Aphantasia

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Just saying hello, new here.

I'm not officially diagnosed with C-PTSD but am being treated with symptoms associated with C-PTSD. I was diagnosed with GAD and a mood disorder in 2014 after a mental health breakdown. I have struggled to find mechanisms to manage my illness and a couple of life events this year have seen me back under the care of my local community mental health team. They are now convinced my anxiety attacks are really emotional flashbacks. I'm on the waiting list for EMDR therapy. As somebody with aphantasia, it was interesting to read some other posts about aphantasia and flashbacks, in fact this is how I found this site in the 1st place. Anyway, hello.

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I'm new here!

Hi, my name is Bogmonster and I'm in the UK, maybe I should be using my real name but I've been on the recieving end of descrimination as I am sure many have. I was diagnosed with GAD and 'Affective Disorder' in 2014 after a mental health breakdown and a suicide atempt.
I've been struggling to manage my mental health since then, and have a set of management strategies that are not very good and scaleable. This last year had been tough, my father died in January and my sister died from alcohol abuse in June. I found myself back in need of professional help again. The mental health team are now treating me with symptoms associated with Complex-PTSD, namely 'emotional flashbacks'. Its only relatatively recently that I realized my 'anxiety attacks' were really emotional flashbacks. I ended up here as I also have Aphantasia and was researching flashbacks and Aphantasia.

I have really been struggling recently but thankfully I am now getting some help and I'm on a waiting list for EMDR therapy. Wishing everyone the best, BM.
#MightyTogether #Anxiety #Depression #PTSD

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Lost Visions: Aphantasia as an Unexpected Side Effect of Wellbutrin

I guess I am “cured” now. I am a “normal” person. My room is clean and organized with very little effort. I remember deadlines, pay my bills on time, and attentively listen when someone tells me a story. When I’m filling up my water bottle or putting my food in the microwave, that’s all I’m focused on. Apparently, this is how most people live their lives, and this medication is supposed to “fix” my problems.

I’ve always had an overactive mind and a vivid imagination, and I loved that about myself and my brain. I never wanted to get rid of that. However, it seems like corporate America and the adult world, in general, expect us to be attentive on demand and prioritize what they consider “important.” But who gets to decide what’s truly important? Your manager? Seriously? Do you really believe that the status update your teammate is sharing is more important than letting your mind wander and solve a long-standing problem for the team? Or, even better, using your imagination to picture a monkey surfing and dancing?

Our society undervalues creativity to the extent that we’re willing to suppress it with drugs to enhance productivity and profit for large corporations and the country.

The reason I was always considered “distracted” is that my mind’s eye was constantly entertained. It was like having a TV running in my mind, often picturing multiple things at once, very vividly—sometimes even more vivid than real life. Real life seemed somewhat boring in comparison, and that’s why I was frequently bored. My mind offered a more captivating world. I never quite understood why meditation encouraged closing your eyes to “avoid distractions.” My mind was far more distracting than anything in the room. Sadly, now it seems I may have lost that ability forever due to medication side effects.

I’ve had to subject my healthy mind and body to numerous psychiatric medications, each with horrendous side effects, just to become what society perceives as “normal.” These medications increased my blood pressure, heart rate, caused dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, mental fog, memory loss, balance issues, and drowsiness. The worst effect was Aphantasia—the inability to visualize mental images voluntarily, no matter how hard I try.

I was meditating, envisioning a beautiful landscape in my mind’s eye: bright green trees with light filtering through, leaves gently falling. Suddenly, I saw a bright white light, and then darkness—a complete void. At first, I thought I had finally mastered meditation and cleared my mind entirely. But little did I know that I had developed a condition called Aphantasia.

I feel anything but “fixed”; I feel destroyed. A crucial part of me has been torn away without warning. I had no idea that medication could do something like this to me.

I am fed up with being put in a box. I want to shatter that box with all my power. I am angry and exhausted from the world’s attempts to mold me into something I’m not. I am unique and will not conform to others’ expectations. This struggle leaves me drained.

