Tickertape Synesthesia and my autistic brain.
We're at the point of technological advances where I probably have to explain what a tickertape is to some people. A rolling tickertape is also what live news reports have, scrolling from right to left with new information. And that's the most simplified way of explaining what I see in my mind's eye. The picture above looks like me searching for information I've once heard, read through synesthesia and stored away on a script like a mental microfiche. Now you have a vague idea. I'll start at the beginning...
I was sat, cross-legged on the itchy carpet in my itchy tights. impatient with excitement. Spellings were my favourite part of the day in nursery. My fingers drummed the nylon mat, waiting to shoot my arm up as high as I could.
'C-A-T...' the teacher's hand was moving past the chalk letters too slowly, I was ready to go.
"CAT!" I knew that one, it was easy.
Okay, I know 'sat' and 'mat' too. C'mon, Mrs Edwards, I'm bored here. She obviously grew a bit weary of me answering the questions so she started an extension activity at the end, just for me to answer.
"Teacher! Hospital! School!"
Yes, yawn. I knew all these words, too. But I didn't accept the praise of 'clever girl' very well. You see, I could see these words in my mind's eye. Like an instantaneous Rolodex (another antiquity lol).
My A Level Psychology tutor briefly explained synesthesia to us once because he hasd Chromesthesia, seeing colours when he heard sounds.
Mine isn't as colourful. Looking at a blank wall, I 'see' the words: wall, plaster, magnolia, paint, bricks, cool, smooth. The associations drop onto my mind's eye like raindrops on a car windscreen. They dribble away if I don't concentrate to 'hold' onto them, by mentally pinning them down.
Apart from pinning them down at will, there isn't a need for concentration to have these present. Just like seeing the colour green doesn't require concentration, it's something we do from a young age and is natural to us. That's as intrinsic as my 'subtitles' are to me. I've not known consciousness of being without them.
It's difficult to win an argument with me, or tell me I'm wrong about what so-and-so said, or claim I'm misquoting a fact. Not through arrogance, but because my brain stores things like scripts until I need them again.
"I'm not wrong, she said last time we spoke that it was 10% not 15%. I can SEE it!"
I can't recall a time when my subtitles were wrong. My synesthesia is useful. I often get asked if it's distracting. But they aren't visually solid, or obstructive. They're opaque if I'm concentrating and will often be barely visible at the bottom of my mind's eye's 'screen' if I'm really working on something.
Top picture: If I'm tired or not really in need of 'subtitles'.
Bottom picture: If I'm just waking or I don't understand the language being spoken.
When discussing this on Twitter before I was asked if I'd seen 'Sherlock'. I hadn't. We finished talking and I forgot all about it. One night my husband decided to give the series a try and I joined in as 'The Hounds of Baskerville' had just started. It didn't take long before I saw his synesthesia at work. On the spot, I burst into tears of relief. Imagine people questioning the colour green all your life then you see it for the first time on TV. It was HUGE for me. How Sherlock's mind draws up past information to the forefront, the white font of varying opacity, it was like the writers had seen into my mind.
Ever since, I've been a lot more at peace with my synesthesia, knowing i have a point of reference accessible to friends and family.
My son may be showing traits, too. From an age where he 'shouldn't' be able to read, he has been spelling and reading words. He often spells the words he's thinking of and he seems to favour white font. Only time will tell...
I've heard that synesthesia occurs more in autistic people and would certainly like to talk to more people who have these creative brain wirings!
Thanks for reading.