I have had tinnitus for a long time. I remember speaking to my mother about it nearly thirty years ago. Since then it has become a bit worse, but it’s something I felt I just had to bear with. I did not see the point of wasting my doctor’s time – it was just an inconvenience after all. One day, just over a year ago, I was walking through the Pavements shopping centre in Chesterfield and saw a notice in one of the vacant shop windows. “Do you have tinnitus? Give us a Call”. Well maybe not those exact words but I took out a pen and paper nevertheless. To make the call was one of the best decisions I have taken. Shortly afterwards I went along to my first meeting. Yes I felt nervous – who doesn’t when there is a new experience and you don’t know anyone? I felt at times like a fraud – my tinnitus, whilst with me and making its presence known, isn’t with me 24 hours a day. And I have got used to the persistent ringing in my left ear. My worries about joining the group were unfounded. The Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Tinnitus Support group are so friendly I was immediately put at my ease. I met others who are far more afflicted than I am but they still smile and get on with life. Shortly after I joined them I attended a series of workshops run by the group. Four sessions at fortnightly intervals which explained the causes of tinnitus and were designed to help us to come to terms with the problem. Discussions took place as to what each of us found helpful, and we were encouraged to exchange experiences. During these sessions I was introduced to the practise of mindfulness. Relaxing your body, and reducing stress – why I believe my tinnitus has got worse. As a result I have started listening to a mindfulness tape each night before I go to sleep, helpful indeed. And when I feel stressed I try to slow my breathing, and relax. As well as the workshops there are social gatherings at the Badger pub – where usually a speaker is engaged and coffee mornings for an informal chat at the Monkey Park Café. And I have really got involved in the Poetry Buzz sessions where a small group of us spend the afternoon trying to write poems. My tinnitus rarely accompanies me to the meetings which are truly enjoyable. One thing that I have come to realise is that if you are fully focused on something else, be it reading, listening to music, writing poetry or maybe going to the theatre – the distraction takes over, the tinnitus “melts away”. I would encourage anyone else suffering from tinnitus, who maybe feels there is no escape, to come along.