Unique Sense: My Life as a Synesthete

The Beginnings: A 14-year-old's World Changes

What was I watching? I knew - logically, I knew - that the short clip playing on my parents' television was a documentary. But it was so much more than that for me. I didn't realize immediately, but by the time that documentary had ended, a whole new world had suddenly opened up to me. One word echoed in my brain.

Synesthesia.

-- 20 Minutes Earlier --

My father had summoned me to his room. With a good-natured roll of my eyes I walked down the hallway. He probably wanted to tell me about a new WordPerfect feature he had just "discovered" or ask me to help him with a song for church on Sunday. I would either be in and out in seconds or in an hour. I could never tell with him.

When I entered, I found my parents both there waiting for me. With little said, my father told me to look at his television screen. A cluster of 2s and 5s on a white background met my eyes, but they were digital 2s and 5s so that they were difficult to tell apart. My father's simple request: find the pattern of 2s in the cluster of 5s. After a few seconds, I pointed the shape out. How had I found the pattern so quickly? he had asked. 2s were blue. 5s were green. No big deal. ... Right? When I looked at my father, he had an excited smile on his face. He had recorded a documentary, he said, and now he wanted me to watch it. So I sat there, and as the documentary continued I began to grow more than interested. I was shocked. Stunned. Amazed. Awestruck.

Synesthesia.

I spent as little time in my parents' room after the recording concluded. As soon as I was out of there, I darted back to my bedroom and did a Google search. Overwhelmed is the only word to describe that feeling. So much information and so many personal accounts appeared after one click of a button that I could hardly think of anything else for weeks. How had I never noticed my unique experience of the world before?

My response to the pain shooting through my leg.
My response to the pain shooting through my leg.

What I found out

Well, I did some serious Googling and found out a lot about synesthesia and about myself. As entertaining as facts can be, I won't repost those here; all the definitions and fun little tidbits about synesthesia in my previous Hub. I'll let you read those again at your leisure because I bet you're wanting some examples. I bet you're wondering what it's a day in the life of a regular synee is like, aren't you? I can't vouch for all synesthetes, but I can offer you a glimpse into my own daily experiences. You already know how I discovered my synesthesia. You also know the information I found over the following weeks, months, and years through researching on the computer and through my own personal experiences. Now, here are some capsules about my own synesthesia and recent experiences of mine.

I am an associator. None of my responses are projected. This means I see everything in my mind's eye. Someone on the Nexus (I'm sorry, I forget who) was trying to describe what their associated syn was like, and I found the analogy perfect. Imagine you are watching a black and white television show. Now, you see the white, black, and everything in between. But doesn't your mind automatically fill in the green of the grass and the brown of his shirt? That is what my associated syn is like. I see black letters on the screen just like you, but my mind automatically fills in the colors so I see both the black and the colors separately but at the same time. That is a really hard concept to work past if you aren't used to it, but it's possible. Trust me.

My syn types:

  • Grapheme -> color: This was the type I first learned I had. My alphabet and numbers have colors. Uppercase and lowercase letters generally have the same color (ex. all Es re yellow and Ts brown) except for A. R and Vv are multi-colored. I have all three letters in the pictures further up in this Hub.
  • Grapheme -> personality: This is only a potential one. I doubt I have it because I feel like almost every letter is male. Only a handful have some personality at all that I can pick out.
  • Sound -> color, shape: This is one I've been trying to pin down for a while. I would have a response or two that I would suddenly notice, but I wouldn't be sure if it was just my imagination or not. I'm growing more certain that it really is sound-syn. Music or sounds like alarms can have color and shape for me. A cymbal on the drum set at my church is shimmery purple.
  • Touch -> color, shape: When I get my eyebrows done and the cosmetologist touches my eyebrows or forehead in a certain spot, my lower back right at my waist tingles and I 'see' a bunch of silver along where it tingles.
  • Pain -> color, shape: Pain is a sub-type of touch-syn. For me, headaches and things mostly have only color. One time, though, a pain shot from my ankle to my knee for about 20 seconds. It was bright yellow and looked like a single bolt of lightning.
  • Taste -> color, shape(?): I really don't know about this one. I've only ever had three or four noticeable experiences. One happened the other day when I was chewing a piece of gum. I had gotten the second-to-last piece, and as I sat in the car I wondered, "Does this gum taste different? It's never looked like that before." It looked like a sort of light green-blue, and it had never been a noticeably light color like that before. I'm still testing this type out, though.

I LOVE MY SYN! Every synee will tell you this, but I'm reiterating it one more time. I love my syn and wouldn't get rid of it because, for me, it would be like losing one of my five senses. I live every day seeing colors for things I read, hear, and feel. Though I usually pay little attention to these things because they are so normal, every new day could bring a new discovery. That's one thing that, in my opinion, makes have syn such a fun gift!

My response to vocal lead and harmony parts. The closer the harmony parts, the more the lines overlap. The more prominent the lead vocals, the darker and bigger it tends to be, while the harmonies are smaller and lighter.
My response to vocal lead and harmony parts. The closer the harmony parts, the more the lines overlap. The more prominent the lead vocals, the darker and bigger it tends to be, while the harmonies are smaller and lighter.

A Day in the Life of 'Lisha

I will describe a typical Sunday for me. I wake up to one of my alarms on my cell phone: a nice little jingle that ... well, isn't so nice at 7 AM. As much as I want to go back to bed, I disable the alarm and crawl out of bed and into the shower. By 7:30 I am dressed and getting my youngest brother up so he, Dad, and I can leave the house by 8.

