Synesthesia

May 31, 2010
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Is your letter “E” green? Do you taste carrots whenever you touch wood? Does the sound of nails against a blackboard send red spirals through your vision? If you said yes to any of these questions, you might have a little thing called synesthesia.

Synesthesia is a condition or disorder (some call it a disease, but it’s really not) where two or more senses in a person’s head are connected or confused – think of it like wires in your brain being crossed. There are different types of synesthesia, ranging from one type where a person connects numbers and letters with colours to another type where a person tastes a certain taste when they hear a certain sound. I’ve heard of one case where a man feels a sphere in his hand every time he tastes spinach, or another case where a woman tastes popcorn whenever she hears her husband’s voice. There’s a story on this site called “Sound Waves on my Skin” in which the main character feels words when people say them, or another called “Words and Colours” where the main character sees colours when she hears sounds. Senses can connect in nearly any way possible, and it is possible to have multiple types of synesthesia.

I am a synesthete (someone who has synesthesia) myself. I haven’t really acknowledged my condition before this year, but talking to my friend Shelby one day on the bus, we realized we are both synesthetic, and we spent hours talking feverishly about our alphabets and numbers and comparing stories and facts.

I now realize I have colours for every letter of the alphabet, numbers, and some words. For instance, my letter “A” is bright red, while my letter “O” is honey-yellow and my “Y” is silvery-grey. My number “5” is hot pink, while “7” and “9” are ugly shades of forest green and brown. Often, letters or numbers will change colour when put with other letters or numbers. Take my number 2, which is usually blue, but when put with the word “Chapter”, which is yellow-orange, the whole phrase is definitely orange. Or how about my “the”, which is dark green-teal. This makes sense because that’s the colour of my “T”, but the pink “H” and the blue-green “E” just fade into the background.

The word “magic” in my head is gold-and-silver and sparkly on a purple background, and the background is covered with sparkles kind of like confetti. (I only see word-pictures for certain words; the majority of words are blurry-coloured to me because of all the colours in them.) I see all of this in my head, but I don’t see it physically; some synesthetes see their colours in front of their eyes, like when you stare at a light too long and a fuzzy shape blocks your vision. I also connect music to colour. For example, the less instruments in a song, the lighter the tone. Country songs are orange and yellow, very warm and light. Death metal, on the other hand, is black, grey, red – all very dark and intense colours. Minor keys are an uglier, darker, sourer shade than major keys, and when there is a sudden key change in a song, the colours burst into vibrancy and are more intense.

What really, really irritates me about my music-colour synesthesia is when album art on my iPod doesn’t match with the song. If any of you know The Cars, an awesome 80s band, there is one song called “Drive” on their greatest hits album. The album art has squares of primary colours, very bright, but the song itself is dark indigo with spots of greenish light. This grates on my brain. Or something else annoying is when the song title doesn’t match the song. There is one song I love by The Wailin’ Jennys called “Sun’s Gonna Rise”. The song title, to me, is orange and yellow with a teensy hint of red. But the song is a watery, pale shade of orange and yellow, like a dumbed-down version of the song title’s colours. So irritating!

Being newly aquainted with this side of myself I hadn’t acknowledged before, I went on TeenInk to see if anyone else shared what I like to think of as my talent or gift. To my surprise, there were barely any articles about synesthesia, and they weren’t extremely informative about the condition, although they were all well-written pieces. I felt that synesthetic teens needed an article about this...and I hope that if you have synesthesia, this has helped you a bit, and if you don’t have it, then it has informed you of the way synesthetes live and think.

Here’s a shoutout to all you synesthetes out there – can you hear me? If you’re out there, tell me your story! I want to hear from you, and connect with you! I’d like to hear about your alphabet, your numbers, your sounds, your tastes – whatever! – as well as any stories related to your synesthesia. Like I talked about with Shelby, it feels really great to realize that you aren’t a freak; there are others out there like you. And even if you’re not synesthetic, I’d still like to hear from you! Here’s something to consider: everyone has a bit of the condition in them, so even if you don’t consider yourself fully synesthetic, if you consider “H” to be hot pink or freshly-cut grass to smell bluer than dry grass, comment away.