Okay, so now we all agree that it was stupid to force left-handed kids to write with their right hand, right? Sure, they could do it, but it was an unpleasant experience for the child and the teachers. We learned to accommodate and make our classrooms and the world more inclusive by inventing left-handed desks and scissors. It might have been inconvenient for some, but it was healthier and more inclusive. The same applies to ADHD individuals. We are essentially the “left-handed” kids when it comes to how our brains work, and we are constantly forced to conform and act “right-handed,” causing an incredible amount of pain and exhaustion.

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I'm new here!

Hi, my name is Katherine Kane. I literally discovered the community about 60 seconds ago, so I'll hold off on announcing my intentions or plans. But I will volunteer that I've been working on a multi-media project about the intersection of chronic illness and the bureaucracy of being 'on benefits' or otherwise in need of public support systems.

#MightyTogether #Anxiety #Depression #Fibromyalgia #PTSD #ADHD #MyalgicEncephalomyelitis #Aphantasia #Bursitis #DiabetesType2 #PolycysticOvarySyndromePCOS #Arthritis

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I’m new here!

Hello, my name is Alexandra! I’m new to The Mighty. I'm a public health academic, currently training to be a certified doula and want to have a career in medicine. I'm a survivor of DV, sexual assault & police brutality, a recovered alcoholic and bulimic, who is diagnosed with c-PTSD, Major depression, generalized anxiety, ADHD, & Body dysmorphia. I also have aphantasia from an injury in early childhood. I'm currently struggling with my physical & mental health a lot and trying to cope with chronic pain and my recent diagnosis of c-PTSD. I'm joining this community to connect to other survivors of trauma and those who struggle with their health. . #MightyTogether #cptsd #ptsd #traumarecovery #livingwithdepressionandanxiety #recoveredalcoholic #recoveredbulimic #aphantasia #adhd #neurodivergent #bodydysmorphic #doula #lgbtq+

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Me

I have lots of things wrong with me. I have Scoliosis. I have Aphantasia. I have overactive nerves. I am hypermobile. Unfotunently, this story can only have 1800 characters.

I had Scoliosis. I had a 50-degree curve in my spine. Last August, I had spinal fusion surgery. I was diagnosed at 7 years old. At that time, I only had a 15-degree curve, so the doctor told my family not to worry. Fast forward 7 years. My back hurts like hell. My family takes me back to the doctor and two x-rays later, I have a 40-degree curve. I was fitted for a brace to wear at night. I would wake up in the middle of the night with muscle spasms and had to take it off. If you have never had a muscle spasm, it feels like there is a knife stabbing you from under your skin. I couldn’t wear it. Fast forward 6 months. My family takes me back to the doctor, and 2 x-rays later, I have a 50-degree curve. They said I was at “the point of no return”. They couldn’t stop the curve, and they couldn’t bring it back. If I didn’t want to be confined to a bed by 40, I had to have the surgery. I had my surgery on August 7th. I was in the hospital for 4 days. The first time I tried to sit, I puked. The first time I tried to stand, I puked. The first time I tried to walk, you guessed it, I puked. After I was finally able to walk stairs, I was discharged. I had to do arm exercises at home because my range of motion was terrible.

Now it is 8 months later. I can do everything that I could before my surgery. (Aside from getting up from laying on the floor. I still need help with that.) I am in much less pain and am feeling a lot better. I am hoping to write more about my other conditions sometime soon. Thank you for reading this.

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Why don't people wonder what's going on in someone's head more?

In school, you are assumed to be typical. Able to picture in your brain, record memories, neurotypical, everything. And what happens when people don't see the difference?

