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What Inspires You to be Yourself

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

This weekend I got to go and see one of my favourite folk duos, O’Hooley and Tidow, playing in Manchester. It was a as wonderful as every other time I have seen them, but the bit that stands out for me is when they played the title track from their new album, Cloudheads, which is about being autistic. The album had come out on Friday and I’d already listened to the song countless times and shared it with many people. Music has always been very emotive for me, but hearing these amazing women sing about their own experiences, which resonated so strongly with mine brought me to tears.

Back during 2020 when so much of the outside world seemed turned upside down, I was still trying to figure out what the previous years discovery of my autistic identity meant for me. I was trying to ‘Read All The Books’ and desperately looking around for some kind of representation of other autistics that resonated with my experiences as a middle aged, queer woman. So much of what I read, listened to and watched did not include people like me. Somewhere during this process, I was scrolling through twitter and on my feed popped up a video of O’Hooley and Tidow ‘coming out’ as autistic and I remember the feeling of not being so alone on my journey anymore. Here were people I admired that were already comfortable enough with this part of their identity to speak about it publicly, if they could do it, maybe I could too.

As time went on, I got to know my autistic self-better, I was more open about it in my personal life and I started to wonder about being open professionally too. Self-disclosure in the therapy world can be a complicated area, as therapists we don’t want to centre ourselves or take up space that is our clients. However as someone who has a couple of marginalised identities, I know how important it can be to find a therapist or supervisor who doesn’t need educating about aspects of my experience. While no-one can know the specifics of our lives, it meant so much to me to be supported by someone I didn’t need to spend time educating on the generalities of my existence as a queer, autistic woman. I also remebered how much it had meant to me to see two women that shared aspects of my identity being open about it when I was still working on my own internalised ablism and shame. Slowly I started to share more of myself on my website and in blogs so my clients wouldn’t have to work as hard as I did to find someone with a similar lived experience.

I often talk to clients about the power of just being visible and existing as ourselves, how it can give permission to others to do the same. I’m not very good at loud activism, although I am grateful for the people that can do it, but I can make a difference in smaller ways. My work with my clients, supporting my supervisees, conversations in the pub, the occasional bit of training and my blogs are all ways in which I take up space as my authentic self, and hopefully in doing so I let others know its ok for them to do the same. Change ripples out from each of us and we never know quite where it will end up. The ripples that came from a video I saw on twitter, that supported me to be open about who I am, that spread to my friends, family, clients and supervisees are still moving out and gaining momentum. As I listened to O’Hooley and Tidow perform Cloudheads on Saturday with tears in my eyes I imagined it would make, not just ripples, but waves.

Picture of the CD case for Cloudheads by O'Hooley and Tidow on a knitted seat. Text reads 'What inspires you to be yourself?'

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