Peace out! :)





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Tiger2 said...
Mar. 8, 2015 at 9:44 pm
It's weird. I'd think there would be more synesthetes on here, considering they are usually pretty creative. Ya know? But I'm one <3 so hey, fellow synnie. :) I don't have music> color syn though. What is it like? I do have weekdays> color, numbers> color, and most letters>color.
 
kenash98 said...
Mar. 4, 2014 at 1:58 pm
i just realized i had this when my teacher explained only 4% of the world has is then i realized that everyone else dosnt see what i see. Except i see shapes and movement when i hear music or certain sound the color depends on my mood and its very rare when i taste a sound or see anything with just plain talking its gotten stronger yet i remember it more vividly when i was young . Like lullabys and the sound of my mothers cooking from the sizzleing pot.
 
America. said...
Feb. 20, 2014 at 1:43 am
By the way how do you see/smell  the name America? :)
 
America. said...
Feb. 20, 2014 at 1:42 am
Since I read 'A Mango Shaped Space' I got more and more interested in Synesthesia and I have read many stories about synesthesia, I find it amazing. I truly liked your story. :)
 
sallysunshine said...
Jan. 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm
my Os are purple lol
 
alexgaskarth6 said...
Jan. 25, 2014 at 3:14 pm
I have synesthesia too! I recently discovered I was "differnent" than the others hahaha. How should I tell my family about this?
 
PaigeLouisaTaylor said...
Jul. 20, 2012 at 10:59 am
Synnie as well. My "A" is orange and he's very confident.
 
pencilsFORhands This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 11:35 am
lols im a "synnie" also lol.. I draw and paint n stuff... and i find alot of people who do art/ creative things have it also :) for me its mostly visual/personification, but also feeligns and texture.. (the letter P causes sparks in my elbows, the word chair tastes like lard)
 
DefyGravity123 said...
Apr. 28, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Yay! Someone else who has this! I'm not alone! I mostly have the music-color kind, and I agree, it COMPLETELY annoys me when the album colors don't match up with the colors in my head. Like the song Animal (Neon Trees) is orangey-brown, but the album cover is black with these neon splatters, and it really bothers me. I guess I'm not the only one!

Also, surprise, surprise, my A is red, too! I don't have very strong synesthesia for letters, but it's still there, just the colors aren't ve... (more »)

 
LifeInTechnicolour This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 24, 2011 at 5:23 pm
Hey cool, another synnie! :) That's so funny about the Neon Trees album. Their album art actually does match the song for me...weird! :P but yeah. My letters aren't very bright either. And I TOTALLY know what you're saying, about the music thing! My note colours are the same as the letters too :D
 
PoWWow17 said...
Mar. 29, 2011 at 10:53 am
What if your just weird and when you think of the alphabet you see  flying piglets carrying the letters? =) i don't know what you would call this. an essay? Prose? je ne sais quois? xoxoxox ST.
 
LifeInTechnicolour This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Meh, maybe an essay?

BTW. FLYING PIGLETS CARRYING THE LETTERS = YOU ARE MY HERO.

xoxoxoxoxox MS

 
leafy said...
Feb. 10, 2011 at 7:56 pm
my "A" is a red too! buts its more like a smooth-shinyish-scarlet-reddish red :)
 
LifeInTechnicolour This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 11:51 am
Awesome!!! Another synnie on TeenInk! :D And yeah, my A isn't truly red...she's really green, but she likes to think she's red because a lot of synesthete's A's are red so she wants to fit in :P
 
leafy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm
lol yeah, i've noticed that A is red for a lot of people. and that O or 0 are black, white, or colorless
 
alexgaskarth6 replied...
Jan. 25, 2014 at 3:15 pm
My A's are red, but my O's are purple, but my 0's are white....weird huh!
 
lizzymwrites said...
Jul. 27, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Wow. I had no idea a condition like synesthesia existed.

Very informative article. I really liked it =)

 
ThisLitIsBananas This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 30, 2010 at 12:01 pm
Thank u! :)
 
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