Wednesday, July 29, 1998
2 pm. Initial Session with Kelly Wiseling. I met with Ms. Wiseling, as she prefers to be called, and her "keeper"--an unpleasant woman named Ann Maxwell who came from the California Deaf and Blind Services Center. Kelly is a twenty-five year old high-spirited woman who is deaf, although not profoundly so. She works as a programmer at SII. Her communication skills are excellent. She augments whatever hearing she possesses with outstanding lipreading skills. She speaks intelligibly, although it takes a bit of effort to understand what she's saying. However, she's fluid with her speech, unreserved about her emotions, and sharp-tongued: she's quite ready to pounce on any perceived slight. Physically, Kelly is about 5' 4", slim but with an athletic build. She's tanned and looks like a runner. Her clothing was light colored and casual. She's attractive without being conventionally beautiful. She has light brown hair which she wears at shoulder length with heavy bangs. Her hair covers her ears, and although it would not be generally noticeable, I could perceive she was wearing a small flesh-colored hearing aid. Kelly exudes confidence--perhaps, even over-confidence as if she's trying to compensate for her handicap. She's clearly easily angered and aroused. I got just a glimpse of Kelly when she's not angry or suspicious, and I thought she seemed quite friendly, with a ready smile. She's very animated when she talks, using many facial expressions and gestures to annotate her speech. I'm certain that she can be both very charming and very manipulative. The nominal reason that Kelly came to see me was that she desired the ability to react unemotionally to perceived insults and snubs. I have a feeling, however, that once she sheds her keeper, she'll be more forthcoming about other issues she may have. Some of those issues may be with the deaf community as a whole, and the California Deaf and Blind Services Center in particular. They were offering her counseling services and she refused, seeking instead my help. They were clearly eager to keep her under their care and were disappointed at her decision to go outside of their control. They were offering psychiatric services by someone trained in ASL and issues surrounding the deaf. Kelly refused such services purportedly because she wishes to be independent. But I think it is easily possible that there is more to it than that. But that's just speculation, perhaps triggered by the unpleasant, possessory manner of Ms. Maxwell. Years ago, I read a very interesting look at deaf people, their unique culture, and the neurolinguistics of the deaf. The book was Oliver Sacks' "Seeing Voices," and I think I'll pick it up again to refresh myself on some of the issues with which Kelly might be confronted. Kelly told me about an abusive incident which precipitated her seeking my help. Scott Colavito, Thomas Darden's nemesis with Rachel, apparently made some sexually offensive comments to another about Kelly, out of her earshot but within sight. Kelly has the ability to read lips at a distance and she saw what he said. Scott was mimicking what he imagined Kelly, as a deaf woman, would sound like while engaged in sexual intercourse. Kelly angrily confronted Scott immediately and, instead of backing off, Scott pushed further. He later apologized when ordered to by his superior, but Kelly believed his apology was insincere. She hated herself for being reduced to tears later while sitting in the lavatory. Thomas Darden came by after the incident and offered his sympathy, which was appreciated. Tom, indicating Scott, made monkey gestures, so Kelly taught Tom and some of the other programmers the American Sign Language sign for "asshole." Now, when Scott walks by, the group of them all sign "asshole" when he's not looking.

