Synesthesia

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.

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~ by judeincolorado on November 3, 2009.

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