I'm four time Neurodivergent. The autism is official and about to become even more so. The others however are not. I was diagnosed officially with narcolepsy last year and somehow on medication for it, the depression seems to be gone as well. I was deemed NT and put on medication for anxiety. Get this, I'm also pretty sure I'm ADHD, and aphantasia and sdam. It's a memory trait where you don't remember in the first place. The brain is unable to encode anything you think or feel resulting in a lack of eisodic memory.
This includes no mental time travel so they are saying I'm an anxious NT with general anxiety. I finally discovered the word for my memory trait and it's likely a buffer against developing anxiety. I think i have a somewhat usual level of anxiety maybe in certain situations but I am unable to go through scenario after scenario of what if because it's a lot harder when your brain can't recall the past to predict the future. I'm relieved I don't have anxiety after all, but now it's to get the brain scans so people understand what I mean when I say I literally don't have memory. So many assumptions about me are wrong and I guess it's up to me and Christ to set them straight through help finding people willing to listen.

Have you heard of aphantasia or severely deficient atuobiographical memory before this? Aphantasia has been around for years and finally given a name. I have total Aphantasia of all five senses whereas most people mostly just miss mental image and still have others.

SDAM was only proven in 2015 with three healthy controls who are doing very well in their fields.

Strange how many ways the mind works! And how it makes up for it in other ways.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words When.. (full title below

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words When Words are All You’ve Got – Living with #Aphantasia

I have a condition called Aphantasia.  Simply put, I cannot visualize.  Where other people can close their eyes and conjure up images within their minds, all I see when I close my eyes is blackness.

It might not sound like a big deal because in many ways it is not.  My Aphantasia did not prevent me from doing well in school or participating in activities and sports as a child.  I enjoy writing and art, I can cook and bake, and go through a thousand different menial tasks that are unimpeded by my condition.  My life in many ways is normal and unhindered.

That is not to say that my Aphantasia does not impact my life in many random ways that others take for granted.

For example, I am horrible with people’s names.  I can meet someone a dozen times and still have no clue what their name is when I meet them again.  There will be a familiar itch that scratches at my memory but until something rings a bell and a connection is made, I am at a loss.  Most people can simply close their eyes, conjure up a picture of someone and attach a name to that image.  My mind contains no images, only words.  My memory is full of descriptors.  For instance, I might remember someone by an event we attended together or a pet they own and until that descriptor is revealed once again, I will often draw a blank.

This extends from people to items, as well.  Even if someone catches me as I am headed to the store and asks me to pick up something for them, unless I am familiar with the specific item or write it down, chances are I might get it wrong.  Though I try to retain as much information as I can on the fly, I am easily thrown off and confused when faced with similar-looking items.  I cannot recall images, so I will question everything from size to brand to scent or flavor.  My mind will usually hone in on a color or a shape, leaving me to stand there, holding two similar items, trying to decipher which might be the right one.  Most people will simply take a mental snapshot to help them remember which item to get.  Instead of one picture that retains all the important information, I would have to store away the brand, size, color, flavor, scent, logos and a multitude of other descriptive words.

I am severely directionally challenged.  I could pass through somewhere multiple times and still find myself lost when I go there again.  I get turned around easily, as well.  Most people can close their eyes and recreate images of places they have been before.  However, unless something very specific has happened in that location that I will distinctly remember with words, the image of most places remain in my head only as long as they are within my sight.  Because I cannot close my eyes and instantly picture a walk I have done many times before, there is a distinct chance I could get lost headed there again.  I might remember that there is a library on a specific street somewhere downtown but if the many random houses and buildings along the way mean nothing to me, nothing will feel familiar until the library comes into sight.  If I turn onto the street a couple blocks too far, I might wander the wrong way for a period of time before the neighborhood changes enough for me to realize I have gone the wrong way.

I am also horrible with directions.  Many people can close their eyes and retrace their steps.  They can easily give detailed directions based on visuals they can recall, counting in their head, telling people to go down this street 8 blocks, take a right, go down 6 blocks more and take a left.  Even if I have been somewhere before, I have trouble giving precise directions like that.  Because I cannot visualize, short of memorizing every street and cross street in every town I have been in precisely in order, my brain has to come up with easier markers to remember, things that will stand out to me.  My directions might include a house that still has their Christmas lights up in July or a tree with a huge knot on it that looks like a face.  Simple things like a change in decor or a chopped down tree, however, will hurl me into a state of confusion that leaves me instantly lost again.

