I have synesthesia. 🤍
Specifically: ordinal-linguistic personification (OLP).
For those new to the terms, synesthesia is a genetic neurological🧠 condition “in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (for example, hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (such as vision). Simply put, when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time.” [Thanks, Goo-gal.]
The type I have (OLP) means all of my alphabet letters🔠 and numbers🔢 have personalities (and some assigned colors that I can’t not associate them with.)
The best guess is that 1-2% of the population has it, but I think it’s much higher⬆️, because a lot of people don’t know it’s a thing and think it’s normal🧐. It literally took until I was total adult status before I was informed it was a thing that a few others had, and that there was some research into it. Imagine my shock😱! (From freak to kindred spirit in no time flat!)
Now that I’ve said all that, I’m being raw and open today and just putting out there the latest synesthesia-caused developments in my life👩🏻💻.
My reading, writing, mathematical skills have all been impacted by OLP all my life. It takes a process to spell words, read words, and do math. In some cases, a process that is 2 to 4 times longer⏱ than my counterparts.
To learn to read📖, I memorized the “soap opera” that was playing out🎭 between my letters alongside basic phonics. But basic phonics was a failsafe. “Feeling” my way through words was much safer🌷, much easier. To this day, I can take any word and tell you what “soap opera” is going on between the male and female letters in a word. (Truth: I freaked out happily🥳 when I married and my new last name no longer had negativity in it! His letters were all at peace😌 and in perfect order for me to relax with them every time I read it. My own real first name has an ongoing war⚔️ in it. I’ve recently thought about changing my first name, but haven’t convinced my Husband yet🤷🏻♀️.)
Math was the same “soap opera”… Algebra was a nightmare👻 of numbers and letters straight-up refusing to talk with each other. I was homeschooled, so after multiple breakdown episodes, my poor Mother recognized I was stronger in words📓 regardless of her own strengths in math, and offered to train me further in words than force me go on to advanced advanced algebra. A deal I took in a heartbeat💓.
So, here I am. Author. Blogger. And realizing just today that all my life I’ve been pushing😓 myself to be “normal.” Well. Trying to appear normal🚻.
[Crap. Why am I crying while typing a simple blog?? Ugg. Carry on…..]
I’ve known that I was “slower” getting to the same lesson solutions my Brother (no synesthesia) worked out. I was slower🐌 at reading, writing papers (unless said brother was unfocused), head math, and several other schoolwork areas. And I didn’t know why then, but now, I understand I was putting words and math through a much longer process⚙️ to arrive at the same output.
It was something like this when I was young.
- See word
- See each letter as the person they are and discover what they are doing with the surrounding letters in that word
- See if the “soap opera” seems familiar
- Find the “soap opera” word
- Double check✅ to be sure not confused with similar “soap opera”
- Triple check✅ with basic phonics Mom taught me
- All points agree? If yes, that’s the right word. If no, look again.
- Move forward with confidence! That’s the word!🎉
Over time, I memorized🤓 a ton of words and got faster and faster at running through this process. Only getting stumped on the words that were new✨ or their “soap opera” hadn’t been seen in awhile. My vocabulary grew as long as I was fascinated by the “soap opera” feel of the new word.
Convert the above process⚙️ to numbers and that’s how I learned math and new equations.
This all came up recently. Right after a nasty breakdown while I was handling our Household Budget💸.
I’m proficient enough in math these days, (got a ton of dramas memorized,) but I still have to run through the ridiculous process⚙️, and it’s… well… taxing. Somewhat exhausting in itself🤤.
Just so happened that my Sweet Husband was sitting beside me trying to answer any of my placement questions, because he set up Mint🌱 for us, and I was handling the directing of finance-flow. But then I had to log into Mint on the laptop💻 for some reason, and saw that my paper📝 income total was different than that inside Mint.
I panicked😰, and tried to figure out which number was right. I had so carefully tried to avoid mistakes, how could I have missed the freaking income?!? Asking my Husband availed to my paper budget being flawed, so I franticly ran through everything to try and get the budget back into place with $300 less. Where there’d been wiggle🐛 room, there was no longer. I agonized over paying the Housecleaner🧽 a bit less (I try to overpay her always, I love her so much), agonized over the food🍱 budget again, on and on. Math through the current-day process⚙️.
Finally I got it right. Then, I realized, Mint🌱 on the web wasn’t tallying our income correctly. I showed my Husband and he quickly corrected🙆🏻♂️ it so it showed me the right thing.
I looked down at my paper budget and realized: I’d gone through the agony😖 of math for an hour, trying to fix something that wasn’t a problem at all.
I melted down.
I yelled🌋 at the situation and how everyone is good at math and it’s such an emotional💔 struggle (because I have to “feel” through the numbers each time), then I was yelling💢 about how it’s the same with my Co-writer and how she writes with apparent ease while I struggle through not only the freakin’ word feels, but the feels of my characters (HSP also, hello🤦🏻♀️), too!
Then I cried mad. Stormed to my room⚡️.
Cried sad. (Okay, maybe sobbed.)
Then wondered what on earth was wrong with me, melting down over letters and numbers and a budget that had $300 more than I thought.
God very gently told me, “You’ve been trying💔 to be like everyone else all your life.”
I cried again because He knows I’m visual, and He did a great job of reminding me how hard I tried as a child, as a teen, and in college to appear🚻 to learn and think and spout off answers as quickly🐇 as everyone else.
But, learning the world around me by feeling🤍 has been a slow and tedious process⚙️.
In essence, I lied to everyone💔.
Why? To be accepted and seen as normal and worthy💎, I guess.
I always wanted to be worthy of that gold star⭐️, of the pat on the back, of the “good job” exclamation. I might’ve gotten some growing up, but it felt like nothing compared to the Brother that tested well🥇 and got through University with a 4.0 GPA. [My Husband is quick to point out every time I mention this that I had a 3.8 and graduated Magna Cum Laude, just above the threshold to get the same gold sticker as my Brother on my diploma.] To this day, I’ve always imagined the notes📒 I keep for work, the spreadsheets kept for world-building🪐, and the emails and texts I craft take far, far too long to come up with.
Again, compared to others without Synesthesia. Or HSP.
It all came out in the meltdown. And God challenged me on it. 🦋
Just being me means I step up with the truth: I’m not normal, and acting like I am has been pushing my writing and math too hard for too long💙.
I need to give it up. Not burn out. And not freak for being different.
Just be me. 🦄
So yeah. If you or anyone you know needs to see my story for encouragement, please share.
And if you have OLP, welcome to the club. 🖖
It’s weird here, and we have our genetics🧬 and God to thank.