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7:52 p.m. - September 21, 2004
Some worries, some alarmism, the usual lack of resolve
Developing an appreciation for the walk on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a quiet time where nothing is scheduled apart from the immediate task and To Do lists are ineffectual. I like watching the frat boys leave for class but wonder that while they have the look and gaiter, do their ilk make it to 8 or 9 a.m. classes? And the pretty girls, diva-esque in their Prada bags and heels squeezing into cars for the 3 block drive to the university - do they know their giggles and laughter remind me of a dovecot? I've seen the hairy-legged bicyclist sporting a Kerry or Emigrate sticker three times now and we smile at each other, me because she cannot be any more Berkeley and she quite likely because I in my Eddie Bauer button-down and khakis embodies what must gravely be an uptight exemplar of what passes for counter-culture in this town or a Mormon missionary who left his white shirt at the laundromat.

I work at an agency headquartered on Telegraph Avenue two days a week, eight hours plus travel time for an assignment I already dislike. I feel uneasy because the longer I am there the more difficult it will be to extricate myself later, though I've told myself to put up with the discomfort simply because the money is fantastic. At risk of this journal being found by a member of the ethics committee who rides a tired high horse and can report me for confidentiality, thereby setting off a chain of events that could lead to my certifications being terminated and - I would still work, because the agency loves me - my name printed in the association journal for violating our sacrosanct rule, I don't know how I can be true to myself here while holding back. So I won't. For the next ten (possibly 12) months I am interpreting for a woman doing her clinical internship; she is this internship and her Boards before she becomes a psychiatrist. When she meets with clients, I am in the same room saying what she signs and signing what clients say; I am her voice, as she tells her clients.

This is so much more difficult than I thought it would be. I was flattered when the agency let me know she insisted on having me, more flattered when she pooh-poohed the school's, then her supervisor's, inquietudes that a female therapist with a male interpreter, with predominantly female clients, simply could not work. She will be Deaf Psychiatrist Number 4 when she's done and the allure of the challenge, the intellectual as well as the social, shone brightly and like a misguided hummingbird, I've been beating my head on the glass since.

The struggle for me - and it's only been three weeks - is that I'm being exposed to things I simply do not want to know about. I am having a difficult time leaving myself at my desk and going into robot mode when I'm in the therapy room with the therapist and client. I struggle more when the interns gather with their supervisor and they discuss their clients, bandy diagnoses and DSM figures like boys throwing passes on a field in the sun. I struggle when I hear one therapist describe a client's issues and without a doubt know in my pores and my gut that what was just talked about is me. Hearing the symptoms, the diagnoses, the comments and analysis brings to mind my own work with Brad as if I'm in replay mode and more than anything, it is unsettling to my core. But all this is the inside me; on the outside I'm calm and professional, I do my job and I do it well. I take the barbs (you make more in two days than most of us earn in nearly a month and the compliments like today's: I'm thrilled to meet you! I've heard so much and afterwards this newbie interpreter asked if I'd mentor her. She's good; I said I'm interested and it's true.

The worst is when clients cry. The therapist has been trained to deal with those pesky emotions, but I haven't. When someone breaks down I am affected and I don't like that. Professionally nothing phases me; I am non-chalant, unflappable, can and have delivered information like Your 2 year old son has an inoperable tumor growing on his brainstem. The surgical team estimates a week remains and The victim's body was burned after dismembering, look at Exhibit A point to the blown-up photo to my left, to The President of the United States! and Hail to the Chief plays. Always unbothered, the Teflon Interpreter: Nothing sticks. And yet when a woman breaks down grieving for her husband who passed in July my own eyes burn and I wonder what is going on - I am not like this, I am not weak, I am not bothered on the outside, ever.

Am I obligated to let my personal client know I am receiving psychological services? Such a thought is absurdist in extremis and alarmist at best. I just feel like a fraud, not wholly focused on my work because I'm thinking about myself.

I have a session with Brad before I leave for Boston. Boston! Arrive Tuesday afternoon, depart Sunday night. Being away from the internship for two days is an immense relief.


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