MY SAVANT EXPERIENCE
In my mind I am a pretty ordinary person. I have experienced a lot in life because I have an insatiable desire to constantly learn - if I want to do something - I’ll make an attempt and try it. I live my life with no regrets - not one. I am college educated and graduated with an M.S.Ed in School Psychology. The psychology route did not hold my attention for long and in the mid-90's, I found myself gravitating towards computers and web development. Armed with a few books, I began to teach myself how to code. This skill set helped me to obtain several corporate Information Technology jobs that I really loved. I had found my fit!
In 2005 I was retired from my corporate work because of Multiple Sclerosis. After a series of relapses effecting vision and bladder, my neurologist thought it would be prudent long term to leave the stress of climbing the corporate ladder behind. The thing that always sat dormant in my mind was a motorcycle accident I had in 1984 while serving in the US Army. What I had heard from eyewitnesses is that upon the initial collision with a stopped vehicle, I was tossed into mid-air and when I landed, my head took the impact and my helmet was cracked in half. I remember dealing with intense post-traumatic headaches for several years. While hospitalized, the traumatic brain injury took a back seat to 3 large embolisms in my right leg. The clots would have killed me long before my brain injury - I was 18 yrs old at the time and did not understand the gravity of either injury. I understand now, in 2020, that I also deal with retrograde amnesia. There is so much about that time before and slightly after the accident that is not available to me upon recall. There is much I don’t remember and I have no recollection of certain events. It feels like parts of the hard drive were wiped clean. In 2017 I had a relapse that was preceded by several weeks of extreme vertigo and headaches. This culminated in the loss of vision in my left eye and a trip to the ER. After a bit of hospitalization, high dose steroids and mania - my artistic ability was born. I was awakened! Colors and shapes were seen and experienced differently for me. This translated into my art (synesthesia).
I had been trying to make sense of my “awakening” since it happened so suddenly and dramatically in 2017 - like a lightning strike. Google searches brought me to the Treffert Center and a psychiatrist named Dr. Darold Treffert. Dr. Treffert is an expert doctor in the area of Savant Syndrome and has been studying it for over 50 years. I decided to reach out to the center to gain more understanding and ask for a consultation. I shared my resources, art and the story of my “awakening” along with the description which was available through several media interviews. Within 48 hours of my initial inquiry, Dr. Treffert wrote me back. He had carefully reviewed my case - media, bio, art, and history - and told me about this phenomenon called “synesthesia”. and that my case mirrored that of Jason Padgett (a math savant with a book "Struck by Genius"). Dr. Treffert asked my permission to add me to a worldwide registry of Sudden Acquired Savants. He provided one of the greatest gifts of all, clarity in helping me grasp my art awakening and an understanding of the science behind it. I can remember the dramatic re-wiring that happened so suddenly and was thankful to Dr. Treffert for helping me understand exactly what was happening to me. My art is proof of my awakening. There is always proof.
My acquired savant experience involves and feels like:
Explosive creativity that has to make its way out of my head. It has to, it is a compulsion. I need to create. Being locked out of my creative outlet is very stressful psychologically. Prior to my relapse, no art experience, no art classes and never an inkling or ounce of desire to create art. I was a logical, highly left-brained thinker and doer.
Seeing colors and shapes differently - as if I can touch them and hear them. (synesthesia)
A perfectly intuitive experience when creating. No inhibition.
Not even a childish ability to draw. The disparity is very visible.
An ability to learn software easily and work towards greater mastery - whatever tools I need to create my digital art, I use them. I use a lot of artificial intelligence to make up for shaking hands and double vision.
24/7 constant high-pitched ringing in my ears - I wear double hearing aids to help some hearing loss and provide masking. Constant ringing can cause a lot of anxiety and strain.
Worsening diplopia (double vision) and incremental increases in my prism prescription.
I now see my art in 3D (as of November 2019). I see layers and depth and can express what is on each layer.
The ability to create pieces of art via inspiration very quickly and at a frenetic pace. I can finish some pieces in a matter of hours juggling between software applications and devices. I have used over 20 processes on some pieces. Each feels innate and most seem unable to replicate.
A strong desire to share my story. It feels like a near death experience (NDE) and that I have come back and become someone else.
A whole body transformation (you can see the changes through the posted pictures) one before my relapse and others 1-2 years post-relapse. I lost 60 lbs and my entire palette for food changed. No more junk food or desire for it, no more addiction to sugar. Now I eat fruit, nuts and veggies mostly along with protein smoothies. My diet is very clean now with no desire to eat highly processed foods. This is a COMPLETE change for me.
Food no longer has its same hold on my life. Food is for fuel and less frequently for enjoyment.
desire to stay and eat healthy. More conscious about it.
strong realization (because of MS complications) that “what goes in, must come out.” The change is a lifelong one. No desire to ever go back.
"Meet the Veteran Artist" - my interview with the Director of the Virginia War Memorial
October 13, 2020. (38:00)
Ready for the story to be told.
Transforming still and becoming "me"
Transformed but seeking my voice.
No art to be found in 2015. Various entrepreneurial ventures - including real estate.
2017 or early 2018 - I was a new artist and not quite aware that transformation was about 2 years away.
In need of transformation
Getting closer ...
8th Annual Tampa Bay Lightning Celebration of the Arts
Diana 60 lbs heavier
Venice Art Center - 2nd Place
Venice Art Center - Merit
Diana - 2019