There always seemed to be a thick veil between me and the rest of the world even now at age 46, year 2004. 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 because my deafness and the lack of an early deaf education doesn't allow 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 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, and though my signing has improved over the years, it is still pretty clumsy, and I don't have much of 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) 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, even cochlear implants can prevent isolation from the hearing community - not that I would discourage speech reading or other alternate modes of communication. It all helps.

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 this is a great mode of communication for those of us who are comfortable with reading, writing and computers. I started using the Internet in 1996 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 sign my guestbook and let me know if you would like me to e-mail you. I love to read and write, and I love to get e-mail.

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