The Deaf Community is a tight-knit group in which deaf and hearing alike can get together and socialize. The hearies in this group consist of many different people, not the least of which are the interpreters in any given area.
As a member of the Deaf Community, I often find myself friends with the very people who provide interpretation for my appointments, entertainment, education, etc. That, in and of itself, is great! Any person I can get to tolerate me enough to have a conversation, is more than welcome to come my way! And there are some awesome interpreters around here. Oh, don’t get me wrong; there are a few doozies….
I once went to see a doctor and the interpreter couldn’t understand my signing or keep up with the doctor’s speaking. The doc and me ended up writing back and forth while the ‘terp sat there and watched/read. Wow! And she got paid for that?? But that’s another blog entry all together….
Anyway, it seems to me a little unfair and awkward that interpreters in my area know so much about my private life via ‘terping for my appointments. And, believe me, my private life is frightening at times. Heck, I’m frightening at times.
But there’s one particular aspect of my life that I don’t really want to share. But, because this is a blog of my experiences, I’m just going to open myself up here to say that I am disabled because of a severe mental illness. Yes, I’m stone deaf, too, but that doesn’t strike me as a disability when compared to what I have to go through because of a brain disorder.
So, this morning, I wasn’t doing very well. OK. I was doing terribly! I had an emergency appointment to see my psychiatrist and there was, of course, an interpreter scheduled. I definitely have a first choice in interpreters, but sometimes that person isn’t available and, today, that was the case.
One of the effects of my condition is that it becomes difficult for me to show expression in my face. My voice becomes monotone and quiet (so I’m told), too. It’s a total 180 from what people usually see in me. Usually I’m full of zest and friendly and chatty. I usually take care of my appearance, wear clean clothes, and put on make up when I have an appointment. But, because I’m relapsing, I did none of that today—well, this week, in fact.
I shuffled (literally) into the office lobby, registered, and sat down. My interpreter arrived about two minutes after I did and I could tell she was in a good mood and ready to talk about our latest adventures. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even look at her. I just sat there, husband beside me, staring into space. Barbie (the ‘terp) was a little put back. However, I will say she was totally professional and kind about the situation.
When it came time for me to talk with my doctor for a medicine change, I had to relay information about my condition and recent experiences to him. This is something very personal and that holds a great amount of stigma. I haven’t shared my disorder with anyone except my immediate family (husband and children). And I certainly didn’t want someone whom I love hanging out with at Deaf events, finding out how sick I am by listening to me ramble on to my doctor.
It just doesn’t seem right for an interpreter to know everything personal about me, because they’ve been at the appointments; and yet I only know what they’ve felt comfortable opening up and telling me about them. Why do they get to know it all?
I guess it’s a dilemma that will go on forever. We deafies need interpreters and, in order to understand, someone has to sit in and listen to our private thoughts and problems. Professionally, I have yet to meet an interpreter who has taken that knowledge and done something disrespectful (that I know of). Actually, that’s not true. But I’ll save that for another post, too.
However, interpreters are only human. You sit in and listen to someone talk psychotically and it’s going to affect you. You’re going to have feelings about what you’re hearing. I’m not saying everyone will harbor those feelings, but everyone will have some. ‘Terps included.
So, here I sit in my living room. After spilling my beans, my life, and my secrets, I sit here naked (metaphorically—the other option is just plain old creepy), knowing that Barbie knows my soul is warped. I’m not afraid she’ll go off and tell people. I know she won’t. But I hate the fact that she knows now and there weren’t a lot of options to stop her (or someone who was called to interpret) from knowing.
Perhaps video interpreting will become popular and I’ll have ‘terps from around the country—not people down the street that have a potluck on Memorial Day. But until then, I need to figure out how to accept that my secrets won’t always be my secrets. If I get an STD (I won’t—don’t worry), there’s going to be at least one person out there in the Deaf Community who knows, because they interpreted the appointment. And if I’m crazy, there’s going to be someone out there who knows that, too. Check.