Transcript of 2nd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Kelly Wiseling, Wednesday, August 5, 1998 at 2:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Ms. Wiseling. No interpreter today?
Ms. Wiseling: Forget her! I don't need no stinking interpreter.
Dr. Balis: You seem to do very well without one.
Ms. Wiseling: What do you call a brunette sitting between two blondes?
Dr. Balis: I don't know.
Ms. Wiseling: An interpreter! That's a joke. A dumb blonde joke. You're supposed to laugh.
Dr. Balis: That's very amusing.
Ms. Wiseling: Just a little deaf humor. You can always tell when it's deaf humor, because hearing people don't think it's funny.
Dr. Balis: Is that a palm-top computer?
Ms. Wiseling: Yes, I bring it everywhere. If I say something that you don't understand, I'll write it for you. It's faster to type than write, so I use one of these. It's better than pen and paper.
Dr. Balis: That's a good idea.
Ms. Wiseling: If there's something you don't understand, ask me to repeat it. I'm used to people asking, "What?" or "Huh?"
Dr. Balis: I'm sure you'll do the same for me.
Ms. Wiseling: Yes, of course I will.
Dr. Balis: What would you like to discuss today?
Ms. Wiseling: I haven't been in this city very long. I don't have many people to talk to, except for people at work. That's part of the reason why I came to see you--I have a need to talk to someone.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Wiseling: When you say "Hmm," could you nod your head? Then I won't think you're ignoring me.
Dr. Balis: Of course. I hadn't realized you couldn't hear it.
Ms. Wiseling: My hearing aid doesn't pick up low noises. You should also look directly at me when you're talking, so I can read your lips.
Dr. Balis: Okay. Have you always worn a hearing aid?
Ms. Wiseling: Since I was five. With my hearing aid, I have about sixty percent of normal hearing. Without my hearing aid, I only have five percent.
Dr. Balis: Were you deaf from birth?
Ms. Wiseling: No, I lost my hearing when I was about three. I had a bad ear infection. I don't remember much before then. I've been deaf as long as I remember.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Wiseling: My parents had a hard time with it. They didn't even learn how to sign, not even the alphabet.
Dr. Balis: How did you communicate with them?
Ms. Wiseling: Mostly by screaming and crying at first. When I was young, I was very self-conscious about speaking. My brother used to make fun of the way I talked, and my mother was always correcting me. I attended a school for the deaf when I was five. The teachers taught us to make the sign for "toilet" when we had to go to the bathroom. Once, I had to go really bad and I kept signing "toilet" to my mother. She ignored me on purpose--she wanted me to speak. I couldn't hold it in any more, and I wet myself. My mother was really angry. She spanked me and sent me to my room. That night at dinner, she told my father and brother so they could both give me a bad time. For weeks afterward, my brother still said I smelled like pee and held his nose when he saw me. My mother praised him for doing that.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Wiseling: At the first school I went to, my teachers kept telling my parents to use sign language at home to reinforce what I learned in school. But my mother wanted none of that. She always told me to act like a normal hearing person. After one year, they sent me away to a small private school that taught deaf children based on a philosophy called "Oralism," which emphasized written and spoken English and lip-reading instead of ASL.
Dr. Balis: How does this differ from the customary deaf school curriculum?
Ms. Wiseling: Most deaf schools try to balance between hearing culture and deaf culture. Deaf children learn American Sign Language--ASL--and Deaf Culture, as well as lip-reading and speaking. The school I attended discouraged ASL. The kids there learned it on their own from books. Very few schools like that still exist. The first schools to teach Oralism were founded in the late 19th century. In some of these schools, teachers tied down the hands of deaf children so they couldn't sign. When I went to Gallaudet, I felt really out of place. All the other students signed beautifully. I envied them, they were so graceful and quick with their hands--not clumsy like me. I felt like I didn't belong there.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Wiseling: My mother insisted that I go to Gallaudet. I thought she would want me to go to a mainstream university--she wanted a normal, hearing daughter. But my mother heard that Gallaudet was one of the best liberal arts schools for the deaf and had a good record for job placements. She didn't care what the environment was like. My parents wouldn't pay for tuition at any other school. I didn't want to go, but I didn't have a choice.
Dr. Balis: Why didn't you want to go?
Ms. Wiseling: Gallaudet is the center of deaf activism. Everyone there signs and knows deaf culture. The school I went to dumbed down the course work. We spent a lot of time working on our speech and lip-reading skills. I got good grades, I studied a lot, but I wasn't on level academically with kids my age. My grade-point-average and SAT scores were good enough to get me into Gallaudet, but I wasn't really prepared for college. I had to take a lot of remedial classes and improve my ASL.
Dr. Balis: Were you able to meet people and make friends at school?
Ms. Wiseling: Yes, a little bit, but not as much as I would had liked. I always felt like a geek because of my poor signing. For some reason, I am more comfortable around hearing people. I feel like they are more accepting. Maybe it's just envy, because I really wanted to be like them. I worked really hard to get my speech to be understandable. I would practice long hours with my teachers. My parents even hired a speech therapist. We would say the same sentences over and over again. It was frustrating--I used to break down crying. I got so sick of hearing her say: "No, no" and then having me repeat it.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Wiseling: I feel like my parents played a cruel joke on me. During the early part of my life, I was forced to adapt to the hearing world and abandon the deaf world. Then, when I became an adult, they insisted that I go to a university where deaf culture was predominant. I felt that I was handicapped in both the hearing world and the deaf world. I don't know if that makes sense.
