I’m a clinical mental health counselor by training, education and licensure; but for nearly five years I worked as a chemical dependency counselor after having been essentially “railroaded” into that line of work by an academic advisor who told me that a chemical dependency counseling graduate certificate would “open doors” for me, and said that was something I needed because I didn’t “present well”. (Translation: I’m neurodivergent, and my advisor decided that I was too “different” to ever find work without going into a field that was so desperate for workers that the certification didn’t even require a four-year degree, let along a master’s. Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence, Dr. Neuronormativism.)
That was how I started understanding the “Thing” that has kept finding me, over and over and over, that I’m here for, that I was literally born to do: Working with people who are “different” like I was (and am) “different”. The ones who are discouraged from following their dreams because they and their dreams don’t fit in the standard-sized societally-approved box. The ones who need to know that being neurodivergent, or having a chronic illness or disability, or being queer or black or brown, doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be in the margins forever. The ones who need the affirmation that just because we’re different doesn’t mean we’re broken or wrong.
Showing people with nonconforming identities how to embrace who they are and how to navigate a world that wasn’t built for us or even by us is My Thing. It’s followed me all my life – because it IS me.