Asperger’s Peer Blog

  1. Room full of Sheldons, September 29, 2015

  2. Asperger’s as subtext, October 15, 2015

  3. Lifetime of numbers and other Aspie obsessions, October 16, 2015

  4. My parents, my social skills, October 20, 2015

  5. Carl, October 25, 2015

  6. It Is Okay That I Hate Halloween, November 1, 2015

  7. Fragment: Art out of pain, November 1, 2015

  8. Fragment:Thanksgiving, November 26, 2015

  9. Oculesics, again: The public is an elevator, February 16, 2016

  10. 48, January 6, 2016

  11. Fragment: Happiness, March 7, 2016

  12. Reconstruction, January 11, 2016

  13. Fragment: Days like these, March 9, 2016

  14. I stay on top of things so I can stay on top of myself, March 19, 2016

Room full of Sheldons, September 29, 2015

The Aspergers AQ (Autism Spectrum Quotient) test. For the past few years, I have probably taken this test about every 6 months. I am not on any schedule other than possibly running out of the reassurance it’s given me ever since I saw this list in someone’s Facebook post:
  • Difficulty relating socially with others,
  • Difficulty understanding jokes, sarcasm or abstract concepts,
  • Inappropriate social behavior,
  • Lack of understanding when it comes to interrupting others,
  • Difficulty understanding facial expressions or body language,
  • Fixation on certain routines with difficulty changing things around,
  • Fascination with a particular topic or hobby to the exclusion of other things or people,
  • Over sensitivity to the senses, such as light, sound, smell, touch, taste and even pain,
  • Tendency to be clumsy or have poor coordination
The insomniac middle of the night when I first saw this list of Asperger’s symptoms, I recognized myself and actually got chills and a cold sweat because I was stunned that I might finally be on the verge of getting the explanation and emotional break that I began seeking in gradeschool but long ago gave up on.  In the first year after I saw the list, I probably took the test every six weeks for about 8 months.
For about a year, my score was around 32.
“Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre have created the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, or AQ, as a measure of the extent of autistic traits in adults. In the first major trial using the test, the average score in the control group was 16.4. Eighty percent of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher. The test is not a means for making a diagnosis, however, and many who score above 32 and even meet the diagnostic criteria for mild autism or Asperger’s report no difficulty functioning in their everyday lives.”
One insomniac night when I was very angry about some one or another nightmarish incident in the Financial District, I ran out of things to write, videos to watch and articles to read; and so I took the test again after having forgotten about it for quite a while. I was so emotionally raw that for the first time I was completely honest on the test and my score shot up to 42.
I am an old lady who not only managed to have a normal life, but also several art careers. I thought about going to an adult Asperger’s meetup, but it finally seemed too ridiculous to voluntarily walk into a room full of people who, among other items on the test: prefer NOT “to do things with others rather than on my own”; do NOT “find social situations easy”; are NOT “drawn more strongly to people than to things”; and DEFINITELY “have very strong interests, which I get upset about if I can’t pursue.”
Why would a bunch of adult Asperger’s even be at a MEETING? Are you kidding me, a MEETING? In fact, exactly as I joked to myself might happen, the one meeting I signed up for was cancelled because even the organizer made an excuse not to be there. Room full of Sheldons.
It doesn’t matter whether I am ever officially diagnosed. It so reassures me to take the test every six months and to know that everybody, not just me, made an excuse not to attend the MeetUp that we all signed up for.

