Living with Synesthesia

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. I’m terrible at this, I realize. I have all these wonderful ideas bouncing around in my head, but I can’t seem to catch it long enough and force it down onto paper or computer screen. Or, if I do manage to pin it down, I lose the inspiration because I can’t get the wording quite right.

One thing I have realized is writing in this day and age is intimidating. Perhaps I should reword that and say Writing is intimidating. Everyone has an opinion on what is “good” writing and what is “bad” writing, and often times people pass off an opinion as constructive criticism. What I mean is…. If you take three people and make them read the same article, they’re all going to have different opinions on it based on different experiences. So how can we really tell what’s good and what isn’t? I guess that’s a blog for another time. Today I’m going to talk about synesthesia.

Until a few years ago, I didn’t realize that my way of thinking was any different from the people around me. I thought everyone had the same thought processes. For example, I think in pictures. I thought everyone did until I was talking to my mom about it, and she informed me she thinks in words. So when I start discovering that not everyone thinks of things in terms of music, my mind was a bit blown.

For those of you who aren’t aware, synesthesia is a mental condition where one sense is crossed with another one. Most commonly people will hear colors, see sounds, and so forth. To me, everything has a sound.

Foods have pitches. Chocolate has a lower sound, while anything acidic (like a lemon) has a higher pitch. Rice, or any other bland food, has a quiet note somewhere in the middle. Colors are the same way for me. I’ll describe the different shades of blues in terms of sounds. Darker blues have lower pitches, lighter blues higher pitches.

But what makes synesthesia so difficult for me? Trying to write. That’s right, the writer has a problem with writing because music gets in the way.

Indeed, if you listen to a conversation, and listen to the sounds rather than the words, you begin to realize that conversations are almost like a song. There is a certain rhythm that accompanies speech. You can tell if a sentence is a question, a comment, or an exclamation based on how the sentence sounds. It is almost like visually seeing it written down if only people listen. So when I try to write, in my mind, I’m composing a symphony. My words need to ebb and flow just right, and come together to form a masterpiece. This makes it difficult to proofread other people’s work, because their music sounds different than my own.

Because this blog is being written quickly and off the top of my head, the music sounds and feels whimsical, almost nonsensical. It’s a bit choppy in places where I’d like to extend the notes, but can think of nothing else to add to that section. As I concentrate on the way the music plays in my mind, my sentences begin to grow longer and less choppy, evening out the music. Suddenly the blog begins to take on a different melody, and I can feel a world opening up beneath my fingertips.

The real struggle I have, however, is anything dealing with numbers. It doesn’t help, I should add, that I have a bit of discalculia, or number dyslexia. To me, an equation doesn’t have a flowing sound. Numbers, ironically, sound very choppy and very disorganized. If a one has a low sound, and a nine has a high sound, they don’t go well together, even if they do make ten when added together. I have to wonder if I’d known this problem and recognized it for what it was when I was in school, would I have done better? Could I have found a way to work around it or better work with it? Sometimes problems are better solved by not working around it, but rather finding a way to use a disadvantage as an advantage. That’s probably why I need to do things “my way” rather than how people tell me to, because their rhythm and way of thinking is completely different than my own.

Why is this important to me? Important enough to write a blog about? Because my life has changed exponentially since I finally began to realize and embrace the differences in my mind. Understanding that our minds work differently than our friends can also help us examine situations from multiple points of view, especially if you are like my friends and have conversations about how you think.

Once you figure out the way your mind works, a new world of possibilities begins to open up for you, and multiple paths stretch ahead. Deeper thinking leads to better problem solving.

What I have is only one form of synesthesia, mind you. There are many different combinations! Scientists are still trying to figure out precisely why it happens, and what to do about it. Personally, I don’t want my inner music taken away, so I’m hoping they don’t find a “fix” for it any time soon. If they do, I’ll avoid it. Simple as that.

The world is a magical place if only we take the time to look and see it as such.

For those of you reading this who may be curious as to what synesthesia is, or suspect that you may have it as well, I encourage you to do your own independent research and learn as much as you can. It can make life a bit more difficult, but it can also make it a bit more interesting as well. Perspective matters.

You can begin your research by checking out the following website: https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/syne.html

I hope I’ve helped someone at least a little bit. Or, at the very least, educated someone on what it’s like living with synesthesia.

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