When I think back on the feedback I have received over the years, one comment from a pharmacist coworker stands out as simultaneously the most accurate and least offensive: “Alison,” he said with a smile, “you’re just the right amount manic.”
I have a big personality for sure. I’m loud, jealous, opinionated, judgemental, hypocritical and often scared shitless. I’m an introvert by nature–generally exhausted by human contact and the relentless self monitoring it requires of me to “appear professional” as one would imagine a therapist would. These things do not come naturally to me I assure you. Yet, somehow I have managed to run my own business for years and get hired for every job I’ve ever interviewed for (other than one where I lied and said I was a professional caterer until the interviewer ask me a few questions and promptly disconnected the call when it became clear that by “catering experience” I had meant that I once cooked my boyfriend a grilled cheese sandwich).
I’ve been told that I’m good at my job–mentors and clients and managers often sing my praises. I take great pride in my ability to connect with almost anyone–not just as a part of my job, but also in my personal life.
I often sit with clients in anguish, tortured little spirits who gaze at me with such longing–to just “be normal” or to “be happy”. They look upon their own lives–their own thoughts, feelings, desires and past actions–with such disdain and hopelessness, such utter disgust, and they wonder aloud at how I can even stand to listen to them.
“Am I crazy? they ask. “You must think I’m a horrible person.” “I’m an idiot, I know. I’m just so stupid.” “If you knew how bad I was you wouldn’t say that,” they sob as I encourage them, offer praise at their small daily accomplishments, their willingness to show up and be seen.
For these people and for all of us, I want to explore the idea that we’re all on the spectrum–somewhere. I want to deconstruct what we think of as “normal”. I want to invite all of us to hold our diagnoses lightly and take a good long look at our lives from the perspective of compassion. Lastly, I want us all to stop comparing our insides to other peoples’ outsides and chill the fuck out with all the pathologizing and self torture. Ok then, let’s go.