Wednesday, August 5, 1998
2 pm. Second Session with Kelly Wiseling. Kelly came alone today and she brought a palm-top computer. She used the computer to spell out the few words that she had difficulty saying: "oralism" and "schizophrenic." Other than that, and some initial instructions to me about keeping my face towards her and nodding my head instead of saying, "Hmm," we were able to communicate just fine. I noted that Kelly signs certain words almost reflexively while she speaks. We spoke about Kelly's family, her brother Mark, and her mother's desire for a normal, hearing daughter. Her mother's approach to Kelly's education was influenced by her wish that Kelly be as "normal as possible." Kelly was born with normal hearing, but suffered an ear infection when she was about three which left her with substantial impairment in both ears. Her mother insisted that Kelly's education focus on allowing her to interact with hearing people, through speech and lip-reading, rather than allowing her to focus on ASL and deaf culture, as is apparently the preferred current approach. Kelly went to elementary schools which promoted a practice called "Oralism" which stressed teaching deaf children to speak as normally as possible. Kelly recounts some early cruelty arising out of her mother's refusal to acknowledge any of Kelly's sign language. Kelly did well in school, although she felt frustration at not being able to really fit in to a hearing world. When Kelly was ready for college, her mother insisted that she attend Gallaudet because of its strong reputation for educating the deaf. Kelly feels that she was ill-prepared for Gallaudet, which is a bastion of deaf culture. She describes her signing as clumsy while her classmates' ASL was fluid, quick, and graceful. She feels handicapped both among the deaf and among the hearing. Kelly told me that, while she was growing up, her father was quiet, distant, and emotionally reserved. Kelly's brother Mark, however, seems to have been a bane of Kelly's existence since childhood. Mark is the favorite of Kelly's mother. When he was a senior in high school, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia after some violent and paranoid behavior. I'm not certain whether or not he received somatic treatment, but he became a born-again Christian a few years later. Although pushed by her mother, Kelly didn't want anything to do with Mark's church friends. Kelly describes Mark as having a short attention span. He left school and took up missionary work for a few years. Later, he got married and had a son. Then he left the church, broke up with his wife, and started abusing drugs, especially cocaine. Meanwhile, Kelly graduated with honors from Gallaudet. Mark was in and out of mental health facilities and drug rehabilitation clinics. Through it all, Kelly sees her mother as making a series of excuses for Mark. At the end of the session, Kelly told me that, although she doesn't like others to know her business, she found it easy to talk to me.

Wednesday, August 12, 1998
2 pm. Third Session with Kelly Wiseling. Even though I don't think it was Kelly's original intention, we spent the session talking about issues arising out of Kelly's deafness. Kelly instructed me on some issues involving deaf culture. Although she doesn't particularly feel a part of it, she can't deny its influence on her--she identifies herself as a deaf woman first and foremost. Using a simplistic set of generalizations, deaf culture seems to have a fundamental schism between assimilating with the hearing world on the one hand, and isolating themselves on the other. Kelly told me an anecdote about a deaf couple who wanted a deaf child. When in utero testing revealed that their child would have normal hearing, they sought an abortion. Although obviously an extreme example, this couple wanted a child who would share their fundamentally isolationist culture. Kelly occupies a strange place in the middle between the two extremes. Her mother forced her early into the assimilation camp but then, for college, insisted that Kelly attend Gallaudet, a bastion of the isolationist philosophy. So Kelly feels ill at ease in both worlds and somewhat ambivalent about deaf culture as a whole. Kelly spoke of Heather Whitestone and Marlee Matlin as deaf role models. She felt uncomfortable lionizing Whitestone because of the similarity in the way that both of them were brought up. Kelly believes that it would be like condoning her own mother's approach to her upbringing, which she's unwilling to do. Partly in reaction to the Collavito incident, Kelly's boss offered her the opportunity to circulate a memo instructing the hearing employees on ways to improve their communication with Kelly as a deaf woman. Kelly enumerated some of the etiquette issues of addressing her: how someone should get her attention and ways to assist her in reading lips when conversing. While Kelly initially rejected the idea--she doesn't like calling attention to herself in that way--the idea is now growing on her. I urged her to consider it--I think it would break a lot of barriers caused primarily by other people's unease in not knowing how to approach Kelly.