Asperger’s as subtext, October 15, 2015

Dime novel snippets“I am writing these [Dime Novel Snippets] to channel my daily dread. It’s so awful not to fit in any better by the time you’re in your 60s. I’m really glad I never had any kids for whom society might also have turned out to be a nightmare. I feel completely alienated this morning. Nobody understands how I feel.” I found this yesterday while doing a search of my emails for a JPEG I couldn’t find. I wrote it to my husband on January 23rd this year. I am pretty sure I was talking about the feeling that has always been in that there of me and that never goes away when I’m in any large group of people. And that I used to have even in a small group of people. I am also sure what I was describing is mild Asperger’s and that I have struggled with it ever since I discovered society (age 4 or 5). It was a real triumph for me when I finally was able to feel like I fit in in a small group of people. I have decided small groups are all I am willing to do for the rest of my life. Last weekend, my husband and I were both irritable and argued, among other things, over my saying that while I care about individuals, I think society is an artificial construct, the purpose of which should be to keep us fed and sheltered, and that since it fails so miserably at that, it (society) is really just bullshit and is the root cause of all human problems. He and I do make friends with other again very quickly after 30 years, even on a touchy subject like that. And even though he will always disagree with that world view of mine, he really does make an effort these days not to leave me alone too long in a large group. And he knows why room full of “Sheldons” is so simultaneously and ironically sad + funny.

Lifetime of numbers and other Aspie obsessions, October 16, 2015

If you were sucked in by the title of this post, you will love this wonderful article by Chris Bonello (Captain Quirk), Asperger Syndrome: 50 important facts about having mild autism.

If I made a list like this, it would be so long that I might go into remission and start doing thingsand giving in to hypnotic thought patterns that I spent until I was 35 or 40 trying, one by one, to stop doing. I have had so many obsessions that I can’t even remember most of them.

I do still have a phobia of purple. When I was in grade school, however, the phobia color was green; and I got physically ill if I had to touch anything green. I got a green sucker at a doctor visit and was practically paralyzed by it. For years it was a nightmare for me to remember that when I asked if there was another color, my mother was mortified and the doctor laughed.

Numbers. Not even my husband knew until recently that I count inside my head all the time, especially when I’m stressed out. It was a big deal for me when I was able to stop freaking out that I’d lost my place and had to start over. I used to get upset and worry for hours that I had lost my place.

It took years and years and years for me to stop freaking out and falling apart if I couldn’t do everything the exact same way every time. In fact, I have to say it took the extreme measure of getting married and adding the giant variable of another person’s routine to my day.

My parents, for all their activism, and civic duties and politics and distractedness with the greater good of mankind, were on this shit, which didn’t even have a name in the 50s. I think they must have had a lot of pure and simple mother wit about what to do about my obsessions, anxieties, awkwardness and social difficulty. I wish I could tell them that.

My favorite paragraph from Captain Quirk’s post:

40) ← Forty is one of my favourite numbers. It’s in the 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 20 and 40 times tables, which means you can use it for a load of different useful things. I think 60 and 120 are more useful though, and I have a soft spot for 72. And 24, since it’s nearly as useful as 72 but easier to work with.

That cracks me up.

My parents, my social skills, October 20, 2015

IMG_1900-0Unless Medicare will cover it, I likely will never receive an official diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. But it’s one of those “you know who you are” sorts of things. I found a really helpful list of Aspie tendencies/traits on the curly hair project. These tendencies and traits (below) so reassuringly describe me (except for “lack of empathy,” which for me is one of those greatest strength/greatest weakness personality paradoxes). I do not find it all surprising that adults are relieved once they are diagnosed with Asperger’s. Ever since I first saw a list of traits of girls with Asperger’s Syndrome and recognized my childhood, I have increasingly felt like somebody finally gave me a break. Now that I’m retired and I don’t have to even go outside if I don’t want to – which, of course, when I’m manic is a good idea, anyway – though I am somewhat concerned about losing social skills, I can feel that that certain stress and uneasiness of being on a social tightrope every damn day is easing up. And I want it to be clear that is not because it’s a relief to think I probably have mild Asperger’s Syndrome. It is because I finally understand that the wall I’ve been trying to knock down between myself and everybody else since I was in pre-school is never going to not be there, not matter what. So, it’s normal – and it’s not my fault because there is no fault. THAT‘s the relief. I, Nena Sylvia Toy:

