Having been an artist for my whole life, there are many reasons why I create. As a kid, creating was something that I found enjoyable. It was a nice break from the torment I experienced from my peers. Art never criticized me or told me that I needed to be more “normal”. Communicating through speech is often difficult for me. Using images, shapes, and text is much easier. I didn’t need to try to make art understand me. The act of creating made me feel understood in a world determined not to listen.
Several of the reasons I made art as a kid still ring true today. It’s an enjoyable escape where I can feel listened to and accepted. Today, I am lucky enough to have a handful of people in my life who try their best to understand me. Yet, there are still semi-frequent misunderstandings. Being autistic, it often feels as though I am speaking a different language from my friends and family. People can misinterpret art, but the art itself is incapable of interpreting anything at all. Through the act of creating, I can express myself and feel listened to without relying on mutual understanding. I can release emotions and thoughts without feeling the need to clarify.
As I learn more about my brain, I recognize more benefits of creating art. When I create, I have complete control over the sensory experience. During times of overstimulation or sensory overload, I can use light colors and include few details or textures. If I am understimulated, I can use bright colors and make something with a lot of details or textures. Creating is something that calms me. This means it can be helpful during meltdowns. It can also help me process the racing thoughts I experience from ADHD.
I often find that I make discoveries about myself and my emotions through the act of creating. Unless it is extreme, most of the time I have no idea how I am feeling. I experience the same range of emotions as anyone else. Most of the time, I am unaware of which emotion(s) I am feeling. After finishing a piece of art, I can figure out how I was feeling based on the imagery. I learned to interpret my artwork from an introduction to art therapy course I took in college.
Creating art has helped me cope with the difficulties that come with being an autistic ADHDer. On the flip side, my creativity is a large part of the reason why I am grateful for being neurodivergent. While I am sure I would still enjoy art if my brain worked in the typical way, my experience having the brain that I do contributes a lot to my creativity and love of art. I will always appreciate that my mom raised me to use art as a tool for self-expression.