living with grapheme color synesthesia | feature
Colours are intended to be seen, sounds are meant to be heard, and scents are meant to be smelled. But what if you are able to see the invisible? Discover the story of Keshia T, a student with Synesthesia – a rare neurological condition where the human senses cross over.
What kind of synesthesia do you have?
Mostly grapheme color, I see letters and numbers in colors. But sometimes noises and smells could also create shapes and colors.
Since when did you know you had synesthesia?
Since I’ve begun to read and write in the 1st grade. I’ve always realized that letters that I read has inhibited colors to it, but I thought that everyone experienced them the same as I do. Only in secondary school, when I saw in twitter people tweeting about synesthesia that I was aware that I had a unique condition.
Does having synesthesia come with benefits or challenges?
Both I guess. The challenges are I became super sensitive in terms of smell and sound and I get easily distracted. If the smell or sound is too loud, I get headaches because the colors come off too dense and strong. I’m really bad at focusing, so for instance if I want to study, there has to be no sound at all. As for colors from projections and letters et cetera, it doesn’t really bother me, it just makes me feel that my brain is always loaded.
The benefits are I’m really good at remembering things because I’m a visual learner, for instance busses, phone numbers, and prices all have certain colors. For studying, I don’t even need a highlighter, the colors are already in my head. I’m also in a choir so learning songs has definitely become much easier.
When you say the colors were dense, did you mean that the colors are dense in the air?
The colors are mostly in my head so it kind of blends in with my visuals. It’s basically there, but at the same time it’s not.
Can you give me an example of your synesthesia condition that you most remember?
Sure, sorry it’s a bit disgusting but the smell of people’s snot when they’re having a flu is yellow, and a cavity is maroon, haha!
How about music?
Music’s a bit complicated as I see and hear it per-part. For instance, when I was growing up I used to listen to classical music. I could really feel the changes of the colors. When there’s a part with a lot of strings – the colors come off as yellow, and parts with more drums are chocolate, I would say.
Oh! Sorry I know this is kind of out of topic from music but I thought it'd be interesting to point out. There’s something that I feel is kind of different from my friends who also had grapheme color synesthesia. I don't see each letter in a word as a different color but more as an impact from the first letter. For instance - your name is Diandra. The pressure is on D in my mind. D is green – so I imagine your name in green.
When I was reading articles about grapheme color synesthesia, all I thought about is whether or not people get dizzy from reading all the combination of colors. Do you?
Yes at first it was, but it’s different for every person. As I said before, I’ve had it lucky because for me, if I had a glimpse of the letters it would be easier to read - as the colors merge together. For instance, Dinda is green, Bubu is blue. Although, I would imagine it would be harder for people that imagines each letter as a different color.
Were the colors the same since you first realized you had it?
How about handwritting, does it also inhibit certain colors?
Yes all handwritting have colors just like normal individual letters. However, foreign languages that I don’t recognize, doesn't.
And lastly, after all this time, did you ever wish that you’ve never had synesthesia?
Never, I love the fact that I have this condition and I don’t think my life would be the same without it.