Lights Outs

The title of this post is a poem by Edward Thomas. I have a lot on my mind, and this is going to be a long one. I’ll start with the poem, though.

I have come to the borders of sleep,

The unfathomable deep

Forest where all must lose

Their way, however straight,

Or winding, soon or late;

They cannot choose.

Many a road and track

That, since the Dawn’s first crack,

Up to the forest brink,

Deceived the travellers,

Suddenly now blurs,

And in they sink.

Here loves ends,

Despair, ambition ends;

All pleasure and all trouble,

Although most sweet or bitter,

Here ends in sleep that is sweeter

Than tasks most noble.

There is not any book

Or face of dearest look

That I would not turn from now

To go into the unknown

I must enter, and leave, alone,

I know not how.

The tall forest towers;

It’s cloudy foliage lowers

Ahead, shelf above shelf;

Its silence I hear and obey

That I may lose my way

And myself.

~

There has been a lot of talk in the last few years about mental health and suicide. High profile celebrity suicides spur people to conversation about a topic that was once taboo. Help lines fly around on social media, lessening after a few days, until the next high profile celebrity suicide. It’s a conversation we should all be having, all of the time – in person or on the phone, or video chat. FB, emails, texts, and yes, even writing this post, are all useful, but nothing is as cathartic as face to face, or voice to voice.

It doesn’t always “get better”, as the anti-bullying campaign tried to advocate. Adulthood brings fresh challenges, different challenges, a different headspace altogether.

Depression is insidious, rearing its’ head on its’ own time. It does not discriminate. Someone who seems like they have their life in order, with financial stability and stable relationships could be drowning. Someone who seems happy all the time, smiling, cracking jokes, telling stories, living life could be drowning. A superstar celebrity who has it all could be drowning. There doesn’t have to be a reason.

There doesn’t have to be a reason.

Over the years, I have lost family and friends to mental illness, ending in suicide. We all know someone who has been affected by suicide, if not ourselves. We all go through dark times in our own lives and sometimes it’s difficult not to be swallowed up by dark thoughts. We all have busy lives, and it’s difficult to keep tabs on everyone, every day. It’s important to reach out ourselves, to pick up the phone, to ask for help, to respond. Reach out to Talk, Respond when someone reaches out to you.

My brother died last year. I haven’t spoken about it much outwardly. Tried to distract myself instead by throwing myself into my son’s rugby club. By the end of the season, I realised that it was probably the worst thing I could have done and now I’m taking time for myself to get back on track. The guilt has been crippling. See, my brother texted me the night he died. I was lying in bed, and my phone flashed in the dark room, signifying a text coming through. I picked it up and saw his message on the screen. I saw it, and instead of texting back straight away, I put the phone down, thinking that I would respond in the morning. Of course, by then he was gone. He had ended his text in an unusual way, but it wasn’t so unusual to spur me into action. I regret that I didn’t act, every second of every day.

If there is one thing I’d like people to take from this, it’s…

Please respond.

Respond when someone reaches out to you. Respond when you have that niggling thought that something is out of the ordinary. Pick up the phone.

Respond to the text.

Don’t suffer in silence.

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West Coast

I can smell the sea air,

Mingled with seaweed and conifers.

Majestic eagles flying, strong calls echoing,

Waves crashing on a distant beach, strewn with sea glass and pebbles.

Strong beats of the Haida drum, flashes of red and black.

Eagle in the sun.

Longing.

Ponderings

The last few weeks have been rough.

My youngest and I were sick last month, I missed a few days of work between myself and him. Then he got an eye infection, so was off another two days. Then, I got sick, and came home from work early yesterday. Was shaky, nauseous, had a headache, pale and thought I was going to slide off the chair in Court. Had a very shaky drive home (I shouldn’t have driven, but I did), slept for two hours, felt marginally better…then I threw up last night. My husband was away at a work event, and my childminder brought the boys home just after 5. Went to bed with the boys last night at about 8pm and woke up this morning at 7:30 after a rough night of coughing.

I think the stress of the last few weeks has finally caught up to me. I would love nothing more than to sit on a beach in plus 30 weather and not have to think about anything. Or, a spa afternoon….or something.

Every year, I go through a phase of horrible home sickness. This is made worse by being sick and wishing someone could pop in with a pot of soup or take the boys…I am alternating between missing Vancouver Island and the Rockies. When I’m homesick, I inevitably go through my annual debate of whether or not we should up sticks and move back. It’s a scary thought. My life here is relatively settled, we are debt free, in stable jobs and I am studying for my graduate diploma (oh, yeah, the homework!). It’s scary uprooting that and starting again from scratch, especially given that Canada will have changed a lot in my time away and although it is my home country, we would all be adjusting. However, I miss my family and my friends…

I have settled in to my hearing aids really well. My left ear has been really sore due to the hard shell not being made correctly. I have a scab on the inside of my ear, which is very painful. My tinnitus has been horrible due to my being ill. My audiologist has put a tinnitus program on the hearing aids, which has been helping. *sigh* She has sent away for another remake so hopefully that will help. I am not wearing my hearing aid in my left ear this weekend – it might be a feeble attempt to try to get my ear healed. We will see.

