I'm struggling with the blogging lately. I'm either too upset or too angry when I get home from work to write, or to write anything worth reading. Or I'm too tired from being angry and upset to do anything more than zone out in front of the TV with a cup of tea.
Being a public defender is hard. I never anticipated the toll this work would take. I knew it was going to be difficult, and tiring, and demoralizing. For a long time I was leaving work every day feeling unfulfilled, even bored. It's not that I didn't have a lot of work to do, it's that I lost motivation for a little while somehow. I felt like my day had become routine. Go to court. Speak to clients. Get yelled at by some of them. Take pleas on most of them. Eat lunch. Back to court or sit at desk and return phone calls. Go home. But then things got much better. I rediscovered my zeal, my enjoyment, my reasons for making this my life's work. However, there are other difficulties.
My supervisor and I don't get along. I feared this would become a problem but tried very hard to keep in mind what compromises it would take on my part to ensure a smooth working relationship. It's been a miserable failure. About 2/3 of the time, we're ok; the other 1/3 of the time he makes me feel as though I'm a useless idiot. I internalize it - the way he speaks to me, particularly in contrast to the way he speaks to the attorneys with whom he gets along well; I internalize how he says things ("I know you work hard" versus "I know you're a good attorney." I will never hear the latter from him); I internalize his dismissiveness. Today, I was recounting my single proudest moment thus far in my work as a public defender (nothing brilliant or innovative, just something that made me feel good) and when we got around to talking about the law of it, I made a comment about how incredibly sleazy the police were and he lit into me. Like he has never lit into me before. He screamed at me for about 15 seconds about how caselaw says otherwise, I always think I'm right but just because I don't agree with it doesn't mean it's the law, I should read up on my caselaw, I don't have to take his word for it since I clearly don't believe him. I was completely dumbfounded. All I could say on my way out of the office was, "I just wanted to tell you what happened, and how happy I am that things turned out the way they did." I'm not sure what it was that triggered him. I'm not sure if it was what I said, how I said it, or my failure to respond appropriately to something he said. I can't figure it out. What I do know is that it really put a damper on my proudest moment. Things like this happen once or twice a month. I spend two weeks avoiding him completely because I cannot even tolerate the way he makes me feel, and then just when I take a deep breath, straighten my shoulders, and try again, something happens that makes me recoil for another two weeks.
Incidents like that just add to the already overwhelming stress that I'm a PD discussed some time ago. Every day I'm afraid that I'm horrible at what I do. Every day I have to fight off the sneaking suspicion that I cannot do this work the way it is supposed to be done, or that I look like an idiot, or that my clients / the judges / my supervisor have no confidence in my ability. I'm blessed to have coworkers, court officers in courtrooms that I don't even practice in, private defense attorneys, and DAs come up to me and compliment me over the course of the year. I would expect that would make me feel better. But it's just the opposite. When people say something unexpectedly complimentary, all I can do is smile uncomfortably and think, "But that's because you don't REALLY know how I am. If you really knew me as an attorney, you'd think I was a disgrace."
The anger and the anxiety and the sadness just build up inside until I randomly burst into tears. I never know when it's going to happen or what exactly will trigger it, but I've been crying embarrassingly frequently. At the bar after a few drinks, I cried uncontrollably for about half an hour. Still not quite sure why. I cry in my office at least once a week. At least every other week, someone walks in on me sobbing. I get so angry that at the end of the day I have to have several glasses of wine just to stop shaking. My professional life leaves me so full of anger and frustration that it has decimated my personal life. I can't leave work behind; I can't separate the resonating anger and sadness of work from my home, my friends, my weekends.
For these reasons and many others, this job has sucked the soul out of me. And it's only been a year.
And yet, I can't imagine wanting to do anything else.
But let me take this little space right here to say, in regards to my proudest moment ever, with the biggest smile I can shine - I stuck it to The Man. I stuck it to him good.