Synesthesia

•November 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Ironically, for someone who is obsessed with suicide, for the last couple of days I’ve been better.

I’ve always had synesthesia.  I used to take all 64 crayons in the Crayola box and play with them as though they were people.  White, who is an old woman, married black, who is a man (though not old).  Letters have colors; numbers have colors; everything is alive.

My buddy Justin knows I have it, so he frequently forwards me articles about it, which is why I read this article last Thursday:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8248589.stm

It’s focused on a form of synesthesia which sounds amazingly cool but which I don’t have.    But these paragraphs grabbed my attention:

Two others are much rarer and perhaps even more bizarre.

Dr Simner explains: “There is one called ordinal-linguistic personification. So letters or numbers trigger, not colour, but the impression of a personality or gender.

“So, you don’t know that number seven is green, but you know that it’s a maniacal husband who comes home from work and shouts at his wife.

“You might not have a colour for Thursday, but you know that it’s a young girl who has spent too long kept in the house and wants to break out into the world.”

Another variant recently come to light is called mirror touch synaesthesia. This causes people to experience sensations of touch when they see other people being touched.

“So if I sat in front of you and scratched my nose, you would feel a scratch on your nose,” explains Dr Simner. Psychologists have linked this to a greater sense of empathy.

Yeah, well, duh.  Sure, I personify numbers and letters, but I didn’t know that was synesthesia, although it’s always been part of how I viewed them along with the colors.

But the one that freaked me out was the touch one.  If you sat in front of me and touched your nose, would I feel it?  Yes.  Wow.  Weird.

It’s not that I didn’t know that I felt things when other people do them.  I’ve known that for a long time.  I remember first watching the rather pathetic Empath episode of the original Star Trek back in the 1970s and thinking, well, yeah, that would be worse than what I already have.

Why did finding out about mirror touch synesthesia help me feel better about myself?  Imagine that for at least 52 years, you’ve felt it when other people touched their faces or scratched or hurt themselves.   On top of all the other things that make you weird, you have this weirdness you have to learn to deal with.  But when you read one of the few articles available on the subject (since they only discovered it in 2007), you learn that they even have a hypothesis of why it happens–mirror neurons may be involved.  There’s a physiological reason for your weirdness.

The only analogy I have to this feeling is when my son was tested for food allergies and, in looking over his results, I realized a possible reason for why freshly baked bread gives me a stomachache–he was allergic to yeast.

And so I started chronicling the weirdness with Justin.

The first thing I came up with was an encounter a couple of weeks ago when he touched his face 5 times during our brief conversation and because I felt it, I thought he’d notice that I was touching mine right after him.

As we walked down the hall, he purposely touched his cheek, and I felt it.

And so I’ve been chronicling the weirdness of being a mirror-touch synesthete.

For example, my brother curls his toes under–it used to annoy me because I felt it.

When my kids crack their knuckles, I feel it, so I ask them not to do that in front of me.

If a ballet dancer dances en pointe, I block my view of his feet.

My ex-husband learned that he could annoy me by touching himself on the space between his nose and upper lip.  It made that space on me tickle.

This morning, there were more revelations.  One day I found myself overcome with lust for Justin, whom I previously hadn’t looked at with lust, when he raised his arms above his head, revealing his abdomen, which he then touched.  I felt an overwhelming desire to touch and kiss his abdomen.

A couple of weeks ago, Justin was playing with a wig.  He said he enjoyed having long hair, but since the wig wasn’t attached, hair kept falling into his eyes, so he kept readjusting it.  I was really annoyed by it and wanted him to stop, but I didn’t realize that my annoyance sprung from the fact that I could feel the wig slipping around on my own head.

But the most important revelation for me was that one reason I can’t stand to eat around other people is because I feel it when I watch them eat, and especially if they’re eating meat, I feel disgusted (I’ve been a vegetarian for decades).

When you feel it physically when others touch themselves; when the numbers and letters have colors and personalities and gender; when everything is alive and dancing around you, with Shinto-like spirits in every tree and rock–it  makes you feel estranged from the rest of humans and gives you a bizarre worldview, a sense of omnipotence in your belief that you know exactly what everyone needs from you at any given time.

More chronicles to come.

Latest suicidal fantasy

•September 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve always been allergic to watermelon.  The juice makes my skin red, my throat itchy, and gives me a stomachache.  I’ve always eaten it anyway because it tastes good.  But the last couple of times I’ve eaten watermelon or canteloupe, I had a much more severe reaction which included pain, a rash, sneezing, and about an hour of lethargy where I had to lie down.   Walnuts have always made me sick, but this summer I grabbed a handful of mixed nuts from one of my daughter’s cans and had the same reaction.  So my latest idea for suicide is to just pig out on watermelon, canteloupe, and nuts until I go into anaphylactic shock.  Combine that with some sort of drug, and I should be able to make my exit.