Worship practice is at 8:15 or 8:30, depending on when everyone gets there and gets tuned up. The sounds generally go unnoticed by me, either because I have no response to them or because they are normal and I'm not paying attention to them. However, I always look forward to hitting the Shim Cym ... er... the 16" cymbal on the church's drum set. I call it the 'shim cym' because it sounds shimmery and purple when I hit it. The drums are shades of brown, tan, or orange-brown with some grey for the 14" cymbal, the hi-hat, and the snare. The deeper the pitch of the toms, the darker the brown. The different guitars our lead guitarist brings are so wonderful to listen to, even when I don't notice colors! The keyboard plays (very loudly) beside me, and the rhythm guitar strums away as always. When the harmonica or mandolin comes in, I am even happier! Today (a Sunday), our other guitarist plucked out part of a hymn on his guitar, and I saw a beautiful light brown. Oh, and the singers' harmonies keep a smile on my face no matter how badly my drumming or singing gets!

Well, our practice is done and now I sit through Sunday School. I don't notice much of anything syn-wise, but the lessons are always interesting. 10:30 rolls around, and we perform our first four songs. Then our preacher gets up, and I listen to his awesome sermons. We sing an invitation song, play through it instrumentally during communion, then close out our service with a final fun song. After the service, I chat with others until we have to leave. So far, other than the music, nothing too syn-related, right? That's because it's so normal to me. I see all the colors of the words I read, but those don't hardly cross my mind. They register, then fade. The same is true with the worship music. Most of it registers, then fades.

I go home and continue my daily life. Loud sounds sometimes catch my attention, and sudden silences in my chaotic household often take me by surprise for more reasons than it is simply quiet; the sudden disappearance of background noise and colors makes the world feel empty or two-dimensional. The sound of a candy wrapper then opening sounds medium-grey and ripply. The sound of the television turning on is a lighter grey spot that grows then recedes. Everything else then registers and fades.

So on and so forth in the life of 'Lisha Danae. As you can see, a day in the life of a regular synesthete isn't always jam-packed full of amazing responses. Well, it may seem that way to you when you first think about it, but really not much is happening. I'm just living like I always do, 6th sense and all. I don't normally pay much attention to my responses. When I do notice them, though, it makes me smile. I wouldn't give it up for anything. It's a gift, and I'm blessed to have it!

This is 'Lisha Danae saying "navy blue - silver - yellow!" ("B-Y-E!")

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Comments 10 comments

Wolf Lover 5 years ago

Hi, I just read your article! I came along it while I was doing research for a project that I'm doing with four of my other friends for a science project. I don't have synesthesia, but I think it's really interesting! :) I had heard about it two years ago, but I was convinced by one of my past teachers that it was fake. Later, I came acroos it in another book and I thought,"Why don't I try and find if this is real or not!" To my happiness, I was able to prove my old teacher wrong!

On another subject, are you left-handed? I read that most synees are left-handed. Also, do you enjoy drawing? Some of the greatest artists were, unknowingly, synesthetes. Alright, I just though you might want to know that I found your article very, REALLY, interesting. Okay, 'Bye!


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 5 years ago Author

Wolf Lover: I'm glad you enjoyed the article, and congrats on disproving your teacher! Synesthesia is definitely very real, and it's sad to hear about someone, especially in such a position, discrediting it. Thanks for doing your own research! I hope your project is going/went well.

No, I am not left-handed, and I'm not much of an artist, although I do enjoy creating my own aliens (thanks to my old Sci-Fi teacher). I would urge you away from stereotypes/generalizations like that, though. In the article I mentioned the synesthesia forum called "the Nexus" (it can be found here: http://www.mixsig.net/nexus/index.php). On that forum there are a lot of topics that discuss these stereotypes/generalizations and whether or not they are true. I recommend taking a look at some of them and some of the other posts if you're interested. Also, it's a great place to ask other synesthetes and even non-synesthetes about their experiences with syn and just have a good time! But I digress. Thanks for your post and for spreading the word about synesthesia around!


Wolf Lover 5 years ago

My project's supposed to be due today or tomorrow. Wowzers, I didn't think you would actually answer my comment! I feel special now... :) I also feel really special to have been able to briefly talk to a synesthete! I can't believe nobody commented on your article yet, it's really well-written! I love talking to people about Synesthesia, I think it's the coolest thing ever! I don't have Synesthesia, but I wish I did.

P.S. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to draw!


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 5 years ago Author

Well, good luck! I'm sure it's great. (How could it not be, though, when it's on such a unique topic?) And, thanks. I'm glad you like the article. It means a lot to hear it's well-written.

Yeah, synesthesia is pretty cool, but it'd be cooler if I actually noticed it instead of it blending in with everything else. Ha ha! Talking with synees is always great fun. I know everyone on the Nexus loves to talk about it, and I'm more than willing to chat about it or answer questions, too, if you want. Just drop me an email!


Ender 5 years ago

Hehe, nice video.

:)


'Lisha Danae profile image

'Lisha Danae 5 years ago Author

Ender: Thanks. I think it really showcases my expert graphics and video editing skills. ;)


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

I love my synesthesia, too! It's really awesome to "see" really cool colors and patterning. I'm an associator, so the colors and so on don't block my vision but I still picture them. Plus, asking people if letters and numbers have personalities to them is a great icebreaker and a good way to get people talking. :)


The 11th Doctor profile image

The 11th Doctor 4 years ago from Gallifrey. Duh.

People went crazy when they found your list, Dragupine! They were more insane than usual!


dragupine profile image

dragupine 4 years ago

I know right? and then they all were like, "hey massie what's my color? What's my color? What's my color?" and so finally i gave up and gave the the list of names I had written down one time when I was bored.


Bruce 2 years ago

here is link to my film about synesthesia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cmRcnlL1kA

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