  • am and always will be a loner.
  • do still always prefer solitary activities rather than social ones (social activities actually make me feel incarcerated, I kid you not).
  • am a better independent worker rather than a team player (though because my family were civil rights activists, I learned team playing as a child in the Movement).
  • do have obsessions with certain things and devote my time to these things, rather than to people (exactly).
  • do not, however, lack empathy or theory of mind.
  • do find it incredibly hard to build connections and friendships (the word is “excruciating.”
  • do suffer/have suffered social anxiety (which is what my parents jumped on and tried so hard to nip in the bud, for which I’m finally and eternally grateful, even though I felt picked on and persecuted by them throughout my childhood).
  • was until high school very easily feel overwhelmed by people and normal day to day activities (I have no doubt this would still be true of me if not for my parents forcing social skills on me; it was torture, but I finally am grateful for their diligence).
  • do need time alone to recover from day to day activities (especially if I have some obligation in the evening, no matter what time I get home, I needed about 3 or 4 hours to get back to my place and for my body and brain to feel like me).


Carl, October 25, 2015

Still, running out (2013)

My mother and I used to battle over my over-sensitivity. I fretted to distraction not only about my misfortune, but over others’ misfortune as well. I obsessed about terrible things, real and imaginary, happening all over the world. When I was 7 or 8, my mother sent me to the supermarket 4 blocks away to buy cabbage. On the way there, I passed a little boy and his sister who were playing in their front yard. I had never seen them before. The boy, Carl, was younger than me, but big for his age; it turned out that he hadn’t even started school yet and was only five going on six. He said to me, “Hey, girl, come here.” I went into his yard and he punched me in the nose. He and his sister laughed like maniacs as I ran away to the store. On the way home from the store, I walked blocks out of the way, got lost and was really late getting home. Of course, I got read the riot act; and when my mother found out what had happened, she was even madder. At some point, she went to Carl’s house to speak with his parents. I’m sure that was a fatherless house and that his mother had come to Denver like a lot of young people to work at Buckley Air Force Base. My mother went to Carl’s house tell his mother off, I am sure (she was a real hothead in those days) but came back telling me I should be nice to Carl and walk him to school when he started because he was new. That’s what happened. I walked to school with Carl and later with Carl and his sister for a long time until his family moved to the other side of the school. After that, I saw him sometimes on the playground. He was still big for his age, but he had become very quiet and withdrawn. One day on the playground, he tried to jump on the merry go round, which was full. Customarily, one of the bigger boys would slow the merry go round down to let smaller children on. But that day they did not slow it down for Carl, they sped it up; and the momentum knocked him to the asphalt. It was bloody and horrible. I have shitloads of survivor guilt and I think seeing Carl get hurt in that way and confounding that with his inability to fit in is very possibly where my survivor guilt began. Someone always adopted me despite how awkward and socially disabled as I was. I was every one of my teachers’ pet throughout grade school and middle school. It has never seemed fair. Last week a member of my extended family lost her not even 45 years old yet sister in law to cancer. Every insomniac night for weeks, I checked her Facebook page, where her many friends were in virtual vigil. It was very moving. This insomniac night, I looked on LinkedIn for two of my favorite conceptual artists’ daily photo taken from the same angle in a rural area every day this year. They are artistic and life partners; one of them has lost her battle with cancer and she is end stage. They are so brilliant that they are now producing their “Last Project.” It is inspiring and thought provoking. On this insomniac night, the 4th anniversary of my mother’s death, I am thankful for my oversensitivity. I feel that without it, I might take too much for granted.

It Is Okay That I Hate Halloween, November 1, 2015

All day today by sheer happenstance, I have had to be around way too many people. It was harrowing tonight during a long bus ride surrounded by rowdy Halloweenies after months of negotiating myself into a comfortable zone where the rule is that as long as I use my social skills (I worked so hard to get) in direct interactions that are necessary, it is otherwise okay to avoid eye contact, conversation, etc., when I am alone in public. What a treat for me to find this article, Asperger’s – My life as an Earthbound alien, on Halloween, which has only ever been a creepy, uncomfortable, overexposed, not enough personal space experience for me. It and New Year’s Eve make me feel like I’m surrounded by wild animals. Not kidding.  I have had about an hour’s sleep and I am surprised that I was able to fall asleep at all. Most likely, it will take all night for me to put all the pieces of me back in place.

