An Autistic Artistic - Late Diagnosis, Sobriety, and PTSD From Starting a New Life After 2020.
To look at my phone today is to see the phone of two completely different people - one pre-pandemic and me now… The majority of photos and contacts belong to a very successful Broadway performer. The rest, after 2020, is a chaotic collection of screenshots and notes about depression. Mostly, there is a distinct lack of any documentation of joy. Im trying to change that.
"PTSD is not the person refusing to let go of the past it is the past refusing to let go of the person." - anonymous
On March 15th 2020, I walked off the stage of the National Broadway Touring Production of Miss Saigon not knowing it would be the last time I performed in the show I had helped manage as an onstage dance captain for years. It was also the last time I would see my entire social support system of friends and coworkers. Having been living in hotels for years on tour, when Covid shut down the country in 2020, we all had to quickly decide where HOME was…
Sobriety reveals a lot…
I would spend the next two years trying to recover from the violence of an entire life I had to walk away from. I spent the beginning of quarantine in a childlike stupor of denial in Portland, Oregon with the person I had just started talking to before running back as fast as I could to my partner who I had been separated from while while on tour. I ran home you could say.
We were completely different people than we were though, and over the course of the next two years life would continue to seem like one long smear. His partner he had been seeing while we were apart died from cancer, I would become sober not because I wanted to but because my liver was starting to reject the multiple bottles of wine and glasses of liquor I had gotten used to drinking every day. We would live out of suitcases in airBnBs for the most part until reluctancty leaving NYC, the only city i ever called home. Nothing felt real.
Even though I was sober, I started having disturbing emotional meltdowns.. I went from a life full of stimulation and like-minded artists to one of seclusion in Davenport, Florida. I wasn’t dancing or singing for the first time in my life. I was in shock. I was doing that run you do after you stumble only I wasn’t recovering. Then my instagram account got hacked and I got locked out of the last remaining connection I really had with my old life. Grief aside, the social media withdrawal alone was a real thing. I got diagnosed bipolar. I thought about un-aliving myself.
Trying to start a new life felt impossible. Why was I having such a hard time? Why did I feel worse than I did when I was drinking? Nothing seemed to make sense until one day, after one of my meltdowns over my lack of privacy… when I started to make some alarming connections between the characteristics of Autism and my experience of life.
Can you relate?
Maybe not… but if so, maybe hearing other people’s stories could help you. As someone who has always felt so very different, it was both a relief and a disappointment to realize the “magical qualities” always associated with me were, in fact, not completely unique. So here’s to some trauma dumps, some over-shares, definitely stories, random musings, and some special interest rants and some personal suggestions and recommendations along the way. One of my main special interests has always been words. I’m really good at describing things. This is where I do that. Hopefully you’ll join me.
Anna-Lee Wright is a Korean-American performance artist best known for her work on Broadway and film and television. Whether playing herself as one of the leads of MTV's hit prank show Ladylike, or choreographing at national dance conventions across the country, her work is always rooted in the fascination with human nature and social emotional learning. As an adopted immigrant, she speaks publicly about the importance of the intersectionality of mental health and art. Coming to terms with a diagnosis of autism later in life, she seeks to amplify open conversations and authentic storytelling for the purpose of finding ways to better the world through empathy. She is usually found talking about uncomfortable issues to hopefully embolden others to do the same and therefore cultivate self-realization through the power of honest vulnerability.