Guest Blog #1 – Mary Bell

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Hi I’m Mary, MC, M, Mary Bell, in fact I will answer to most things really, but only if you’re in front of me, and I can see your face!

I was 36 when I became profoundly deaf. It was also at this time I was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease , 24/7 tinnitus and horrid balance problems.

Music was and always has been important for me in all aspects of my life, so how could I possibly enjoy this now that I could not hear?

It’s really difficult when you lose your hearing. You lose a feeling of where you are in the world. Some people assume it’s like wearing glasses, as soon as we put our hearing aids in we can hear like we used to. I so wish this was true, but what you hear with your hearing aids is not ‘ normal hearing’, it’s distorted and always will be….

To be honest at the beginning, it was like a death to me! Day after day, my beautiful Martin guitar would sit in the corner of my room gathering dust. It belonged to a time and a place I felt I was no longer a part of. Would I ever be again? I didn’t know…. I really didn’t know….

Eventually I became brave and picked up my guitar. I couldn’t hear anything, but I could feel the vibrations in my fingers. I persevered and realised I was able to link the vibration/ sensations to the notes or chord I was playing. Through time I taught myself to feel each specific note; from here on, my confidence grew.

Then a chance meeting at a disabled musicians day in Stirling where Drake Music Scotland were holding a workshop I met Pete and Cath who were at that time looking for a Deaf musician for a project they would be working on…. and the rest they say is history….. I’ve been an Associate Musician with Drake Music Scotland for over 3 years now and I’ve loved every minute of it.

I mostly work with Deaf pupils, but this past summer I had the opportunity to work in a Special Needs Unit which I really loved. I really felt connected with the pupils, it was also the first time I worked on a project for DMS on my own (with my PA assisting as a roadie, and helping me set up my equipment etc…)

I have a spinal injury which means I’m a full time wheelchair user. Which is why I need assistance to get myself and my gear in and out of where I’m working!

As I write this wee blog I’m just home from a multi activity week in the Lake District with an organisation called The Back Up Trust the organisation run many courses for people of all ages who have been spinally injured.

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It was such an amazing week. Before my injury I used to run up hills, cycle to work, and really was never idle, and to those of you who know me… I’m really still the same today! However this past week has stretched me further. I’ve been on a wheelchair assault course, abseiling, canoeing, hand cycling, rock climbing, and many many more activities. I’ve got a new zest for life which I’m hoping to carry on into my work with DMS.

My love of music is still the same as when I could hear, and teaching it in a fun and exciting way is still my passion! I look at my journey of Deafness and Music, as a new composition which has awoken a part of me I never knew existed. It has also enabled me to help others to access music through vibration, touch and vision and that for me is the best part of it all – seeing others enjoying making music for the first time is just awesome.

The jigsaw pieces of a life once broken, are now being rebuilt – and the new picture is looking good…. I’m still working on the soundtrack – so watch this space.

Looking forward to seeing you all at some point along my journey. Hang on tight it’s going to be an amazing adventure.


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