I haven’t read any new books the last few weeks. I can’t remember if I posted my reading list, I don’t think I have. I’ll post a list of the books I’ve read soon.

Oh, I got a new bike too! However, my back tire is flatter than a pancake so I have to take the wheel in to get looked at. That’s one of the things on my to do list…

Over and out for now!

A year past

I am alarmed that it has been over a year since my last post. Over a year, really?! How to summarise 2014 succinctly…

Well, there’s been deaths, births, trips, schooling (I am now qualified in Wills and Executries, will be graduating with a diploma in law this November), paying off debt (what a great feeling being debt free!!) and…perhaps the most life changing, new hearing aids.

I was finally able to go private for new hearing aids, and this past Monday I was fitted with the top range Phonak Audeo V 90. I am in my month long trial period. The Audiologist (the fantastic Amanda Brady at ABC Hearing in Uphall) took my hearing test from last month and set a baseline for me to start with. When the hearing aids were switched on, the difference in sound was immediate. Sounds went from dull to clear. I was astounded, and started to cry. The Audeo V have sound recover so they take the high frequencies that I do not have and put them back into frequencies that I can hear. As a result, I was hearing a lot of things for the first time, even at the age of 35. Clocks ticking, birds singing, wind, even water in the pipes. At work, I hadn’t had to ask anyone to repeat themselves, I heard court proceedings clearly…just amazing.

But, in my excitement of getting new hearing aids, I had totally and utterly forgotten about the adjustment my brain would be going through. As my husband put it, hearing people have had their whole lives to undergo subtle adjustments to sound, to learn how to filter out unnecessary noises. Whereas I was bombarded with sound and my brain now has to learn how those things. I was tired, fatigued, had a massive headache by Wednesday, my tinnitus was through the roof and I spent an hour before bed that evening listening to classical music to try and calm it down. By Thursday, I was feeling better, and today, Friday, I think I have adjusted ok. I go back just over a week, and that is when we fine tune the programming. The settings are automatic so the aids take the environment I am in and adjust accordingly. In the car, the engine noise is reduced so that I can hear conversation clearly. In the office, it reduces the background noise (though, I cannot believe how noisy our office actually is, and that was quite overwhelming). Last night we ate at a restaurant. I found it overwhelming by the end of our meal. To start with, the noise was reduced but because someone kept changing the volume of the music, my hearing aids kept trying to adjust.

I am looking forward to the fine tuning, especially as I will be getting a tinnitus program added in.

I can competely understand why deaf/hard of hearing people may struggle to cope with new technology. It is a new way of hearing, but our brains still need to learn to adjust. I implore those to please stick it out…it is so worth it. 🙂

A decade past.

Today is my 10th anniversary of leaving Canada.

A decade. 10 years. 120 months. 3,562 days.

I’ve been reading over old journals these past few weeks. I haven’t been able to find the journal I began after my arrival in Scotland, but, I found this entry that pertains to it:

~ In two months I will be leaving for Scotland. Time is passing quickly and before long I’ll be back among the castles and glens of Scotland. Right now I am feeling impatient. The “scared” feeling has worn off. I’m just impatient to be getting on my way! I still have a lot to do. Moving day has been upped to December 14th so I have a month to get my things packed up, two weeks to get my bank letter in for my VISA/passport, Christmas shopping, New Year’s, Fort McMurray and then Scotland. A busy time to be sure.

Today officially ends the two year journey of this diary. I think back to all the things I’ve been through and reflect. They’ve all had a hand in shaping who I am at this moment. I wonder what the next two years will bring.

The adventure of my lifetime, I know that much.

Veni, Vidi, Vici: I came, I saw, I conquered.  ~

That fateful moment on that warm day in September 2003 when I decided on whim to apply for a working holiday visa, after walking past Travel Cuts and seeing the sign in the window – was a decision that I needed at the time. Nothing was tying me down, I had itchy feet, and needed a change of scenery after a particularly hard few months. And, a good amount of soul healing too. I was 23.

Now I’m about to turn 34, settled, married, two beautiful boys, job security, just need a house. I’ve been to Europe, all over the UK, NATO. I’ve met amazing people, made amazing friends, but miss my family, friends and loved ones every day.

I lost relatives and friends over the last 10 years where I wasn’t able to make it home. That has been the hardest part about living overseas. I still think about them often. Roy, Amber, Rick, Mr Elson, Uncle Dick, Grandpa Matei, Auntie Joan, Mr Kanters, and most very recently, Auntie Gwen. I’ve missed weddings, births, birthdays, and anniversaries.

So Scotland, thank you for everything you have given me. You are a beautiful country, with beautiful people, even if you are being screwed around with by Westminster. I look forward to whatever comes.