Dr. Balis: Yes, it does.
Ms. Wiseling: I didn't mean to spend so much time talking about being deaf. The real reason I sought therapy was because of the issues I have with my family.
Dr. Balis: You described a strained relationship with your mother and you said your father was distant. How about your brother?
Ms. Wiseling: My brother! I could go on and on about him.
Dr. Balis: We have a lot of time. You are free to vent your feelings here.
Ms. Wiseling: I never talk to my parents about my brother Mark. If they bring him up, I threaten to leave the room. He is a bad subject for conversation.
Dr. Balis: Why is that?
Ms. Wiseling: My parents love Mark, especially my mom. He was her firstborn son, and he wasn't a disabled like me. He was tall and handsome; he looked like my mother. Mark did well in school and was on the basketball team. He was popular and had a lot of friends. My parents were both destroyed when he started falling apart.
Dr. Balis: What do you mean by falling apart?
Ms. Wiseling: Mark is schizophrenic. He didn't start showing symptoms until his senior year in high school. He got violent, paranoid, and delusional. My parents sent him to a psychiatrist who diagnosed him.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Wiseling: He cracked during his sophomore year in college. He got involved in a group of born-again Christians. I think something is wrong with those people. There were some of them at Gallaudet. The men wore white shirts and ties and carried bibles around. They acted like they were doing us a big favor, inviting us--poor little deaf people--to their church.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Wiseling: At Christmas and Thanksgiving that's all Mark would talk about: Jesus and the Bible. I used to turn off my hearing aid before dinner and just nodded and smiled as he talked. I think it was an emotional high for him. He got addicted to it the way some people get hooked on drugs or alcohol. Later on, he got addicted to those things, too. For a while, he used to sing Christian songs while playing the guitar, like that guy in the movie, "Bob Roberts." It really got on my nerves.
Dr. Balis: How did your parents respond to his religious conversion?
Ms. Wiseling: My mom made a big show of supporting whatever Mark did. She kept pushing me to get involved in his church, too. They brought some people over for a bible study once. Born-again Christians always make the younger men preach to young women. I had to sit for over an hour while these two clean-cut young men in white shirts asked me all kinds of questions, pretending to be interested in me. They even flirted with me. I knew what they were thinking: "Look what nice guys we are, paying attention to this poor deaf girl who can't even get any dates." Arrgh! I hated them!
Dr. Balis: How long did your brother stay involved in this church?
Ms. Wiseling: A few years. He dropped out of college and became a missionary for a while. I used to be so embarrassed when I saw him on street corners preaching or singing. I would pretend I didn't know him and walk past him. I think that religion made him even crazier.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Wiseling: Mark had a short attention span. He couldn't finish anything--not college, not even the vocational school my mother sent him to so he could get a decent-paying job. He got married to a girl from his church. Mark left her a few years after his son was born. No matter what Mark did, my mom stood up for him. When I graduated with honors from Gallaudet, I was really proud of myself. One Thanksgiving, when my father's family was visiting from England, I told them about the awards I won and my Honor Society membership. My mom pulled me into the kitchen and told me I was getting a big head and I was making Mark feel bad because he didn't graduate from college. I said I was sorry, but she kept telling me how bad I was for hurting Mark's feelings, until I began to cry. Only my mother can do that to me.
Dr. Balis: How about your father?
Ms. Wiseling: My father was always working. He doesn't say much. I don't know what he is feeling most of the time. When I graduated with honors, he actually hugged me and told me he was proud of me. That was the first time he had done that since I was a little kid. I think secretly he was glad that I did so well, because of what happened to Mark.
Dr. Balis: What happened to Mark?
Ms. Wiseling: After Mark dropped out of the church, things got a lot worse. He did a lot of drugs, especially cocaine. My mother kept giving him money for it. My parents had a lot of fights about that. My father tried that "tough love" stuff--he threw Mark out of the house and refused to give him any money. My mom would always take care of him, though. Mark was in and out of drug rehab and mental institutions for the next few years, with my parents footing the bill.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Wiseling: I still can't believe the way my mother kept making excuses for him. When Mark didn't pay child support, Mom would say he had a good reason. Mark was so creepy, he wouldn't take his son anywhere. But he would spy on little Eric, following him, lurking outside the playground or his ex-wife's house. His ex-wife got scared and got a restraining order. And do you know what my mother said? She said Mark was an attentive father and Laura was a bad mother for trying to keep him away from his son.
Dr. Balis: What is Mark doing now?
Ms. Wiseling: He was in a car accident a few years ago. He was driving around with one of his pot head friends, and they crashed into another car. Mark wasn't wearing a seat belt, and he was badly injured. He is paralyzed on his left side and uses a wheelchair. He lives in a home now. The last time we visited, he ordered my mother around like she was a servant. I made an excuse and I left. I feel sorry for my dad. He never says anything, he keeps it all inside.
Dr. Balis: I see. We've covered a lot of territory this hour. How do you feel now?
Ms. Wiseling: I felt okay talking to you. Not many people know about my family and Mark. I don't really like people to know my business.
Dr. Balis: I hope that you'll become secure enough to talk to me about anything that troubles you.
Ms. Wiseling: I'm surprised I find it so easy to talk to you.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad you feel that way. I'll see you the same time next week?
Ms. Wiseling: Yes, I'll see you then. Take care, Doctor Balis.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Ms. Wiseling.
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