By Stephie King
I was going stir crazy as usual. I needed an outlet. My modus operandi was to be emotional while having no outlet and to seek emotionlessness in thought. I stifled myself until I couldn’t handle stress. Usually I would cry. I used to cry all day. This went on for years. Over seven years to be un-exact, but I was living in a would-be condemned basement bedroom in Brooklyn at the time then with a borderline personality for a shared roommate (yes, in the same room). It was rough to say the least. We had a cascading waterfall that would occasionally flume its way down one of the walls facing the end of the bed. I hid my crying. I buried it. I had to be the responsible one.
I would have to bear down on the stress. I was paying the rent for us both. I kept doing my weird abstract paintings. I kept photographing my artwork from obscure angles. I was breaking the rules of photographing artwork for pictures. I wanted to see those paintings from another angle, and I did. I could be an outside artist if I kept working. Nevermind the fact that I might be a savant. I had no proof. To me, I had noticed a subconscious fluke near the time of my repressed memory recovery outside my EMDR therapy sessions.
I opened Harmony one day and tried to destress. I loved the drawing tool algorithm. It connected lines to other lines I had drawn for me. I could just see it happening and zone out to it or so I thought. It could have been a way to draw emotion like I painted emotion. I swirled my finger around for a minute the first time I attempted anything I wanted to save to disc. I chose a muted peachy pink background for no reason and felt inspired by the color. My roommate wanted me to appreciate all things girly. I admit she helped me emotionally sometimes before tearing me apart.
Then I knew raw emotion without any feeling as I slid my middle finger all over my ancient silver touchpad on the hefty original Macbook in my lap while pressing an unpressing the left key with my stalwart index finger. This was elegant. I didn’t know what even compelled me to save my work that day. I did one drawing and saved it for no particular reason. I just liked the shapeliness of it. To me it needed nothing more than that simple something to make me save it, a likeness to a shape I could accept, save, and come back to later. I loved the fact that I didn’t want to stare at the shape finally, not wanting to stare was an accomplishment.
I was traumatized, bipolar, and autistic (probably undiagnosed Asperger’s) as if I ever had a chance of proving it despite my early childhood penchant for screaming and not wanting to show any affection to anything accept a blanket I had an extreme attachment to as well as seeing patterns and having stims that I barely noticed because I was so self unaware. I had known them through other people’s reactions and it remained this way until a few years after my first drawing. Near the time I recovered the PTSD memory, I was rocking back and forth, but I had no idea until a friend told me that it was something. Something I was clearly doing was the effortless rocking. My family had traumatized me by wanting me to give them a baby out of wedlock — to just hand it over — and act like they didn’t tell me to as I might as well just go on with my life and not ask them any questions. They didn’t understand talking about the past unless it was their past experiences. They were narcissists. They were my father and stepmother. My mother didn’t care. My stepfather molested me so, why even bother with him?
When I rotated that first drawing sideways two weeks later it was a revelation. I recently named it Inner Demon. It was an optical illusion I had drawn perfectly sideways without even knowing it as I had done it in about a minute and couldn’t focus my eyes on it or rotate it in my mind. There was no seeing it. I just had a compulsion. The drawing was making me an artist I never thought possible. A few days after rotation, I drew Many Hats Off and looked for it immediately, but with a sense of awe and disbelief. I couldn’t just do these illustrations on demand. How could I be a savant?
My psychiatrist at the time didn’t think much of it. He didn’t even suggest a path to diagnosis for me after I explained my art.
I would mostly draw meaningless abstract shapes and erase them, think nothing of it except that I was on the brink of something I would never fully grasp. I believed I was just shy of being extraordinary and having no real control must have been the reason, but that all changed recently when I realized I was redrawing those meaningless complex shapes from memory. I’ve done it dozens of times. I’ve even taken a shine to trying machine learning on for size in order to prove it. I’m close to it, but my compulsion as been to erase them to my own astonishment and embarrassment.
Right now I am raising money on Kickstarter toward some assessment by specialists at the best place in New York I can find which is likely the Center for Cognitive Assessment at where I was told there is someone who would and could actually diagnose savant syndrome. You can purchase a limited print or make a donation to help me in the next few weeks and help make a savant’s life a lot more tolerable and hopefully make it easier for me to tolerate my own artwork by getting my diagnosis.
Stephanie “Rider” King is a millennial birth mother who has had worsening symptoms of ASD as an adult, but upon recovering a contiguous film-like memory due to therapy for trauma realized she has visuospatial and pattern recognition savant skills in her art. Currently learning to code to prove it with science, she is on public assistance and would like to sell her art for a living. She has been in and out of homelessness her whole adult life and is unable to work due to PTSD and cognitive visions that take her completely out of the room without any light or walls around her. Once formally diagnosed, she might one day sue her parents for traumatizing her as her savant syndrome helps prove her recovered memory was real and is evidence that they kept her away from therapists and doctors deliberately in order to abuse her.