Hi, I’m Toeps and I’ve been blogging since 2004. About my adventures, about things I think things about, and about my life as an autistic person. (And between 2012 and 2016 also about the world of models and photography, on my then platform Fashionmilk.com, which you may remember from the top model recaps.)
This blog has brought me many wonderful things: friends and girlfriends, a trip to Disneyland Paris and even a book. These days I mostly write about my life in Japan, where I live.
This article was initially written for Flow Magazine. They asked me: What do you struggle with when you have autism?
A few weeks before I flew back to the Netherlands, I was already not feeling very well. I was overworked, stressed, and a bit directionless after the publication of my new book, Deze autist ging naar Japan. I had just hired Olga, mostly because that would look good; a business manager who doesn’t manage anyone, of course the Japanese immigration bureau thinks that’s odd.
Last month I photographed Cynthia. Among the internet veterans perhaps better known as Miss Lipgloss, but nowadays blogging under the name Cynthia.nl, because we’re all not 15 anymore, and that sticky substance your hair got caught in is more than welcome to stay in the 00’s. So, Cynthia. A surprising development for some, because eh, you didn’t like each other much, did you?
In the silly piece in Trouw to which I responded with some other autistic writers, two critical “giftedness coaches” wrote that we couldn’t have autism at all, because, ‘Writers who say they have autism but write books and are in relationships are not examples of people with autism to us.’ Why their entire article made no sense we explained clearly enough in our reply, but the fact that they mentioned the very profession of being a writer made it extra funny to me. Did these two think that someone who sits like a hermit all day in their attic, in a cabin in the woods or, in my case, at the foot of Mt. Fuji, crafting sentences, cannot be autistic? How…?
Thanks to the launch of my new book (and a cringeworthy opinion piece in Trouw that we had to respond to), I have been in the papers, on the radio and even on TV over the past few months. While I was generally pleased with the coverage, I also worried from time to time, as some of the headlines were somewhat unsubtle. Although I invariably did my best to emphasize the diversity of both Japan and autism, that didn’t always come across well.
Just over a year and a half ago, when I had traveled to Korea while waiting for the Japanese reopening, I visited coastal city (and second city of Korea) Busan. I wrote about it in this blog, and later in my new book.
“I would love to take that night train someday,” François said, as we were making nerdy travel plans. “Oh, I’ve traveled on that one before,” I said, “but that was in corona times, so that was a little easier.”
We autistic people are often good at stressing ourselves out. When we lose track, the same thoughts keep popping into our heads over and over again. Stress builds up and we can’t manage to calm ourselves down. When we ask for help, others say, “Don’t worry!”, or ” You’ll be fine!” Well intended, but perhaps the most unhelpful thing someone can say at times like that. “What do you mean, it will be fine?! How can you possibly know?!”, my head screams. Below are some questions that might actually help when an autistic person is stuck in their thoughts.
“I just saw you on Dutch tv station Max, and I think it’s really bizarre that you have houses in the Netherlands and Japan (*), and a job. I think you take advantage of autism for your own gain, yuck!” An email with pretty much this content I received last week, when I was on the train back home from my appearance at Tijd voor Max, in which I talked about my new book. In less than half an hour, this triggered viewer had taken the effort to Google me, check out my site, draw his conclusions and compose an email – although, judging by the language and typing errors, it was a pretty rushed message. Just five minutes of furiously pounding on a keyboard and boom, he had told that faker on tv the truth for once!
“Yukarigaoka, city where you can see the future,” read the inscription on the 40-year-old people mover (often called monorail, but it’s not the same) making its rounds through the town. Yukarigaoka, or Eucalyptus Heights, was built as a feat of urban development that Walt Disney dreamed about in his EPCOT days. High-rise buildings with lots of greenery, large malls with facilities and, to keep it all car-free, a largely elevated people mover that runs circles to and from the main train station.
Last Monday was Sea Day. A national holiday in Japan, and therefore a perfect excuse to go out. To the sea, or elsewhere. Jean-Jacques and I chose elsewhere; in fact, we had bought tickets for a steam train ride in Tochigi prefecture!
As an autistic person, I sometimes find it difficult to manage stimuli. It is often too much, and if I go beyond my limits I sometimes have to recover for days. In my book I wrote about how I learned to create structure by planning. Now you may be thinking: Sure, planning is good, but how exactly do you do that? While I don’t think there is one method, and I believe everyone has to figure out what works for themselves, I have listed eight points below that have perfected my planning over the past ten years. I hope you find them helpful.
The day before yesterday, I had surgery. This was no surprise to me, and nothing serious either, because I had already planned this operation six months ago. In January of this year, when I was also in the Netherlands for a while, I went for an intake at the Bergman Clinic.
In four days I will fly back to the Netherlands for a month. My last visit was in January, so it was about time. I have to, because my little brother is getting married, and of course I have to be there. The wedding is not in the Netherlands, by the way, but in the south of France. Good, we’ll fly there too.
Jean-Jacques had tickets to a concert in Osaka, and asked if I wanted to come along. Not to the concert, no, punk bands are not for me. But while he was there, he wanted to go to Universal Studios to see the new Super Mario-themed area, and I thought that would be pretty fun. Besides, I don’t turn down a trip on the shinkansen and two nights of unlimited seggs either, so I went along.
If they’re good at anything in Japan, it’s…. Anime? High-speed trains? Bustling metropolises with illuminated billboards everywhere you look? Sushi that took ten years to study for? Finding your ikigai? Well, yes, also maybe, but today I wanted to talk about that other talent of Japan: leaving places and buildings behind and then letting them decay.