If I had to diagnose myself based on the first story I ever wrote, I’d go with narcissistic idealist, not otherwise specified; a personality disorder.
As a first grader, I wrote a book about an aardvark. Its title, a real grabber, was “Nire, the Purple Aardvark.” Always one to see the world backward, it doesn’t surprise me that I named my quirky protagonist after my own name, spelt in reverse. While I was sure Nire would make it to the best seller list, I quickly learned that the literary world can be a cold 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.
I haven’t stopped writing since that first attempt at putting my words into print. My first teenage job was writing hometown “news” – aka lists of community events - for a free weekly newspaper. I was paid 10 cents an inch and thrilled with my bi-monthly $13 loot. The byline was priceless. Since, I’ve worked as a journalist, a marketing director, and now a therapist. I’ve written about everything from children’s books about rainbow cows and talking apples to exotica, suicide prevention literature, journal articles, memoir and poetry. When I stop and think about all the topics I’ve touched on, I realize I might want to add schizophrenia to that diagnosis.
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, well, she’s a writer?” Writing has made my world such a fuller place. For me, writing is a love affair: It’s allowed me to fall in love with hundreds of characters. Add love addict to that diagnosis.
While I’ve come a long way from my days with Nire, and apparently increased my pathologies, some things have not changed. My favorite color is still purple. I continue to write for the love of the art. I’m still attracted to writing about 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. As I hug my 40th 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 struggling to juggle a family, internship and fulltime clinical program. Katherine Murphy - the protagonist in this series, 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 off until because Katherine had clients to see or a hot date with “Mr. Maybe.” Instead, I realize now that my life career choices have all lead to this one honor: to bring Katherine and her lovable clients to life. Katherine has taught me more than I could have asked for. She has taught me how to play. A character that started off autobiographical, she had the guts to take on a life of her own, and in doing so, helped me - at midlife - 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 now, I’d go with word addict, type A - a condition I never desire to change. There is no cure, treatment, or expectation for my recovery. Instead, my only hope is that you enjoy Katherine’s story as much as I do!