Asperger’s – My life as an Earthbound alien, CNN, March 28, 2008, reposted to Seniors World Chronicle, by an unnamed female author, a manager at CNN, who was 48 year old at the time of her Asperger’s diagnosis.

Still, Greengirl (2013)

Fragment: Art out of pain, November 1, 2015

I think it unlikely that I have the depths of endless resources in the well of me to make any art out of believing I probably have mild Asperger’s syndrome. There is not enough pain. In fact, in the past few weeks, subdued by mixed bipolar affect that was (unusually for me) more depressive than hypomanic and made me more thoughtful, I have seen in a totally new light my parents’ relentless monitoring of me throughout my childhood  and forcing me into social situations. I have a new respect and deep gratitude. I cannot imagine how Aspies who don’t have a stay at home parent like I did ever make it to adulthood with enough tools. They teach you in creative writing that conflict is the heart of drama. I believe that is true in all art forms – just think of stone carving, a brilliant delivery of Lady Macbeth’s ‘Out damned spot’ monologue or the very sound of the friction of a drawing pencil on rag paper. Conflict. Conflict. Conflict.  There is no conflict for me around Asperger’s – it’s more like I’ll be having a great birthday party for the rest of my life simply from getting the great gift of explanation, relief and justification.  I’m not worried about running out of art, however. This morning, horsing around with my husband, I told him as I ran out of the room to turn off the kettle: “You know what bipolar is like? It’s like I turn a corner and oh no, there’s my affect.” This I said, unconsciously turning back to look behind me, not forward to the right or left, as I said it.  No, I’m not worried. Film at 11.

Still, VOICE, Ave Maria

Fragment:Thanksgiving, November 26, 2015

Still, THE BLUE LADY, Storyboard Two: Elizabeth

I have hated Thanksgiving Day with a flaming passion since I was an elementary schooler. I associate it with being in a dark strange house with damp, stale air where all the windows are shut tight and you get yelled at by your mother if you don’t sit still – which is hard because you’re wearing Sunday clothes and shoes that are probably already too small. Oh, I forgot the inevitable migraine from eating food that I probably already was allergic to.   The only Thanksgiving Day that I was ever able to shake off the memory of that misery and enjoy the day was in 1981, the year that my little sister and I made Thanksgiving dinner for ourselves on an unseasonably frigid day (6 degrees fahrenheit/14.444 degrees celsius) in my minimalist, furniture-less railroad car apartment in Hoboken NJ with a 6-pound turkey (the first I ever roasted), my sister’s violin, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Animal Farm.” That Thanksgiving Day made up for all the nightmare Thanksgiving Days that happened before it. Sometimes since that day, remembering it has gotten me through my inevitable Thanksgiving Day descent into darkness, claustrophobia and despair.  My husband and I will be alone today. We are having Havarti lambburgers on giant portobellos as buns with spinach béchamel as dressing. And (likely while I’m shooting) I will be thinking about Amaranta, probably the same age that I am now, changing the position of her chair on the veranda every day in order to follow the sun.

Sylviatoyindustries, wishing you minimal PTSD

Oculesics, again: The public is an elevator, February 16, 2016

sadbrickantfarm: AGORAPHOBIA from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo.

It is one of those times of year (sometime in February, for example) when summer happens for a few days to a couple of weeks in San Francisco; and people think it’s spring, which makes them giddy and overly friendly. Their body language is looser and so are their ocular muscles.

I do not like making eye contact in any large group of people (the sidewalks of my overly restaurant-ed, overly saloon-ed, overly boutiqu-ed, overly traffick-ed by people who don’t live here, neighborhood, for example), not even groups with family mixed in and certainly not with strangers, particularly men (who all take up too much personal space, in my opinion). I also do not like and am repulsed by the manner in which some individuals’ behavior drastically changes once they are in a group of people.