Wednesday, August 19, 1998
2 pm. Fourth Session with Kelly Wiseling. Kelly told me that she has a crush on Thomas Darden. The irony is that she's too afraid of rejection to make the first move. I'm in a tricky situation because I can't really push Kelly to begin an involvement with Tom and I can't really push Tom to begin an involvement with Kelly. We talked about Kelly's sexual history. During high school, she had a two year relationship with a hearing boy named Daryl whom she didn't really like. She described him as sexually insensitive and mostly interested in gaining brownie points by dating a deaf girl. When he went out of state for college, they broke up, much to Kelly's relief. She didn't date much at Gallaudet, but she did enter into a relationship with a boy named Peter. Although they were friends, Peter wasn't really a love object. But Kelly was able to enjoy and explore her sexuality with him. Kelly was interested in sexual experimentation, but Peter was apparently threatened by Kelly's sexual demands. He called Kelly a nymphomaniac and told a number of his friends intimate details about their sex life, and Kelly felt betrayed. It was her impression that her reputation was tarnished as a result--she felt that she became the butt of jokes and that everyone at the school thought she was a whore. After college, at DeafTech, she went out with someone a few times, but she feels that she was still too defensive from her experience with Peter to accept that relationship. Now she's waffling on whether to initiate a relationship or not. She'd clearly like the affection and sexual contact, but she sometimes doesn't feel that a relationship is worth the emotional investment. One thing that Kelly said particularly struck me. She said that she went out with Daryl even though she didn't like him because that was what her mother wanted her to do and "it takes too much energy to fight my mother." Kelly told me a bit more about the deaf community. She explained that there are many in the community who do not welcome hearing people's attempt to join, even when those people are working as teachers and interpreters for the deaf. She's one of four women living together--three of them are deaf and there is one hearing woman who's studying to become an interpreter. Kelly likes the interpreter, but the other roommates shun her and denigrate Kelly for associating with her. Our conversation led to a discussion of the hearing actress, Stacy Edwards, and her portrayal of a deaf woman in the movie "In the Company of Men." Although Kelly thought the performance was both sensitive and accurate, she said that many in the deaf community were outraged because the deaf character wasn't portrayed by a deaf actress.

Wednesday, September 9, 1998
2 pm. Fifth Session with Kelly Wiseling. Kelly came in with a hangover from a night of drinking and dancing. She met a young man at a dance club and invited him back to her place where they had sex. Seemingly, she achieved a long held fantasy of inviting a stranger back to her place without ever having him know that she was deaf. She enjoyed the sex and the rest of the experience quite a bit--but somehow I wasn't able to join in her enthusiasm. I felt like a kill-joy as I queried about safe sex practices and found myself reminding her of "Looking for Mr. Goodbar." I really didn't like the movie; it seemed to me to criminalize sexually liberated conduct. I think my worries about my father have cast a pall over my advice--Jesus, she was telling me about a pleasant sexual episode and I was warning her about serial killers! I have to do a better job of keeping my personal problems from my work. Kelly left early and I think it was predominantly due to my gloomy frame of mind. She left feeling bad about herself and the choices she made, which was certainly not my intention.

Monday, September 14, 1998
12 pm. Thirty-First Session with Thomas Darden respecting Kelly Wiseling. Thomas said Rachel invited him out to lunch. Thomas thought this was the opening he had sought, until Rachel showed up with Kelly Wiseling. Rachel was obviously trying to set up the two of them together, which dashed Thomas' hopes as far as Rachel went. But Thomas liked Kelly, although he said he can't see himself with her. I'm undecided if Thomas' hesitation is related to Kelly's deafness. He says it isn't, and he even appeared to try the handicap on for size--he declared he'd rather be deaf than blind or unable to taste, smell or feel. Thomas said he thinks Kelly is too good for him--as though she's out of his league. But perhaps he's just covering his uneasiness about dating a deaf woman.