Though I enjoy being artistic and have been told I have both talent and a good eye, I have trouble creating physical representations of things without having pictures readily available.  I love to sketch and paint, but cannot conjure up images in my mind so I need to reference actual pictures before I can get spacial differences and angles just right.  Because I have to rely on pictures, my artwork often lacks originality.  At best, it might contain inspiration from multiple sources, yet it still always feels vastly unoriginal to me.  My writing, on the other hand, has greatly benefited from my lack of visualization.  I tend to be superfluous with my words, always trying to verbally paint images others can understand even if, like me, they cannot see it in their head.

I am overly sentimental and cling to mementos and photographs because they give me a physical reminder that I can see and hold, something that is more than just words.  No matter how many times I have seen someone’s face, the moment they leave my sight, I can no longer picture them.  In my mind, I will cling to the detail of edges and curves of faces and bodies, freckles and dimples, wrinkles and scars, to find descriptors that set them apart.  I have traced the angles of my fiance’s face a thousand times so I know the shape and feel of his face better than I know my own, because when I close my eyes, no matter how hard I try, I cannot see him.  Both my parents have passed away.  I don’t have any pictures of them so their faces are lost to me forever.  While watching a movie or show, I might see an actor and think “my father had a jaw like that” or “my mother stood like that when she was upset” but those are only small segments, similarities I recognize, random sparks and connections.  But the whole of their faces are gone.

Though I take classes in both tai chi and yoga, I always feel an entire segment of my classes are wasted on me.  Whenever the instructors begin an exercise in meditation and visualization, it is completely lost on me.  They will suggest everyone closing our eyes and imagining warm lights emanating from our cores or roots taking form and helping to ground us to the earth.  When I close my eyes, however, all I can ever see is blackness.  I spend that time, instead, concentrating on the feel of my breath entering and leaving my body, the feel of the air on my skin.  I turn my entire focus inward to the here and now, trying to release the jumble of words ever-floating throughout my head.  It is not meditation as others might do it but it is the best I can do.

I can go on and on with all the ways, big and small, that Aphantasia impacts my life.  Think of all the mental pictures most people store away in their minds.  Mental pictures for all the people, places and things they encounter every day of their lives.  Not being able to create mental images might seem like a very trivial thing – until you take the time to try and describe all those pictures using just words.

Aphantasia can be exhausting.  Most people store a multitude of images in their minds because it is faster, easier and more efficient.  Imagine if you had to describe every one of those images using words to someone who had never seen what you were describing.  You had no way to show them a picture, no way to help them understand other than describing everything. Imagine if you had to rely solely on your words.  Imagine how time consuming it would be to collect a variety of descriptors for every item instead of being able to share one simple image.  Now imagine that being your every minute, every day.  Imagine only being able to pull up words for everything instead of images.  How many words would you need?

In high school, my algebra teacher gave the class an assignment to write a paper, step by step, on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  The purpose was to teach the importance of showing all the work and not leaving out any steps.  However, I think this technique would work wonders for raising awareness for Aphantasia.  It would be a good exercise to have someone have to describe things in their lives, from the most important to the everyday trivial, to a sketch artist using only words.  Much like nobody in my algebra class could successfully make a peanut butter sandwich by writing out the detailed steps one by one, I imagine most people would struggle equally as hard to find all the words to accurately describe a snapshot of their life.

People often assume I am forgetful or absent-minded, easily confused and lost in my own mind.  The truth is, I often have to work at least two or three times as hard to recall anything because I cannot take the shortcut of storing pictures instead of words in my memory.  People often say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Take a moment and think of a vacation picture or an old family photo that means a lot to you.  Think of the different shades in that sunset along the coastline on your honeymoon or the creases in your deceased grandparents’ faces when they smiled, that small scratch on the rear side just above the bumper on your first car or the way your prom date looked standing next to it.  Imagine trying to recreate those whole scenes again, by memory, piece by piece, using only words.  Would a thousand words be enough?  Welcome to my world.

This piece originally appeared on Unlovable at: unlovablebook.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/a-picture-is-worth-a-...

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