I am thinking about this because my brain thinks it’s spring and time for cranky mania. I know this because I’m having prodromal anxiety and nothing to feel anxious about (except, maybe, I’m a pound and a half heavier than usual, for example) and I have that damned rash that eventually will spread to my scalp and wake me up in the middle of the night (perhaps to provide foundation for the anxiety, for example). I’m thinking about this because it’s so distressing to suddenly see the world through the eyes of a myrmecophobic as a sad brick ant farm. You know how myrmecophobics treat ants.

Well. I’m trying not do that anymore. And I do get better at it all the time. But it is always more difficult once fake summer comes.

Google is one of the best friends a person who’s serious about self-care has. Since I finally figured out what a trigger for aggression eye contact is for me, I have been a less aggressive cranky manic. Today, my friend Google led me to an enlightening new concept,

Civil inattention: “The process whereby strangers who are in close proximity demonstrate that they are aware of one another, without imposing on each other – a recognition of the claims of others to a public space, and of their own personal boundaries.”

This will be my mantra going into real summer:

Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. Civil inattention. . . .

Et cetera.

48, January 6, 2016

IMG_1786-0Today as every day for the past few weeks, I thought about whether and when to seek an Asperger’s diagnosis.

I am trying to be very clear with myself about why. Not even being bipolar since my first bout of winter depression when I was 3-1/2 has prevented me from functioning in society. And it’s clearer every day to me that my parents, who were so hands-on about making sure that I did NOT stay in my room and DID learn how to go about in society, were not simply overprotective, but were without knowing it excellent parents for an Aspie. The only reason I feel I need a diagnosis is so that I would be eligible for special accommodations if I ever had to go back out into society and have managed care as a senior. Pragmatism is the only reason. Being in society as a student, as a dayjobber, as an artist working the system has been excruciating. I am sure that it has been the number one trigger of my worst manic episodes, my most profound depressive episodes and my worst bouts of hallucinations. I am sure of that because being in society and trying to keep-up-with normal is as stressful for me now as it was in first grade, where my teacher diagnosed me as retarded. (I feel sorry for her every time I picture my mother going for the parent-teacher conference.) I have felt an increasing sense of relief ever since I saw a list of Aspie girl-child traits and recognized myself as a girl-child, and said out loud as I read the list on Facebook during insomnia in the middle of the night, “What’s wrong with that?” I will never forget that wonderful, soul-saving moment. Yeah, what’s wrong with that? I turned out all right. My parents made sure of that. But today I realized something else. I know that I am lucky to have had good parents and good relationships with my siblings, to have married into a family that has always been accepting, supportive and loving, to have high intelligence, to have had parents who were supportive of my artistic bent, and, especially, to have had better than average luck in my pursuits as a sculptor, an actor and now a filmmaker. But today I realized that as much as I know (and will never stop being relieved to know) I will never fit in because my brain just cannot do that, I also realize (and am grateful to realize) that I have been extremely fortunate in being accepted the way I am by most of the people in school, at dayjob and in the arts. If I am going to be more and more honest with myself about how I really feel about working-and-playing-with-others and watch my AQ quiz score rise to 48 (the maximum is 50), I also have to be clear with myself that it is the way my brain is set up that has made being in society so difficult and not other people.

Fragment: Happiness, March 7, 2016

I have been trying to write this for quite a while. I am sure I will write about it again, now that I have been able to connect a few words to my thoughts. Every day I believe more profoundly that if a person does not have a significant period during which s/he experiences and understands happiness while young – probably during childhood – that person will not ever really know what happiness is nor live with it.  I am an extremely happy person whose background logically dictates that I should not be happy. I am black in America. I grew up overshadowed by bigger than life parents. My parents struggled financially. I was extremely traumatized at age 3 when my much older brother left home. I am female. I am female and not tall & thin in a Western country. I probably am on the autism spectrum. I am bipolar with psychotic features and have been so since early childhood. I was bullied in adolescence. I could go on and on and on with this list before even getting to age 20, but it is moot. I have been increasingly happy since 2009 (in spite of extreme financial difficulty and debt at the time). I completely and totally believe that I am happy because 1) between ages 8 and 9, I knew EXACTLY what happiness was and felt like; and 2) 50 years later, my brain had reached sufficient maturity that happiness was the primary part of my affect. I believe the discovery of happiness in childhood was a “coming of age” that lasted for approximately 5 months. I am sure it was not hypomania because I can only feel happiness when my affect is normal – hypomania is pleasant or extremely comfortable or even fun at times; but it is not happiness. I believe happiness originates in an actual physical, neurochemically producing anatomical location in the brain that one absolutely has to discover on one’s own (as any other coming of age experience) in order to nurture and cultivate one’s capacity for happiness.

