywriters. Up until then I hadn’t met even one. I came back from Florida with my batteries charged but something held me back.

The one drawback to copywriting, even though most of it is done online, was that I couldn’t avoid having to pick up the phone to call someone. I was frustrated but it wasn’t going to stop me. I went to the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) in Thunder Bay where I hoped they could show me a way of handling phone calls. I was out of ideas. I met a counsellor there named Jeff. He showed me the various devices I could use that I tried with limited success. When I found Bluetooth hearing aids in their catalogue I knew right away that these were the answer. They worked like a wireless head set. By pairing a cell phone with Bluetooth hearing aids I heard the caller in my hearing aids just like a face to face conversation. I responded by speaking into the microphone in the remote hanging around my neck. They weren’t the perfect solution but they were light years ahead of anything else. With the Bluetooth hearing aids I regained my confidence in using the telephone.

Jeff was hearing impaired and the first person I met who was more comfortable with American Sign Language (ASL) than with verbal speech. Our counselling sessions were staged with Jeff and me in a room at the CHS in Thunder Bay with Jeff on camera. Glenda, a hearing ASL interpreter, who was on camera in Guelph saw what Jeff signed and said it out loud so I could hear it through a speaker phone. Karen, a captionist in Toronto, heard what Glenda said and typed it out so it appeared on a laptop screen in front of me so I could read it. This worked well since I only caught half of Glenda’s words. Glenda listened to my response and signed it to Jeff.

Jeff and I covered a lot of ground this way. I could talk to him easily about my frustrations with life and how I could best handle my deafness. Jeff taught me about the Deaf community and culture. I became involved with many of the CHS functions. I’m now on the Community Development Council for the CHS in Thunder Bay. The Canadian Hearing Society has been a very positive experience for me.

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