I'm a queer, Autistic mother. Licensed Mental Health Therapist. I live with a chronic illness. I have experienced complex trauma. I helped raise my younger brother, Kelly, who loved Carly Simon, NPR and making beautiful art, and also had Cerebral Palsy and severe developmental delays. I believe that everyone should have access to medical and mental health care, despite their ability to pay or insurance status. I believe that we should not be paying over $1200 a month for childcare. I believe in the collective power of change. I think that we have the tools to create better systems, because the systems that we have in place aren't working for disabled, poor and marginalized people.
We have held the belief for too long in this country that therapy is only for "rich white people." I have seen too many providers and practices turn people away from therapy for being too "chronically ill," "too suicidal," or "not making enough progress." There are few therapy organizations that focus on neurodiverse/Autistic adults and even fewer that approach folks from an anti-ableist perspective. In the therapy community, we rarely acknowledge or support the needs of self-identified folks. I know that there are very few providers who represent non-white, queer/trans, neurodivergent folks in our community. As a therapist with lived experience, I know how hard it is to navigate the insurance process. I know how expensive therapy is when you have a deductible and I know what it is like to be covered under Medicaid. I understand how difficult it can be to build up the courage to call a provider to make an appointment and hear that you have to wait 3-4 weeks to meet with someone. I understand how awful it can be to sit with feelings of grief, and shame, and suicidal thoughts. I know how damaging it can be for friends and family members to tell you that everything will be better if you just get more exercise or eat healthier or get a little more sleep. I know how awful it feels when a doctor tells you to lose weight when you tell them that something is physically wrong with your body. I also know that I don't have all of the answers or share all of your lived experiences.
What I do have is a lot of experience sitting with people as they work their way through their grief, anger, and pain. I have a lot of experience listening to folks, as they discuss how they have been treated by other people in society and how they have been harm by systemic oppression. I have held space with many folks over the last ten years and provided guidance, as we've learned together how to transform trauma, grief, sadness, anger and anxiety into something more bearable and beautiful. I don't believe in police involvement. I don't believe that people should be hospitalized against their will. I believe that couples, families and community members should have opportunities to use transformative justice practices when they are in conflict, in order to increase dialogue and creative problem solving, learn how to take accountability for harm, and offer healing opportunities for everyone involved, even when the relationships cannot be repaired. All of the work that I do is rooted in anti-racism, anti-oppression and Disability Justice.
In working with the Social Enterprise Greenhouse to build this organization, I realized that a cooperative model of business where parents and staff are the owners, will help disabled folks feel like they have more of a voice. Embedding social supports and community care into the model, will help address some of the real life issues that impact a caregivers ability to care for their own mental health, address their stress levels, care for their own needs and the needs of their children, and work (if they so choose to do so). Developing jobs that are disability friendly (ex. work from home or co-working space with flexible hours) is also essential for me as a caregiver who has had to take time off work to manage my own chronic illness. I want to ensure that other caregivers have these same opportunities, while being able to support one another in a democratic, collective work space.
There is a children's book that I used to read to my son when he was a toddler about a child and his caregiver who were going on a "bear hunt." Along their journey, they approached many scary obstacles that stood in their path, such as a forest or a river. As they come to the edge of these obstacles, they realize that they "can't go over it. (They) can't go around it. (They) must go through it." It is often frightening, confusing and difficult navigating life's challenges alone, especially when having to advocate for yourself or your child's rights and needs is a near constant battle. Let's work together to decrease some of the barriers put in place for neurodivergent and Disabled folks, while also building a community support system, so that the burden doesn't feel like yours alone. Together we can make it through many obstacles.