Picture this: back in March 2022, a wonderful piece made its debut on the Alora Farm blog. Fast forward to today, and with the author's blessing, we're thrilled to bring it back into the spotlight.
Now, here's the cool part: Kathleen, the creative mind behind that piece, has taken on a new adventure. Starting out as a contributor on the Alora Farm blog, she's now the Editor-in-Chief of award winning, Pepper Magazine
Life's all about twists and turns, isn't it? Just like the tales we read, each part unfolds some unexpected magic. So, here's to the past and the future, raising a toast to this ongoing story—words and roles dancing through time.
*TW* - Suicide and sexual trauma.
Hello, my name is Kathleen. I am a neurodivergent artist, writer, author, Intuitive Life Coach and sit on the Alora Farm Advisory Board.
While conversing over Italian food on a weekday afternoon in San Antonio, Texas, Yvette told me about her idea to create a safe, holistic place for autists that included residences. As I listened, it came as a breath of fresh air and an obvious solution to the lack of proper support for the autism community. It struck me personally since my son, and I are autists and like any other caregiver, I'm concerned about my son's future and want to contribute wherever Alora needs me to do my part. It is important for me to help manifest it.
My role initially began on the Board of Directors for Alora Farm, then at the start of 2022, demands for my time began to increase, and I transitioned onto Alora's Advisory Board, where I contribute my guidance, talents, and skills to further continue the growth of this compassionate nonprofit.
Over the course of my life, I’ve worn many hats and in fact, still do! I am a multidisciplinary contemporary artist, my work has been internationally published.
I had a modeling career for over 17 years that led to acting and directing, which I still may pursue in the future.
I’m a published writer and photojournalist, and at this point in my life, my literary focus has shifted to being an author. You will find my children’s book series and less serious books for grownups under my pen name, Guy Wednesday. I own The Imaginarium Wonder Emporium, my vintage circus-inspired online boutique founded in 2017.
And since 2014, I have been an intuitive medium and life coach with a niche specialty in trauma, PTSD, shadow work, and creative blocks/life obstacles.
Juggling these trades has been a dream and a curse (welcome to ADHD). And yet, everything I do serves to enrich my life, give me purpose and satiate my ever-growing curiosity about the world around me and human behavior as a whole.
I’m a mother to a beautiful, brilliant autist son with a cognitive disability. Raising Aiden - growing together has illuminated why I am the way I am. I have a first-hand education on the wide range of neurological diversity. It was, in fact, my son’s neurologist who first pointed out to me that I am autistic when I was 31 years old and Aiden was 3. This late understanding of my brain function and neuro pathways changed my entire reality.
After that followed a few years of grieving. There was also a deep relief. I understood that there was, in fact, nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t “lazy” or “immature” or “stupid” or any of the things I’d been called and treated like since childhood by certain family members and peers. But with this understanding came the heat of anger and resentment that no one caught this sooner. Because I was raised in the ’80s and ’90s, I was instead viewed as “weird” or "unstable," and many other things in my heart I knew were incorrect.
Anger, hurt, several *suicide attempts, and finally brief institutionalization at the age of 17--none of that was enough to generate a proper diagnosis. Despite my constant resounding outcry, “I do not understand the world around me. Why are people so cruel? Why don’t I fit? Why is everything so hard?” All starting from the age of 11, and yet no one put it together.
All that heaviness had to be sorted through and all the masking reconstructed. I had to un-learn so much. I was 11 years old when I became consciously aware of my neurological differences. I was not able to properly articulate them and had no one to advocate for me.
My son is 11 years old now. His journey has been entirely different, and this is by design. I am raising and educating him with the compassion, awareness, and understanding that was not available to me at that time. This is not to say my parents and elders didn’t love me. It was quite the opposite. They loved me dearly but lacked the medical understanding of how my brain functioned. My parents tried therapist after psychologist after psychiatrist and alternative schooling platforms to try to understand “what was wrong with me.” Had the world understood autism and ADHD the way it does now, my life would have been completely different. Finally, at the age of 40, I’ve been able to make peace with that.
Despite all of the struggle as mentioned above and tragedy, I have to recognize my privilege in having the ability to articulate my needs. However, having to mask since childhood has caused acute psychological traumas that are now likely a permanent part of my neurological makeup and self-perception.
Executive functioning can be difficult for those of us on the spectrum and manifests itself in many ways. For example, I’m terrible at math, keeping account of money, and business things. I have an extremely hard time remembering to do household chores and many basic tasks that are considered “adulting.” I tried having a bank account and credit cards when I was 19 in 2001—that little experiment failed. I did not open a bank account again until I was 37. Just three years ago. And yet, I’ve juggled several careers, dedicated myself to motherhood, homeschooled my child until mid-second grade, traveled and resided in many different places, and even got married despite it.
All of this life and living…and all of these mental handicaps and sensory issues and social shortcomings…the hardships and the beauty…I am grateful. I stand in a place of more profound self-acceptance and understanding than I have ever known before. It took four decades to get here, and it’s been unequivocally worth every step that has led me to where and who I am now. Every day I still get to reframe the way I identify myself. The power of the phrase “I Am” and the importance of what we place behind it has never mattered more to me than it does now. "I Am" a first-generation American on my biological father’s side (Australian), third-generation American on my mother’s side (Irish), "I am" the ancestral daughter of immigrants. I’ve survived childhood molestation and rape, and domestic abuse; "I am" a survivor of domestic and sexual trauma. I have had romantic relationships with men and women and have always been faithful to my partners (which currently pertains to my amazing husband); "I am" a monogamous, bisexual, femme-identifying woman.