Reconstruction, January 11, 2016

My mother and I were fast friends by the time I was in my 30s. There were only 2 things, really, that we argued about, usually while I stayed with her during the once or twice a year 10-day periods I spent as a Resident Artist in the University of Nebraska’s Artist in Diversity program. No, we did not argue about religion, even though she was extremely religious and I have been an atheist since my father told me about molecules when I was 8-1/2. No, we did not argue about my choice of life partner, as the first time 30+ years ago my parents hosted Mike & me for dinner, my mother pulled me aside and said, “Don’t mess this up.” Nope. My mother and I argued about laundry and my art career. Why the hell every time I was home in Nebraska did I wash all my clothes by hand (as is my habit) and then insist on hanging them outside on the clothesline when there was a dryer (of which she was very proud because it was 25 years old) downstairs? I am a city dweller living in an apartment. If I didn’t have a back window overlooking a roof, I could never hang wet laundry outdoors.  If a nail on the wall is a luxury for a hand-laundress, a clothesline is even more so. And: Why the hell was I always “out” at night when I had a husband and a dayjob; and why didn’t I realize I needed to spend more time alone because, Mama said, “you know you need that?” Who would know better that I shouldn’t keep such an irregular schedule, all the while dealing with too many people than my mother, who without even knowing it, did such an excellent job of raising a bipolar Aspie girlchild during the 50s and 60s, when they don’t seem to have even considered that little kids could have depression and that little girls who were always good and excelled in school sometimes heard voices and obsessed about jumping off the roof? My mother would have understood that my Aspie brain has to write new software for every single new social encounter with another human, no matter how brief, no matter how benign. When I was 15 and a high school sophomore, I had my first breakdown. High school requires programming at light speed for every single encounter with another adolescent human. I was bullied because I was smart and weird – being bullied required even more programming. Add to that winter seasonal affective disorder that had been inevitable since I was 3 and a half. It seemed like it was the middle of the night for 3 months. All I remember is wanting to drop out of school and my mother being nice to me. Second breakdown. A few years later, after feeling like I’d been winging it at school and not nearly as smart as everybody said I was, I began the train wreck that was my six weeks at Grinnell College. It was not winter yet, of course. But my winter SAD sometimes begins in August. All I remember is getting my ears pierced; buying my first pair of blue jeans; losing my virginity; and finally, being whisked home in the middle of the night by my parents. After sitting on my bed babbling to my sister for a week, apparently I took a bath and combed my hair, and by that time my father had realized that my pierced ears and blue jeans were the least of his problems with me. My third breakdown happened between semesters at Macalester College (winter SAD again). All I remember is that it seemed like nighttime the whole month of January, and that after seeing Cocteau’s Orphée, I had a suicidal obsession with the idea that a person could think for 20 minutes after she died. I never told my mother about this episode until 30 years later. My fourth breakdown was the first one that happened in summer. “The Greeks possessed an elaborate lore associated with Sirius… [Its] first appearance… in the morning skies during the final days of July and early August indicated the arrival of the sweltering heat of late summer… [and was] associated with heat, fire, and even fevers.” Wikipedia. I had gotten a fellowship to enter the Masters program at the University of Nebraska; and spent July and August reading everything on the suggested reading list. Reading was the only not-horrible part of a summer when I was depressed, hearing voices, fighting with my boyfriend and being stalked by a developmentally disabled janitor who cried because I wouldn’t talk to him. I still believe my problems that summer were worse than the janitor’s, but I never told anyone what was happening because truthfully, by this time, I didn’t believe anyone could help me and I knew eventually I would get over it like the flu. I knew that every time I had a breakdown, there would be pieces of Humpty missing when I went to put him/me back together again; there would be relationships irretrievably lost; there would be new parts of me that I didn’t recognize. I would miss my old self and not be able to get her back but the next time, it would be easier. The stormy winter of my fifth breakdown (in New York) launched me into my career as an artist. All I remember is it seeming dark  all day for about three weeks; pacing in my apartment while arguing with my voice; eating nothing but orange juice and going down to 99 pounds; and then, suddenly, during a February thaw, buying my first black leather  bomber jacket, going to drawing classes in Chelsea and adding cheese to my diet. I did talk to my mother about this after the fact. I think she was glad I was finally doing what I had gone to New York to do. My sixth breakdown was a crash after many spring and summer months of manic involvement in the arts scene – feverish sculpture production and back to back shows – and