Wednesday, September 16, 1998
2 pm. Sixth Session with Kelly Wiseling. Kelly and I had a frank discussion about her interest in sex. She needed reassurance that her substantial interest didn't make her unusual. Kelly said that she thinks frequently about sex, and she told me that she went to a Good Vibrations store with a friend and purchased a vibrator and a book on anal sex. She happened to mention the title of a book which one of my patients at Columbia had recommended to me--"Anal Pleasure and Health" written by Jack Morin. I felt particularly erudite being able to rattle off the book's author. Kelly must now have the impression that I've read every book available at the local sex aid store. While Kelly briefly experimented with anal sex with Peter, she had a poor experience. However, she's still clearly interested in the practice. I gave her some brief advice about safe sex practices, but I know that Morin's book goes into great detail on the subject. Kelly's primary difficulty with sex at the moment seems to be a fairly typical embarrassment in discussing topics which disclose she has an interest in sex. Again, I tried to reassure her that her interest was quite normal. I asked Kelly to create a list of the qualities that she's looking for in a romantic partner and a list of the goals she has for a long-term relationship. I want her to have those items firmly in mind when she cruises the dance clubs looking for a sexual encounter.

Wednesday, September 30, 1998
2 pm. Seventh Session with Kelly Wiseling. Kelly really liked Thomas Darden and she is disappointed that he hasn't followed up on her obvious interest. I couldn't very well tell her that he's suffering from a phobia against societal interactions that's so overpowering that he's actually suicidal. She is seeking a romance--she even propositioned me in a light, playful way. I suggested that she seek out activities which interest her and that she have a clear idea of what she is looking for in a romantic prospect. She chided me on suggesting such a practical course of action devoid romance--a valid complaint. My advice doesn't conform to fairy tale notions of meeting a mate. Actually, Kelly seemed quite willing to take positive steps to end her loneliness. She's even willing to suffer the possibility of further rejection and continue to give Thomas a chance. We spoke about Kelly's physical appearance. She notes that she doesn't conform to modern standards of beauty and she seemed a bit wistful as she told me that people call her cute rather than beautiful. However, she doesn't appear deeply troubled by that. Actually, I have to say that I find Kelly refreshingly healthy in her attitudes and her appetites.

Wednesday, October 14, 1998
2 pm. Eighth Session with Kelly Wiseling. Kelly began the session by excoriating Oliver Sacks and castigating me for recommending his book "Seeing Voices" to her. Apparently, she found him to be somehow condescending or insulting in the book. It seemed as if her main complaint was that he wasn't deaf and yet he was taking it upon himself to validate deaf culture. I guess Kelly feels a bit like a Native American "discovered" by the Spanish. I see her point, but I disagree. I thought Sacks' book laid out the issues quite well and certainly illuminated much of deaf culture for me. But I was mostly ignorant of deaf culture before reading his book, so Sack's book came as something of a revelation. Kelly has been living and breathing these issues most of her life. Kelly asked me why I recommended the book to her. The truth is that the book meant something to me and I liked it--but I guess it didn't really have a lot to offer Kelly. I suppose I should have realized that in advance. The book was more for outsiders than insiders. But Kelly confessed that what was really bothering her was a communication she had received from her mother. Her mother sent her some "inspirational" stories of other deaf people. Although Kelly thinks her mother is genuinely motivated by a desire to help, she interpreted the articles as a statement by her mother that her daughter is a failure. Kelly feels that both her parents were emotionally distant most of her life. The issues Kelly has with her parents are more about a lack of connection rather than any overt abuse or neglect. But her father has little time for her and is consumed by his work, and her mother apparently maintains a certain icy reserve--she won't install the necessary TTY device to enable Kelly to communicate with her by phone, for example. While Kelly says that she no longer cares about getting closer to her parents, she clearly does. She said that she feels jealousy when she looks at pictures depicting warm family moments. She also said that she didn't think that she should have children because she thinks that she'll be angry at them because they'll have what she didn't. And then she turns that emotion around and declares herself selfish. As I get a broader picture of Kelly, I'm starting to appreciate that her prodigious sexual appetite may be more a reflection of her desire for warmth and affection rather than to satisfy a carnal hunger.