These facts we tell ourselves and others about who we are set the tone for deeper levels of understanding, respect, and empathy in honoring our who, what, and why. The more we actively seek to “know thyself,” the greater respect we have for others and for their life journeys. I am able to honor my son and his needs, preferences, his tendencies, and niche interests better as a result of this profound self-discovery. Aiden is an artist, so I have utilized my talents and connections in the global art community to create a solid platform for him to begin to make an income selling his own artwork and creative offerings.
I did this early in his childhood with the intent of instilling a safety net for him to be able to support himself as much as possible into adulthood. Now he too is internationally published, and much of his work is exhibited in different countries.
Aiden has difficulty articulating his needs verbally and is prone to impatience due to this communication barrier. So not only is he in speech therapy, but my husband (whom he lovingly knows as dad) and I take him to restaurants and art and cultural events and markets and plays and so on and so forth to give him a fully immersive sociological life experience. We encourage and help him through conversations with friends and strangers.
In knowing myself, I seek to know my son. In more deeply knowing him and his needs, I respect him and recognize his sovereignty, and seek to honor him. It is the same toward my husband, who I am not ashamed to admit is very much a work in progress for me.
Holding a marital relationship while navigating my own autist/ADHD tendencies, barriers and behaviors are not easy for me. It is, however educational, generally supportive, and fulfilling in regard to my humanity. And, of course, to make up for the inherent difficulties that come from cohabitation with me (thanks for hanging in there, Joe), I apply my talents and skills in any way I can to be of help to my husband and his career and creative endeavors. I’ve gone above and beyond to create a recognizable brand aesthetic for his culinary business, NOVEM Cuisine, from photography to designing his website down to the copy and consistent ad design… I also lend my unique perspective to any life quandary he presents to me. And I’m 100% the designated gift maker and gift wrapper in the family for every special occasion.
Knowing my strengths and being of the most help I can to the people I love is of the utmost importance to me. Simultaneously, I recognize the psychology behind seeking validation and the impostor syndrome I battle as a result of having been raised to mask my autistic characteristics and traits all my life. It’s important to mention this because I am still learning personal and professional boundaries, how to recognize my needs before hitting burnout, and the importance of being gentle in regard to my sensory issues and social anxieties. I could write a book on the roller coaster ride that is navigating life as a neurodivergent human [that’s an on-the-shelf project currently, if we’re being honest]. Suffice it to say, I am a perfectly imperfect, ever-evolving person. I am not infallible and never hesitate to admit when I realize I’m wrong or apologize for a misstep. Humility is profoundly important to me. And I’ve grown to understand we can still be proud of how far we’ve come and share our accomplishments and milestones from the place of a humble heart.
At this stage, my priorities lie in my career and family life. My constant focus is building a firm foundation from the framework I’ve set for myself involving my authorship and my art. My dreams, some of which are finally so close I can almost touch it, involve seeing my books on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, on Amazon and Kindle—and are as lofty as speaking engagements at schools and libraries across the country and one day the world. Though I’ve had my artwork exhibited in many countries and even stateside in New York and Oklahoma, I endeavor to not only host exhibits here in San Antonio but also establish my own gallery and workshop. It’s also important to me that I further my education in the field of psychology so that I may continue to benefit those I coach and provide therapy for. Ideally, that would look like a degree, even a minor one. Will my learning handicaps pose a hindrance? It’s possible. But even knowing this, I still allow myself the dignity to want these things. I certainly have the drive and the passion to try.
So what is my aim in regard to Alora? It’s naturally important that the nonprofit succeed for the sake of my son as he reaches young adulthood, considering the scarcity of programs out there for him. But that’s only part of it. I passionately want to help make a difference for others who, like me, have not always had the proper support systems and accommodations for their neurotype. I want to see autists thrive in a place that is safe, nurturing, and inspiring. I want to do my part to help facilitate their niche interests and foster an environment equipped with the tools they need to lean into their strengths and hone them, instilling confidence and self-worth. I want so badly to be an active part of ending the outdated cycles and systems that I grew up enduring while ushering in practical and tangible solutions, now. It’s my belief that Alora is the platform, the vehicle, and the place for all of these things. That by design, it is, and in time will be. As I step into the shoes, I’m honored to say, “Hello, my name is Kathleen, and I’m here to help.”
~author K. Day Gomez
*If you or anyone you know is experiencing abuse, domestic violence, suicidal thoughts or sexual assault, support can be found at the numbers below.
Crisis Text Line
Text Hello to 741741
Crisis Text Line fields messages about suicidal thoughts, abuse, sexual assault, depression, anxiety, bullying and more. What makes it unique is that it's entirely text-based, which makes it easy for anyone who doesn't feel comfortable or safe talking on the phone to use it.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline fields calls 24/7 for anyone with suicidal thoughts or who are in crisis. It offers help for Spanish-speakers and anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing.
*With special acknowledgments to photographers Joe A Gomez III, Visual Cause and Simply Sefra Photography.