How I Lost Two Clients in a Weekend – Part 1
How I Lost Two Clients in a Weekend
The short answer to that is bigotry and internalized racism.
After you hear the long answer, you’ll prefer the short one.
I never really know how to start these things, and my ADHD is losing paBence with trying to find a way to “start” this, so I’ll jump into the part you’re here for. It was the fall of 2020. The summer before, I had just received an official diagnosis of both Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactvity Disorder, and I was stll processing my feelings about it.
On the one hand, I was relieved because, at long last, so much about me finally made sense. I finally understood what made me so “weird.” I finally understood why I cried or got pissed off when someone interrupted my plans with changes I neither anticipated nor had ample time to adjust. I finally understood why I got so offended whenever someone offered me explanations or additonal details I never asked for in a manner that suggested I was somehow too “stupid” to grasp a situation without their offering context I already had.
I finally understood why I got so upset whenever I felt people walking too closely behind me (in the mall, whenever that happened, I would step aside and let the person pass, upset seemingly beyond reason at violating my personal space).
I finally understood why I had difficulty responding to emails and making phone calls.
I could go on and on and on. Still, you get the point: The diagnoses I received were the pieces of the puzzle I had spent my entire life missing, and finding those pieces, after being convinced I’d never understand any of my “whys,” gave me a relief I thought I’d die never feeling.
So, on the one hand, finding out that I am on the spectrum and have ADHD – “ADHD” in some spaces – felt a lot like being exonerated for a crime I didn’t commit. And I was grateful to put a face to the name finally.
On the other hand, however, I was intensely angry. The worst part of being a late-diagnosed neurodivergent is that you have the so-called gift of hindsight. And hindsight being what it is, I was able to look back at all the signs people intentionally ignored in favor of a narrative that was more about them saving face than it was about giving me the support I needed to thrive and have the life that everyone ironically kept saying they wanted for me.
In contrast, their actions simultaneously kept me from living it.
If I had known that there was a reason behind who I was – that my brain operated differently from most and that that difference was nothing to be ashamed of – I know my life would have turned out differently. I know I could have saved myself from the humiliation of dealing with narcissistic “friends” who only cared about me when they wanted someone fierce and loyal to fight their battles for them, only to return to being the “weird” girl who should have been “grateful” for their judgmental, benevolently cruel brand of friendship, once the danger passed.
I could have saved myself from every toxic romantic connection I never truly wanted because I would have been safe to explore and admit my asexuality (statistically more common among neurodivergents) instead of using compulsory heterosexuality as a shield to protect myself from unwanted scrutiny.
There is so much pain I could have avoided had members in my community not made me feel that the way my brain operates was some moral failing. Realizing that most of what I went through was due to the Black community’s extremely toxic views towards mental health, (invisible) disability, and neurodivergence fueled me with a rage that’s taken months of therapy to sort through—and even now, I still struggle with it.
But that’s another conversation for another day. I needed to offer you this context to help you understand how I lost two clients in one weekend.
As stated earlier, by the fall of 2020, I was still sorting through my complicated feelings about my new-to-me disabilities. I was already dealing with military service-connected Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, which had spent the last 20 years wreaking havoc on my spirit in ways I’m not likely to recover from; finding out about the two apps that had been running in the background felt like trying to use gasoline to put out a fire when the building was mostly burned down.
At the same time, I was determined not to lose any more of my life to my disabilities than what they had already taken from me, so I tried to go about my business as usual: I focused on my burgeoning career as a public speaker focused on the intersections of race, gender, and disability, specifically as people often intentionally allow their preference for the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype to help them avoid accountability for their mean-spirited actions.
I was coming to grips with what a “new normal” for me would look like in light of living with the acquired neurodivergence that is PTSD. I was even getting more comfortable sharing my story with others outside of a lecture setting—a massive deal for someone as private and as proud as I am.
Simply put, I was starting to feel empowered in ways I previously hadn’t, having decided that I wouldn’t allow others to make me feel like I deserved less because my brain did more. I was educating myself on Autism Spectrum Disorder. I was learning about my specific type of ADHD (combined inattentive and hyperactive because I’m nothing, if not an overachiever).
I was taking baby steps.
The problem was that I had been pushing myself too hard and hadn’t given myself a chance to grieve. I never grieved the girl I could have been. I never grieved the woman I might have become had I been diagnosed with autism as a child.
I just sucked it up and kept it moving. As important as all that new information about myself was, and as (mostly) relieved as I had been to have the insight, a part of me treated it like it wasn’t a big deal. I expected my brain to cooperate with what I wanted instead of following what it needed, and I hit a wall.
This time, however, I decided to communicate my needs instead of “going dark” and leaving a mess I’d have to clean up later. These previously mentioned clients already knew about my PTSD and my struggles with Major Depressive Disorder (secondary to the PTSD), so I figured it would be “easier” to tell them that I was having a rough go of it and that I needed to take some time to get back on my feet.
With the first client, I told them that I needed one extra day – count it, ONE – to finish a project. Nothing about it was so urgent that giving me an additional 24 hours would have made any difference. They said, “No.”
I told them that I couldn’t guarantee the level of quality and professionalism they hired me to provide if I felt compelled to write through a mental breakdown. And my pleas fell on deaf ears. I slogged through it, anyway, hating them for putting me in that position, yet hating myself more for letting them get away with it.
To no one’s surprise, they trashed my work. And they blamed me for it being trash like I didn’t tell them exactly what would happen by refusing an incredibly reasonable request. Like I somehow wanted it to be bad. As if I wanted anything with my name attached to it to be anything other than superior in quality.
Nope. I was perpetuating the stereotype of the “lazy” autistic/ADHD’er who wanted to take their money without giving them what they paid for as if, for some reason, neurodivergent Black people are devoid of anything resembling a work ethic.
I reiterated that had they given me the extra day I had asked for, they would have received the quality they expected. They pretended that conversation never took place. And I was done.
And that was that. That’s how I lost client number one.
About the Author
Kameko Thomas is a writer and disabled neurodivergent (Autism, ADHD, PTSD, OCD, MDD) Black woman living and working at the intersections of race, gender, and invisible disability. She is the Principal Writer + CEO of Vonem Creative Media, a strategic communication and narrative storytelling firm built to create a more inclusive world for neurodivergents. Kameko has a BA in English from Wiley College and an MA in English & Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University, where she was selected to join Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society.