Toast

I know it’s been awhile since my last post, and there is one coming Sunday/Monday. This is just a quick one to clear my head before I head to work.

Tonight I will raise a glass to the three Hooper sisters. I never knew Gwen, Joan and my Grandma together, but I knew Auntie Gwen with Grandma and then Auntie Gwen with Auntie Joan. I reckon they are having quite a reunion just now. Three amazing women, who gave me my Dad and a pretty awesome extended family. Not many people I think, can say that they are close to their 2nd and 3rd cousins let alone know them. I’m proud to say I’m one of them. So I thank them for that and for the lessons in living life gracefully, with humour, and love.

So, I will miss you, and remember you fondly and say hi to everyone up there for me, especially Grandma, Grandpa R and Auntie Susan.

Love.

Living in a hearing world

When I was born at 27 weeks, I came into this world with a sensorineural hearing loss. In a nutshell, the tiny hairs of my cochlear are not developed enough and so most sound waves do not register. I am moderately to severely deaf in my right ear, and severely to profoundly deaf in my left. 

I have a lot to thank my mom and dad for. Persevering with my stubbornness for one. I hated speech therapy and having tiny scopes put down my ear canals. I hated wearing the FM system in school because I felt it singled me out. I hated having a teacher aid for the same reason. Because they persevered though, most folk are not aware of my hearing loss until I tell them.  I have a lot of people to thank for giving me the best possible start they did. 

As a kid, I was sheltered from the technicalities of hearing aid technology. By this I mean that, as far as I knew, I got a new pair of hearing aids every 5-6 years and that was the end of it. As an adult though, I now realise how much my parents had to go through financially to make sure I had the best that could be afforded. In Alberta, where I’m from, the provincial govt funds the cost of hearing aids up to the age of 18 years old. I think this might be a partial funding depending on the model of hearing aids you want. You still went to an Audiology clinic and had (have) really great service, a great rapport with the audiologists treating you. I’m still at the same clinic I’ve been at all my life and there’s something inherently comforting knowing that I can go back any time and even though the clinic has been taken over by different doctors, they still have my entire life history in one large file folder. 

Anyway, fast forward to adulthood. My current pair I’ve had for 7 years now. They are losing power noticeably. A few months ago, I went to the House of Sound in Edinburgh for their annual spring cleaning event where they clean your hearing aids and give you a hearing test free of charge. I spoke about hearing aids with them, and trialled a fantastic pair by reSound. I was hearing sounds I’d never heard before in my life, the clarity and vibrancy was exhilarating. The hearing aid itself was half the size of my current pair, and the receiver was in the ear, rather than behind the ear. Amazing how far technology has come. But, the price tag was £5,000. Yes, you read that right. £5,000. 

At the end of the day, there was no way we could afford that, so I had to consider the other option that’s available in the UK. The NHS. Hearing aids are free on the NHS, and for this reason alone I feel badly for what may come across as complaining. When I was googling NHS care, it was very hard to find first hand accounts of what people experienced, so I hope that anyone coming across this blog entry finds my experience informative.

I went to my GP in July for my referral to the Audiology dept at the hospital where I live. That was the first difference to me, in that I’ve never been to a hospital for hearing aid care before. My appt for this came through 3 weeks later, and in mid August, I saw the Audiologist at the hospital. Now, I have to say that I went in with very high expectations of what was going to happen. What I thought was going to happen was that I’d see the Audiologist, have a hearing test,  get mold impressions done, and a pair of hearing aids to trial. But this was all I knew, from my experience back home, and with the House of Sound here. Being the NHS, that’s not what happened at all. Oh, I got the hearing test, and the ear mold impressions, but I was told straight off the bat that I was going to be getting the aids I already have, as that is what they are currently fitting. I remember blinking, and inwardly shaking my head like, “what? did I hear that right?’. Yes, the second major difference….hearing aid manufacturers take their technology to private clinics first here. The NHS get the casts offs or the aids that are obsolete. My current pair are obsolete. Then I was told I’d have to come back to get the fitting done. I asked if she could make adjustments to my current aids because my hearing test was a bit worse than when I’d last had my aids adjusted, and she told me she couldn’t as it was done off site and they don’t have the equipment there. 

I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I walked out of there to work. I cried because I was disappointed that I wasn’t even getting an upgrade, and I cried because the service wasn’t there that I needed. A letter came a few days ago saying that I was going to have to wait a further 12 weeks to get the appt for my fitting. I think you can guess what my reaction was. 

So, in my opinion, the service on the NHS is dire. BUT, it’s free. I don’t agree with how things are run with the NHS, but it’s free.

For anyone coming across this blog in their research on whether to go private or go on the NHS, I say without a doubt, if you can afford to go private, do it. The service, the care, the technology and after care is worth it. 

I have often wondered what it would be like to go without hearing aids…but I think my tinnitus would drive me around the bend. It has gotten really bad over the last few weeks, but I think that’s due to my hearing aids losing power. 

If we ever win the lottery, I know what I’m getting first. 🙂