If I were to diagnose myself based on the first story I ever wrote, I'd go with narcissistic idealist. This is a professional classification within the psychiatric lexicon of personality disorders.
Long before I knew anything about such pathologies, I wrote a book about an aardvark. Its title, a real grabber, was "Nire, the Purple Aardvark." Always one to see the world backwards, it doesn't surprise me that I named my quirky protagonist after myself, spelled in reverse. Six-year-old me was sure Nire would make it to the best seller list, but I quickly learned that the literary world can be a very adult place with little room for purple aardvarks. Earning only an “honorable mention” for that book in a Young Author’s contest – something given to every kid who participated – I knew Nire and I had a long way to go: hopeless split personalities.
I haven’t stopped writing since that first attempt at putting words to print. My first teenage job was writing hometown "news" (lists of community events) for a free weekly newspaper. I was paid ten cents an inch and thrilled with my bi-monthly thirteen dollar loot. The byline was better than the money. Since, I've worked as journalist, marketing director and therapist. I continued writing children's books about rainbow cows and talking apples, and to these slowly added exotica, suicide prevention pamphlets; journal articles, memoirs and poetry. When I stop and think about all the topics I've touched on, I realize I should probably add schizophrenia to my list of self-diagnoses.
For me, that's what makes writing fun. Where else, but in art, can you wear such different hats so easily passed off with an "Oh, she’s a writer"? Writing has made my world such a crazier - in a good way - place. For me, writing is a love affair: It's allowed me to fall in love with hundreds of characters. Add love addict to my self-diagnosis list.
I’ve come a long way from my days with Nire, and apparently increased my pathologies, but some things haven't changed: My favorite color is still purple. I continue to write for the love of the art. I'm still like quirky characters. My mother, my first writing mentor and a retired English professor with a heavy red pen, is still my number one wordsmith coach.
But some things do change: My days of undergrad internships with manual paste up all-nighters are gone. The sweet smell of scented markers and newsprint on my hands has long ago been replaced by a stylus and antibacterial lotion. The Internet and digital photography have opened doors new venues for my curiosity.
Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to run into kindred spirits who have encouraged my love for storytelling and imagination. I'm currently so blessed with having been assigned Colleen O'Brien as my Savant Books editor, whose even heavier red marker is filled with as much love as Mom's. I've also discovered the literary world has a seat for people like me. I cannot express enough gratitude to the entire Savant family for encouraging and believing in me. From my first conversation with Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Langford, I felt warm.
As I hug my fortieth birthday and brace to send my oldest son to college, I'm grateful for this exhilarating time in my life. I began writing this series as a graduate school student juggling a family, internship, and full-time clinical program. Katherine Murphy - the protagonist in CRAZY LIKE ME (Savant 2015) which was originally titled "Group Therapy" (I'm still awful with titles) - became not only my escape, but my friend. I do not regret the papers I pushed aside because Katherine had clients to see or a hot date with "Mr. Maybe." I realize now that my life choices have all lead to this one mission: to bring Katherine and her beloved clients to life. Katherine has taught me more than I could have asked for, but, most important, she taught me how to play. A character that started as autobiographical, she had the guts to take on a life of her own, and in doing so, has helped me - at midlife - to reclaim mine.
As a therapist who specializes in narrative therapy - the art of helping people define themselves, tell, and rewrite their own life stories - I feel privileged to tell Katherine's. Nire will always live in Katherine's heart the same way she lives in mine. If I had to diagnose myself at this point, I'd go with Wordaholic, type A - a condition I hope never to change. There is no cure, treatment, or expectation for recovery. As the author, my only hope is that you enjoy Katherine's story as much as I. Welcome to the journey!
In : Author Introduction
Tags: psychology psychologist counselor child children journalism literature journalist crazy "group therapy" "mr. maybe"