What is a synesthete?

Synesthesia: a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report a lifelong history of such experiences are known as synesthetes. (thanks, Wikipedia!)

I call myself a silent synesthete because I don’t talk about it. Most people in my life do not know I have this extra sensory experience happening within me.

I never even knew this was a thing until I was 21. At that time I was describing to a friend of mine how when I think of numbers or letters I see them in certain colors; how when I think about the days of the week or the months of the year I visualize them on a mobius strip in a designated color; how when I talk I see the words scrolling in the very front of my brain. He surprised me by saying that he did not have this experience at all, nor did he believe that most people would think this was typical.  I remember shrugging it off, mildly intrigued at how differently people think.  My friend was weirded out and did some research on his own. A few days later he informed me that I was a synesthete.

Some people have incredible synethesia super powers like being able to see music or smell shapes. I did see music once at a Phish concert, but I’m sure it was the mushrooms I ate.  I have the most pedestrian form of synesthesia, and I’m happy with that.

I remember trying to color the alphabet to show my mom what I could “see” for each letter as a child. This never worked. In my mind the colors are clear, but if I try to put them down on paper I am never truly able to discern the exact color I need. The color is more a feeling of a color rather than a concrete representation. If I concentrate too hard the image fades. It’s like trying to chase then physically grasp an idea with my hands.

I wish I could say that this makes me special. I think instead that it is illustrative of how everything in life – and inside my mind – is connected and jumbled up in a crazy heap of colors, sounds and complicated visions. So, welcome to my blog. Which I’m assuming will also be a crazy beautiful mess (mostly in shades of red and blue).

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