After I was diagnosed in February 2022, I worked with an animator who also has synesthesia to describe what I see. I’ve spent the last nine months trying to explain it to myself. See all syntesthetes (what we are called) experience synesthesia differently. To some people Monday may have a color, or the number six may have its own personality. The details oddly aren’t important, what is important is the hyper-connectivity and processing in our brains that act as LEGIT super powers.
Talking about this has been the most vulnerable I have ever felt. I thought this is what people described as an “X factor” or “creativity” or “reading body language.” I knew I have all three, I just didn’t know it wasn’t normal.
This is how I see the world:
I. Did. Not. Know. This. Wasn’t. Normal.
I’ve just always known I’m. Not. Normal.
And I know there are more of you out there who feel the same, and might not be diagnosed yet.
[Now onto the original post published on February 18, 2022 … at 8:05 pm for those nerds who like me, really like numbers.]
Have you ever had a life experience where you are REALLY trying to do ONE THING and in the process you discover COUNTLESS other things “getting in the way?”
This is all very meta (the non-Facebook kind … eck ) and as I’m discovering more of my own “missing links” in life, I’m concurrently rebuilding the “missing links” on this site.
I’m building out a whole platform and am going to be focusing on audio and visual as well with the awareness of now what I have and what I can create with it.
I’ve learned EXACTLY how different I am and I finally have the words to be able to communicate what it all means.
After I found out about the horrid behavior of the Human Lie Detector via googling him, the next obvious step was to call my (other) therapist to talk about it.
She’s the one I sent this email to …
The Human Lie Detector arrogantly “declared” I had to have a therapist on call while going through “his” program.
He technically speaking wasn’t wrong. I did need to call her.
She was able to squeeze me in right away as I caught her up to speed.
“So, that program I emailed you about-” she cut me off.
“What program,” she asked confused?
“Did you not get my email?”
“No, I switched emails – too much spam.”
“Now that’s funny,” I said. “I’ll give you the cliff notes.”
I then told her about the autism discovery, being naturally gifted at reading body language, and how much it is changing my life because I LITERALLY see things other people cannot.
I’m not only experiencing less frustration, but I’m gentler on myself and others about the fact that I might be picking up on “more than meets the eye.”
“What do you see exactly?” she asked knowing about the stalking, but did not know about my newfound way of describing it.
I see shapes in people. It’s super simple – it’s just an outline. It’s a cookie cutter that I can only compare to being a fingerprint. I don’t need to see any other details about the person to know who it is.
this is how i see people normally …
“Normal” people have a shape around them very close to their body.
Since every body has its own shape, its unique … like a fingerprint.
this is how i see the stalkers …
The shapes are further away from their body and the shape is identical.
I’ve never seen identical shapes in people before this life experience, which is how I knew it was odd and that something was ABSOLUTELY happening … and somehow these people are all connected.
Sometimes I recognize shapes so fast, my brain doesn’t even process the words before my mouth is blurting out “hi, so and so.”
The shapes are automatic, and occur naturally.
I’m not sitting there creating a shape to put around someone, it already exists … I just see said existence.
“What you’re describing is a condition called synesthesia.
“It’s more common in people with autism and is genetic.”
wait, the shapes aren’t because i’m autistic?!?!
this diagnosis is like one of those cheesy commercials where someone goes “but wait there’s more”…
Are you left handed? she asked.
“Yes, but I was forced to write with my right hand by my first grade teacher and now still to this day hold a pencil or pen like it’s a crayon.
Women and specifically left handed women are more likely to have synesthesia.
“In the simplest terms, your wires are crossed. When your brain should be experiencing one sense, it’s actually experiencing another.”
Here’s some background info …
For those who receive info via the written word:
Synesthesia is a sensory phenomenon where certain domain-specific stimuli trigger additional sensations of e.g. color or texture. The condition occurs in about 4% of the general population, but is overrepresented in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), where it might also be associated with the presence of prodigious talents.
And for our visual/ auditory folks in the back:
“Do you see colors when people say words?”
“Only once when I said.
“I thought I was being given molly at an S&M club and instead was given both molly and acid. I had never done psychedelics before, so when I was hog tied by the Dom Phoenix my chin hit the cold plate and the words to Prince’s KISS appeared in front of my eyes in colored letters.
I could barely speak and couldn’t even look down at my phone without seeing a rainbow.
Super douchey to surprise anyone with a drug they don’t know they are taking.
Oddly, I’ve never had an experience like that since on acid and now only see the guy who gave it to me periodically when I’m scrolling through porn sites.
It’s frustrating how popular he still is.”
I think she thought I was kidding (I’m not … you can read about it here) …
I continued …
“Is that why when I write I hear notes?”
“You ‘hear notes?’”
“Yes,” I said still in shock and feeling very vulnerable admitting something I consider so personal (and almost sacred).
‘It’s my writing process. I’m like a composer … but of words. I know where the beats and breaks are and use gifs based on the tones I hear. Not from the sound of the word but of the post entirely – this is why I start every post off with “maestro” and a song.