night after night of playwriting and acting classes and theater gigs. I really was asking for it. A friend who was a doctor told me flat out I should be in the hospital. That was around the time my mother started asking me why didn’t I realize I needed to spend more time alone. Even if I had realized what she was talking about it wouldn’t have mattered at that point. When you start having your little successes in the arts, you have to accept every gig and be ready for every opportunity. It looks like overachieving, but it’s not the same. It is more like being a gambler on a winning streak. And I was a young 42 – how the hell did I know what “taking its toll” meant? My seventh breakdown, which is one of the few directly autobiographical sources of my web series, VOICE, is at the heart of the reason for this post. That was a nightmare of the worst mixed affect I had ever had. I could not sleep. I could not stop thinking about jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. I am pretty sure there was a freight train running through my head. I had spent the day attending an arts funding seminar for a friend who couldn’t go and needed a representative there. I was one of the few unaffiliated artists there. By that I mean I was not a member or partner of any organization. “Everyone” was there. They were networking like mad. One of my solo theatre peers was there, trying to include me in her lunch group breakout session. Bless her heart. It was almost July and I had spent six months touring all over the country – this while also having a day job. By this paragraph, you can probably hear my mother’s voice, too. Briefly stated, my people interaction program completely overloaded and 403ed me; and by 03:00 l was in psychiatric intake for a 72 hour voluntary hold. As this post is a means of dealing with unresolved anger about my commitment, perhaps even though I have a seasoned paralegal mind and I am an experienced peer, when it came to my own hospitalization I just did not understand the voluntary part of voluntary. About hour 60 of my supposedly 72 hour hold, when, ever the pragmatic and prepared one, asked what the procedure would be for leaving the next day, I was told that I would not be allowed to leave just yet. And I can still see that coral lipstick as she said that. I can still see that coral lipstick because I broke off eye contact. I was watching her mouth. It took me several days to realize that if I wanted to get out of there, as angry as I was – especially after a 20-something immature lump of art therapist told me I was going to have to do the glitter and glue exercise anyway when I informed her I had been professionally represented as a sculptor for years – they were not going to let me out of there if I wouldn’t look them in the eye. (I do know that people who try to make eye contact with you are 99.99% not likely to want to kill you – they are just doing what comes natural to intelligent, socialized creatures. Unfortunately, I am 99.99% the opposite of a delicate, easily frightened little flower of a person, and there is not enough flight and way too much fight in me. I think it is probably a miracle that I figured out I had to make eye contact and didn’t possibly wind up “in the System.”) As you can well imagine, over the next weeks and months, I heard a lot more from my mother of why didn’t I realize I needed to slow down and stop trying to do so much and spend more time alone; and couldn’t I understand how it was taking its toll. Yes. I was beginning to  understand. But the show must go on and I was already trying to figure out how to tell her I was already booked to perform JUMP at a psychologists’ conference being held in Nebraska the weekend of September 15, 2001. I do not lack empathy and I am horrified that in a way, 9/11 might have saved my life by so drastically affecting travel in the United States. It was the handwriting on the wall for me. Besides, I had plenty of newspaper and magazine clippings and decent web presence that proved I really was an artist. I slowed down but did not stop – by 2004 I was aggressively exhibiting as a sculptor again. In 2005 I was picked up by a gallery in Los Angeles and I started a theater company. In 2006 I had my first solo show in a New York gallery. A few months later in April, the cruelest month of 2006, I was so suicidal that I was terrified to be alone. My eighth breakdown. I did not want to go to the hospital because, frankly, I am convinced people who are not bipolar, no matter how many years they spent in college, really do not understand suicidality and the precariousness of mixed affect (read my lips: depressives don’t have the energy to commit suicide and manics don’t have the focus). I figured I’d be better off if I went to work. My goodhearted boss let me meltdown a few times. One of my BP peers called me twice a day for two and a half weeks. A few months after that, I bought my first camera. I think cameras probably saved my life, too. I also think my mother approved of an art form that did not involve my gallivanting (her word) around the country. I started writing this reconstruction yesterday and I stayed up all night to finish it. No, I’m not manic. I’d chalk this one up to Aspie obsession, to needing complete clarity, to needing to fill up the biggest holes in my past with the memories that belong there, to having the ability to methodically solve the mystery, and to being fearless because of having put Humpty back together so many times. My mama took good care of my Aspie. And my Aspie’s been taking care of me.