Wednesday, November 4, 1998
2 pm. Ninth Session with Kelly Wiseling. Kelly hesitantly told me about a sexual experience she had last week. Angie, one of her roommates, caught her masturbating with a vibrator. Angie began to initiate sexual activity with Kelly. Kelly described herself as frozen and unable to resist, although she also said that she didn't particularly want to resist. Angie took her time with Kelly and ended by performing cunnilingus on her, although she was unable to bring Kelly to climax. Kelly was unable to reciprocate by doing more than touching Angie's breasts while Angie used the vibrator on herself. I gave Kelly a lecture about safe sex, and then tried to discuss the issue of passivity in sexual situations. I'm afraid that Kelly's early sexual experiences where she was pressured into sex by one partner and then ridiculed and betrayed by another might have rendered her so conflicted about her own desires that she is pray to someone who's sexual confidence is greater than her own. Kelly rejected this suggestion as relates to this episode with Angie. She describes the encounter as a positive sexual experience. Kelly hasn't seen Angie since they had sex and she very much wants to. I think she needs fundamental reassurance that affection was mixed with the desire that Angie expressed.

Monday, November 16, 1998
12 pm. Thirty-Fifth Session with Thomas Darden respecting Kelly Wiseling. Tom surprised me by showing a marked lack of interest in Rachel and a renewal in interest in Kelly Wiseling. He genuinely seems to like her--and of course she has a strong interest in him. He chided me for referring to her as a deaf girl--as if that's her most outstanding quality. He seems to have developed a genuine friendship with her. He said that her deafness intimidated him at first, but now he hardly notices it. He's working up his courage to ask her out, but he can't right now because he has renewed a sexual relationship with Sharon; they see each other now about once a week.

Wednesday, December 2, 1998
2 pm. Tenth Session with Kelly Wiseling. Kelly has been absorbed by her work. She describes her father as similarly absorbed as she was growing up. Then, she resented it. Now, she empathizes. Kelly has been suffering from a neck and shoulder problem which has led her to take large quantities of over-the-counter pain medications. Those, in turn, have led to stomach ailments. I urged Kelly to seek a doctor's care, but she has been having difficulty getting through CalaCare's bureaucracy--a problem rendered more difficult because of her need to depend upon a third party service to converse over the telephone with CalaCare representatives. Kelly has a virtual phobia of needing someone else's assistance--she sees it as diminishing her own independence. I insisted, however, that she allow me to get her an appointment with a physical therapist through CalaCare--I can issue a referral slip myself, I think. Kelly needs to learn to relax her vigilance against accepting offers of assistance. She told me a revealing story about seeing a presumably deaf man panhandling on the BART train. She sees his conduct--and her own--as representing all deaf people to the hearing world. She told me that there are people at work who think she was hired merely because of her handicap. Kelly thinks that she has to be twice as good as anyone else to put such stereotypes to rest. Kelly has substantial issues which stem from her mother's attitudes towards her as she was growing up. She told me that her mother's only praise came when she displayed a lack of appetite. Her mother seemed to be particularly afraid that Kelly would become overweight, although Kelly doesn't appear to have any predisposition to obesity. I believe that it's possible the pain she's feeling in her neck and shoulders are related to stress. I'd like to spend some time next session going through some stress reduction exercises. Unfortunately, the audio tape that I often use for this purpose is going to be useless with Kelly.

Wednesday, December 9, 1998
2 pm. Eleventh Session with Kelly Wiseling. Kelly was referred to a chiropractor by her general practitioner, and the chiropractor seemed to do her some good. Kelly described going to a party at the Deaf Center with her two deaf roommates. There she saw someone whom she described as afflicted with Waardenburg's Syndrome. I've heard of it, but I've never seen someone who's suffering from it. Kelly has been thinking about this guy a lot, even though she was unable to approach him at the party--she was afraid that he'd believe that she was approaching him out of pity. At least Kelly got a taste of what causes other people to sometimes feel standoffish about approaching her. Kelly spoke a little about Angie. It seems that Angie invented a boyfriend she doesn't really have. Also, when they were alone together, Angie tried to initiate further sexual intimacy. Kelly refused. Kelly was surprised that only a few weeks ago, she was very hung up on Angie. Now, she can't imagine why she was interested in her.


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