Cathy Conheim, L.C.W.S. ē
come to this project as a change agent.
before I became a change agent I came to this world as a person
who never quite fit what the world wanted me to be. I never understood
why there was a way I was supposed to beóand I understood even less
why I was nowhere near what those expectations were. Formal education
never made sense to me; its presentation bored me. I wanted to be
doing things and trying out ideas, not reading about them and regurgitating
what I read.
went to small private schools but fit into none. The first six years
of school I went to a predominantly boys school. I was one of two
girls in the class. I didnít fit but learned to do the activities
of sports and shop that boys did. At age eleven, I woke up one day
and was five feet eleven inches tall. My body had betrayed me;my
childhood was lost. I looked like a grown woman and was responded
to as such. From seventh grade to grade twelve, I went to a private
girls school and again, I didnít fit. I was always ten going on
40 and spent most my time with people far older than I. There, I
felt at home.
went to a huge university and felt isolated in my freshman class
of over ten thousand. I related more to my teachers than my classmates.
I didnít fit. The oddity of it all was that inside, I did fit. I
knew who I was, I knew what I responded to, I knew what I believed
in, I knew who I loved, I knew what made sense to me. I felt strong
and centered, as well as small and vulnerable. I was extraordinarily
intuitive, seeing and knowing things that most people didnít. I
thought everybody noticed inner feelings and internal conflicts.
I said things I thought people knew. They didnít. I scared them,
and again, I didnít fit.
the sixties, I was a passionate protester believing for sure that
my friends and I could make a difference, change the world, end
the war. I was devastated that neither happened. Instead, I ended
up clinically depressed and, once again, didnít fit. I learned to
pretend and appear as if I fit. Few, if any, knew of my inner turmoil.
I was tired of school and I wanted to go to work and do things.
completing my undergraduate degree, I ran a center for criminally
abused and neglected kids. They didnít fit and I knew how to reach
them. I could make a difference in their lives. In that role, I
fit. I later went back to graduate school, the formal walls of the
kind of education I hated but it was okay then because I knew what
ticket I needed to be able to go out and make a world that made
sense to me.
my masters in hand, I entered the world of traditional psychiatric
hospitals. My work with the patients made perfect sense, but my
interface with the medical system made no senseóeven 25 years ago.
I tried for five years to make the way psychiatry was practiced
make sense. It never did. A lot of my creativity got channeled into
anger trying to change a system that had a huge stake in the status
quo. I didnít want to be that angry. They all thought they were
doing good medicine. I didnít fit. I went to the mountains for a
month. It became clear to me that I had to leave the whole "comfortable"
world that looked like it fit for me and find another way to live,
to work, to love or I would die. At 29, I "dropped out"
of the world for a year, left the man I shared my life with, the
job which had defined me, and gave myself as much time as my life
savings would give me to find a way to fit.
was the hardest and best year of my life. At the end of that year,
I found home within myself and the courage to make a life where
I did fit. I left the east coast and came west. I was never again
employed by another. I did work that made sense to me. It was clear,
outcome-oriented work with clientsóprivate and corporate. I let
the marketplace decide whether I was good enough to be employed.
If I had a full private practice and satisfied corporate clients,
I was satisfied that my work was effective. I had no one to tell
me my work was good or bad. Clients came wanting some sort of help
to profoundly change their life. I was a good guide, they were courageous
travelers. Their lives changed and I had the privilege of being
a part of their journey.
I look at how mainstream America lives, loves and works, I suppose
I donít fit. The difference is, I donít want to fit into that mold.
I want to live with integrity, accountability, intensity, consciousness,
curiosity, creativity, and mostly with reality. Consciousness has
become a counter culture activity. I am happily counter culture.
What makes me powerful as a guide and a change agent is not what
I learned in school, it is what I learned in life: being me in a
world that invited me as a woman to be everybody but me. I am willing
to share that life and journey with others, to give them the courage
to know that they can create any world that they have the willingness
and courage to try. As a change agent, I want to challenge people
to go beyond the barriers of what they see as their limitations.
I believe that as we own who and what we are, we start to own our
own real personal power to create a world that works and fits our
own unique energy. As a woman and as a psychotherapist, that is
my work and that is my life. Work and life have become seamless
still am far from the norm in every way that my culture has set
for me. Everybody I see in the world also doesnít fit into the "cookie
cutter" mold, physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually.
stories and the pain they reveal are a call to arms. In sharing
them, we ask other women to join these courageous women. Share your
stories, your pain, your survival strategies. Use these as the springboard
to form new emotional clothes. We all deserve to fit. Make your
own pattern and try it on. I did and I came to love me for who I
am, not for how I donít fit.