Fragment: Days like these, March 9, 2016

IIMG_1479 was quite young – meaning, I was in my 20s (probably soon after the longest depression I ever had, about one and a half years) and socially backward for my age – so I was very immature about everything except dealing with my own mind when I decided that I did not want to have any regrets when I died. I am sure that decision was inspired by 18 months spent trying to pull myself out from under my one and half years of misery and missed opportunities. Missed opportunities that happened because depression crushed my energy, optimism and self confidence. Almost everything that happened during that year and a half is a smudge of a memory except for my epiphany about regret that came at the end of it. Everybody has regrets by the time they’re in their 60s. But I’m pretty sure that my idealistic goal of not having any has kept me from making the kinds of choices that I hear middle aged people complain about – the kinds of choices that are on those lists of regrets of the dying. My biggest regrets are due to days like this – days when I really do have to put my normal activities on hold and stop in place. You know how when you hit a tuning fork, it takes a while for it to stop vibrating before you can do anything with it? That’s what it’s like when a person with a Bipolar 1 brain gets off her schedule for 5 days. It was only supposed to be 4 days, but I got food poisoning from ripe mayonnaise on the 5th day, when I would have searched for the reclusive center of myself. Instead, I am doing that today – which is, of course, why I’m writing this. Today is the first time I remember not being mad at myself for getting out of whack from overstimulation and off my schedule, and having to drop everything. I have always gotten mad at myself and called myself “wimp” or “weakling” or even, “cripple,” which I probably ought to be slapped upside the head for. From now on days like this, I am going to not just not be mad at myself or call myself pejoratives, I am going to treat myself like someone I’m really proud of and grateful to because she kept so many of the important promises that she made to her younger self.

I stay on top of things so I can stay on top of myself, March 19, 2016

  Yesterday, iterating to my husband how much and how increasingly better I feel every day since scoring 48 on the Asperger’s test, I decided to make a disclosure. I told him that the reason I am so prepared, organized, and well researched that I stay on top of things, and do not get mowed under very easily, is so that I can stay on top of myself. I told him that I get overwhelmed very, very easily: ‘as soon as my preparation, organization, and research fail me and the panic of trying to read people,’ easily. He was surprised. Of course he was. I am an animal whose purpose is survival in my environment. My environment includes social interactions that I would never choose to have if there was a choice. Step back. Of course, there’s a choice. There’s always the choice of ¡NOT! interacting. Step forward. My life would be different and I might not have so much of what I want if I had not chosen to have those social interactions that I would never choose if you really could have your cake and eat it too. So the next time my obsessively organized life snags on a social interaction (as happens to everyone, Aspie or not, obsessively organized or not), perhaps my husband will remember to ask me: ‘Is this one of those times that you feel overwhelmed?’ THAT would be as good as having my cake.