Folks who know me are well aware (and dare I say, tickled) at the way I am able to walk a very fine line between being rigidly rule-governed and, at the same time, aggressively rebellious (thank you, autism). I think this is one reason that I find myself being drawn to and working so well with clients who appreciate structure and also the beauty of going against social norms.
Whitney Storey Blog
Working with parents has been my niche for a long time now, and I have been a parent myself for nearly ten years (which blows my mind). Over these years I have really found myself relating to and working particularly well with certain groups of what I consider to be "forgotten parents." These are parents we (as a society) tend to either not notice or purposefully ignore. The first of these forgotten parents is a group I happen to be a member of: neurodivergent parents.
If you have spent any time on TikTok lately, odds are you have come across some videos where folks (with a healthy helping of good humor) discuss the specific behaviors that have led them to discover, usually later in life, that they might actually be neurodivergent.
I have been having so many conversations lately with friends, family, and clients about neurodivergence. Neurodivergence has become my latest special interest (more on that in a later blog), and one of the questions I keep hearing from others is: how do I learn to unmask?! I have to admit that I have not been the most helpful counselor in those moments as I, too, have been wondering that very thing. Up until very recently, the answer has been a very distressed, "I don't know!" I have some good news, though - I think I finally have some real advice.
October of 2022 was a huge month for me. It was in this month that I finally earned my certification in Perinatal Mental Health, which was really the culmination of a decade of work in mental health and in my own journey as a mother. Naturally, I have been wanting to celebrate with the folks around me, but I have noticed one important barrier to this - people just aren't quite sure what a perinatal mental health specialist even is! Let's break it down.
I love that as a culture we are embracing the idea that "it's okay to not be okay." It's so accepting and welcoming of folks with all kinds of struggles and has reduced the stigma around seeking help. But, can I be honest with you for a second? Sometimes when I think "it's okay to not be okay," I find myself meaning it only for other people. It's okay for other people to not be okay. Not me. And I have a hunch I might not be the only one.
I have a long history of being involved in the arts and finding benefits from making art by myself and with others. While I had folks who encouraged me in my practice, I also found that many people (mostly my peers) didn't understand my love of art. The stigma I felt about my artistic self lead to feelings of shame. My best friend in undergrad even told me one time, as we were discussing dating, "maybe you shouldn't tell them you're a theatre major" - as if distancing myself from the arts were possible, let alone preferable! Art fills me with life.
There are so many wonderful things about being a parent. There is nothing better than being able to watch your children grow and change, discover things about themselves and the world, and develop their own unique personality! At the same time, being a parent is one of the most difficult and, at times, painful roles. For those of us who identify as neurodivergent, parenting has another added level of difficulty.
When I talk to clients about their struggles, I notice a very familiar pattern that I find myself in: what causes the struggle becomes the focus of our life and we become fused with it. We believe we must get rid of these thoughts (or feelings, memories, urges, etc.) so that we can live a life we dream of living.
If you were to randomly choose a therapist, you would likely end up with someone who uses cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which has been the dominant type of therapy since the 1960s. The general premise of traditional CBT is that our thoughts influence our emotions, which then go on to influence our behavior. So, the idea is that if we can improve our thinking, our emotions and behavior will therefore improve.