My mother has a degree in philosophy. My father has a degree in engineering. They have three sons, of which I am the youngest. My oldest brother is an architect, the middle son is an engineer, and I am an artist. When I can keep it together, that is.
I was born in July, 1966. My earliest memories are all sensory. The vivid colors and dusty textures of sidewalk chalk art in Trafalgar Square in London, UK. The roar of a busy city. The intricate beauty of snapdragons. The sweet fragrance of honeysuckle. The torturous scratchiness of wool clothing. That was when my father was working in London in 1969. I had a memorable social interaction that year as well. It was at my nursery school. I was off doing my own thing with building blocks when I overheard the class bully scheming with his cronies to topple a classmate doing a head stand. This was not the first time they’d done this, and always ended in tears. I decided to go warn the victim, which I did, but he seemed unconcerned. Then, I saw the gang of goons approaching. I opted for a less traumatic end to the headstand and pushed him off balance myself, just enough so he’d have to come out of it – nowhere near the ultraviolence the bully had in mind. Come out of it he did, and immediately ran to the teacher and pointed an accusatory finger at me. The teacher would hear none of my theories on cause and effect and banished me to the corner to consider my antisocial crimes. Now, 41 years later it just occurs to me that it may have been an elaborate ruse to put me in that corner. Was the headstander in on it?
Fast forward to the 3rd or 4th grade back in the U.S. I used to hand flap, but received such a tremendous amount of teasing and torment from my peers over it that I took to sitting on them, or clasping one with the other. In the 4th grade, each student was given a homework assignment over the weekend to make a drawing of an insect of their choice. I chose a bee – on poster board, large, proportionate, detailed, in color, with labeled parts and sections. I spent several hours on it. The following Monday we presented our pictures to the rest of the class. When my turn came up, the teacher called me a cheat in front of my classmates – said my father had to have done most of the work. I was adamant that he hadn’t helped me at all – that it was my work, but then not only was I a cheater, but a liar too. My parents put me into a different school.
I don’t remember much between then and 8th grade, when the social and organizational demands became much more taxing. The psychological testing began. IQ tests and inkblots. A period in the special education class (which I spent playing chess with the teacher). A nice man. Hair to his shoulders, balding, glasses, grey tweedy suit jackets. One thing my mother remembers that stood out from then was the result of one of those tests. The examiner told her I’d completed a task in a way they’d never seen before. The task was to copy a simple line picture. It was a cross shape comprised of a horizontal zig-zag with a vertical line. When I copied it, instead of using two operations (drawing the zig-zag line and the vertical line), I drew all the ‘zigs’, then all the ‘zags’, then the vertical line in two parts (top and bottom).
An autism expert might have caught it then, but there weren’t any autism experts hanging about in junior high in the 70s.
And so the long succession of psychologists and psychiatrists and diagnoses.
Confusing the issue is my diagnosis of 47XXY(male) at the age of 14. I tend to think it contributed to my autism eluding the pros for so long, as also happens with girls.
So instead of autism, it’s manic-depressive (bipolar), it’s passive-aggressive, it’s borderline personality disorder with schizoid affectations, it’s drug addiction (give me a break! Anyone who thinks a half ounce of cannabis over a year’s time is addiction needs to get out more), it’s narcissistic personality disorder. Over twenty years, a new diagnosis ever four or so. Oh! And pills! Lots of them. None of them had any good effect on me. Zoloft was the only one that was any fun, but since it made my head feel like it was boiling, and my brain perhaps stewing in it’s own juices, I had to give it up.