I listen to the song on repeat over and over while I write, and sometimes musically even add little Easter eggs for my own shits and giggles.
The average internet “read” time is one minute. What I write in terms of content (depending on length) has a read time from anywhere between seven to 10 minutes; I have the data.
I believe you, she said. And that makes sense if you’re hearing music people reading must pick up on the “tone” you’re playing without even realizing it.
“And I know I experience tones differently.”
Struggling to describe what I experience, I said “I think that might be the way to describe it.”
“What do you mean?”
“With certain voices, I can isolate the words from the tone and it creates a response in my body.
It’s how I fall asleep to Unsolved Mysteries every night.
Robert Stack’s voice does something to my body.
Well, technically speaking, I stopped watching it for almost a year after my neighbor’s murder.
I was listening to it when he was shot.
I thought it was the TV … but again, I was only focused on the voice.
It has a very real and physical effect on my body.
In other instances, tones can lead to smells.
I don’t actually taste it (in the sense that I am eating something and have food not only in my teeth but digested into my belly).
The best way I can describe it is like this … when you have Girl Scout Cookies. There’s a very specific taste associated with the GSC brand.”
“Okay, so now imagine someone is talking and their tone of voice pings your brain with the memory of what a thin mint Girl Scout Cookie tastes like. The tone generates a taste but I’m not literally eating a Girl Scout Cookie, it just tells my brain, Girl Scout Cookie thin mint and my mouth responds with the memory of eating one.
Depending upon the food, my mouth will even water or get really dry.
in that moment, i felt really proud of myself being able to describe something i’ve experienced my entire life but never knew to put words to.
Understanding what I was saying I continued, “the cause and effect of it can have some pretty hilarious real life consequences.
I get very very specific cravings. I’m assuming it’s because of how the tones and pitches are physically affecting my body.”
It might be, she said.
I sat in the session going over more and more sensations that my body experiences that I had no idea were different from everyone else.
It must have reflected on my face as she said, “don’t worry, you’re not mentally ill and all this means is that you really are a genius (now in more ways than one).
You have visual and intellectual capabilities that people who have all the money in the world could never buy.
In fact, with synesthesia you’re also going to have higher emotional responses and have unbound creative potential.
This doesn’t change who you are, it changes your awareness in understanding how you absorb information and choose how you live your life.
I’m sorry if this is coming off as shocking, but none of this surprises me about you. It took an unfortunately horrible life experience for you for this to come to the surface.
And now, you know! It’s up to you what to do with it.”
I know I should have felt happy in that moment, but in reality I was angry.
Since I was already in therapy, I made sure to mention it.
“HOW HAVE I MET WITH AS MANY MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS AS I HAVE OVER THE YEARS AND NONE OF THIS CAME UP?!”
I remained quiet as she told me more about my “other” stupid newfound genius label.
It was the same feeling I had the day I found out I am autistic.
It’s this “heaviness” of identity and now AHA! you aren’t “special” you just have these two … “gifts” … one based on being one degree above dead for the first five minutes of your life and the other because of genetic predisposition.
I don’t actually need the validation on “being special” from myself or anyone else.
I know that I am, it’s something inside of me that already exists much like the shapes that exist outside of other people’s bodies.
knowing you have an x factor is one thing, but when it gets solved over a zoom call you can’t help but wish it wasn’t so anticlimactic.
Frustrations aside, I continued …
“I can play music by ear,” I said. “Is that also because of synesthesia?”
It could be.
Sensing I was going through an internal audit she closed out the session, “I don’t want to overwhelm you with anything more. Again, you really do need to see this as a blessing.”
The guy you were working with on body language didn’t tell you any of this?
“No,” I said. And I forgot to tell you that he was part of a kidnapping a few decades back. I found it out via my gf and stopped working with him immediately.
I read her the email out loud:
“Wait, you were working on body language stuff with the guy who was involved in the kidnapping in Thailand?”
No, different instance of kidnapping and I think I’m going to need another session to work on what that means.
Jeff came home shortly after.
He too saw I had a funny look on my face and asked how everything went.
Well, I said, it’s true.
Remember when I said that murder is the sub-plot in our lives now? I forgot to even mention in therapy that I was just interviewed for 41 minutes in the murder investigation.
He laughed at the ridiculousness of that statement.
And, I have something called synesthesia.
Autism is what has helped me become an engineer, and synesthesia is why our apartment looks so epically cool and weird.
My senses are crossed and I had no idea.
“So what about your clothes? Is that because of autism or synesthesia?”
That’s because of me and you’re welcome.
Oh and it also makes sense why this is one of my all time favorite songs.
I really do have music in me …
time to play it loudly … or quietly depending upon how much stimulation i’ve had that day.
If you think you have synesthesia, please reach out if you want to learn more or speak to my doctor in Los Angeles who can help you get a formal diagnosis.
(Unfortunately, I don’t know where she is and isn’t allowed to practice so I can’t say she can help any one in any other cities, but I’m still happy to talk to you!!)
Email: jen at talknerdytome dot com