19th November 2021

It’s International Men’s Day, #MensDay  Raising awareness of mental health issues that men face. I’m in a better place now than I was a few years ago and want to share it with you because it’s good to talk about any issues you face, it’s better than bottling it in.

“Rose Aylling-Ellis from EastEnders and Strictly is an absolute inspiration to me during my time of reflection. It is about time, and so wonderful to see a public figure raising awareness of deafness. Rose is so brave and bold to discuss her experience and wellbeing and tells us how she copes throughout her working life. I too am deaf, and have been since birth, although it was two years before it was actually diagnosed.

I continued to grow up in the hearing world and hid my hearing aids, and the fact that I struggled, behind my 70’s haircut. When you reach a certain milestone, I think it’s about time to stop all this and be proud of myself and celebrate how far I have come and be proud of my deafness. Yes, I may miss part of the conversation or joke, yes, I will nod to pretend I heard you. However, should this happen, please help me and say “you didn’t hear that did you?”.

I’m raising this now as the Christmas Shop is in full swing and there are obstructions in the way, for instance, mask-wearing and the Perspex screen in front of the tills. They both make it harder for me to hear or lip-read what you’ve actually said. Sometimes, my brain goes into overdrive trying to work out what the missing words are in your sentence. It doesn’t happen all the time as many of you speak clearly which is really helpful, I find it best when people speak clearly at a regular speed and volume whilst looking at me. I purchased a band to wear on my wrist with a message on it saying “I have hearing loss” in the hope that it will help raise awareness for you lovely customers, so you will know the reason that when we are having a conversation, I may not hear every valuable word you said. I am so lucky to be in a job that I love and am so passionate to make this Shop the best in the area. Come and say hello on your next visit, if I don’t hear you, please don’t think I ignored you, I simply didn’t hear you.

Now, this next bit isn’t easy for me to share. When I was growing up, I also had another health issue. It’s to do with my eyes, my night vision was always bad, I kept walking into lampposts, falling downstairs, bumping into people and had numerous bruises on my limbs. Looking back, I remembered that a friend said look at the beautiful stars in the sky, I couldn’t see them, and at that point, I knew I would never see the glistening stars at all. This was a major blow and it’s probably one of the reasons why I love seeing stars in all shapes and sizes inside the Christmas Shop.

When I was 18 I was told by a doctor that I was losing my sight. To see how bad my eyes were I went through lots of tests all over the UK and it was concluded that I have retinitis pigmentosa. Not only was I struggling with my hearing, but I was also struggling with my sight too, another challenge to face.

Now it is more noticeable, I’ve developed more tunnel vision, I don’t see people walking to my left or right side and I suddenly jolt when they appear in front of me. My brain goes into overdrive when (I am) finding a clear path ahead. I don’t see faces as I walk, I see your shoes instead. So next time you visit the shop if I don’t see you, please don’t think I ignored you, I simply didn’t see you.

This isn’t a story about me it’s about raising awareness, and should you think you have these issues, please speak to your loved ones, and share your stories, I’d wish I did this many years ago, so do it today and explain your needs.”

Adrian White
Christmas Shop Manager