Sighs of resignation

•July 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been using a Fujitsu ScanSnap to digitize all my documents.    By doing that, I’ve discovered that these are common phrases in my writing over the past 4 decades:  “oh, well”  “anyway” “whatever.”

Oh, well, it didn’t work out again.  Oh, well, you have fun while I’m stuck here.

Take this dog–please.  I’ve had Justin’s dog for 5 weeks.  He doesn’t have a place yet, so I’m stuck walking his dog every morning between 4:30 and 6:00 a.m., depending on when the dog wakes up.  The dog loves me, and I love the dog, but I’m such an idiot to take care of him.  It means that I occasionally see Justin, who reports on his river rafting trips, the girls he’s encountered, and  concerts he’s attended.

This morning, we walked in a thunderstorm and I, of course, wanted to die.   An accident would be fine.   Getting struck by lightning would be fine.

According to the countdown clock I have on my iGoogle page, I’m stuck here for 3 years and 21 days more.

Oh, well.  Back to work.

Cemetery cousins

•May 30, 2009 • 1 Comment

On Memorial Day, we decorated graves.  I didn’t even get to it last year, and every year it seems more meaningless, but my mother wanted to, so up the hill we went.  

At the cemetery, we ran into my cousins who live 60 miles away.  My cousin and I only have a few genes and ancestors in common, but I’ve always liked her.  She looks much older than I do, mostly because she’s smoked cigarettes for years while I’ve been hiding away from sun and expensive vices.  

She told us about going on her daughter’s wedding cruise for 8 days.  I didn’t even know she had a daughter, let alone that she was married.  

It’s odd running into people every year or two at the cemetery on Memorial Day.  I met a cousin a few years ago who was looking at our mutual great-great-great-grandfather’s grave.  She emailed me for awhile, but when I declined her invitation to set me up with a friend of hers, she never bothered again. 

This nearly random running into relatives, or finding out that your brother visited town, but didn’t bother to see you–it’s all part of the isolation of my life, the way I am not worthy of being a friend or having a close relationship with anyone, but hey, at least some of them, like my smoker cousin,  say hello.

Using Google Calendar

•May 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I realized today that you can add an event 3 years in the future to Google Calendar, so I added “die” to August 10, 2012.  It felt good to flip through the years, but 2011 seems as though it will last a little longer than the rest of them.  Maybe that’s because Justin plans to be gone then.

Tonight, I get “our” dog, which unfortunately, Justin is still talking about giving away.   The dog whines when he’s left without one of us, and his friend’s neighbors are complaining, so the dog has to stay with me tonight.  I hope he figures out a way to keep this dog because the dog is practically perfect (what’s a little howling amid the noise that surrounds us?).

This helped

•May 19, 2009 • 1 Comment

I subscribe to a lot of blogs, perhaps because they give me a feeling of community.   I was able to quell some of my anxiety about having Justin as a friend when I read this at the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog:  

“If you’ve suffered from traumas such as major depression or panic attacks, [that] conditions you to believe that uncomfortable emotions mean you are going to suffer…again.”

Since my outlook on life is based on rejection–when will I be fired?  when will this person decide they don’t like me?–it’s difficult to wait for the rejection.  It’s easier to just give up.  

I asked Justin in an email a couple of weeks ago if, once we were no longer in a band together, we could taper it off into nothingness, and he replied “No such luck with the whole taper thing…”  That is scary.  In the past, I didn’t even realize what I was doing (and sometimes still don’t know what I did) to end a friendship.  What if I do something without meaning to and hurt this kind human who is currently my friend?  I’d rather just end it now and get it over with, but maybe he is the one person who would stick around.  

At the moment, though, it helps to realize that he is not my former friend Timothy, nor my former therapist Bob–the one I filed a complaint against–and rejection isn’t necessarily imminent.   I am so uncomfortable having a friend that I want to run away (e.g., kill myself sooner), but the truth is that I feel happier in his presence.  I just have to calm down.

Friends

•May 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I don’t really know how to have friends, and at the moment I appear to have two, which is more anxiety-inducing and frightening than helpful.  

Yesterday, I tagged along with Justin on a trip to the pet store and I realized what a mistake that was.  It was one of our few out-of-school journeys thus far, and between talking too much and almost talking about suicide and generally feeling in the way, I came home a wreck, more determined than ever not to hang out with him or Lynn this summer.   Realistically, I can see that I wasn’t that bad, but the perception of my stupidity made it a painful encounter.

Justin took the signature strengths test at http://www.authentichappiness.org and one of his signature strengths is kindness.   I figure that’s why he’s kind to me.

This morning they dropped by to see me and encourage me to go hiking with them and Justin’s dog, and I told them no.  I wish I never had to see either of them again.  One more week of school, and that should be the end.

I did come up with a new mantra to get through the summer:  “Every day that I’m alive is an advantage to my children.”  Can’t leave now–they’ll be stuck with that jerk and they won’t get a big enough monthly check from my retirement.  Gotta stick around.  Best way to do that–avoid the turmoil from having friends.

 
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