A Funhouse of Horrors: 8 Ways Autism, OCD, Dyslexia, Sensory Processing Disorder, & Synesthesia Intersect6 min read

The wires in my brain seem to be con­fig­ured by some elab­o­rate prac­tical joke.  There are either way too many or too few con­necting this input to the cor­re­sponding cortex, or they are just con­nected to the wrong places.  It’s like grem­lins sab­o­taged my machinery.

This is not how most autistic peo­ple’s brains work, I imagine, but it’s how mine works.

I imagine that being inside my mind, depending on the instance and cir­cum­stances, is like an acid trip.  I’ve never used psy­che­delic drugs, but it’s always struck me as strange to hear people gush about their expe­ri­ences on an acid trip.  I didn’t realize that most people’s brains don’t work the way mine does, but they were describing every other day in my head.

I’m not sure where the synes­thesia ends and the sen­sory pro­cessing dis­order begins, but I’ve got a heavy helping of both, and some other things on top of that.

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1. I have mirror-image dyslexia.

This makes hun­dreds of tasks dif­fi­cult for me that you’d prob­ably never imagine would be a struggle for someone with a grad­uate edu­ca­tion.  I can’t look at illus­trated direc­tions and under­stand what I’m seeing.

I’ve almost burned down my house three times because I can’t under­stand the dots beside the knobs on my gas range.  I light the wrong burner, the one that has a paper towel or oven mitt too close to it, and whoosh!  Quantum physics is much easier than assem­bling an Ikea shelf from the direc­tions because there are no words.

I walk or drive in the direc­tion of my des­ti­na­tion, pan­icking the whole time because I feel cer­tain I’m going the wrong way.  For at least half of every shower, I spend the time adjusting the water tem­per­a­ture because I never remember which tap is hot or which is cold, nor even which way to turn the knobs.

jellyfish-113386_6402. I see visions to go along with touch.

This is not a super­nat­ural phe­nom­enon.  It’s sim­ilar to having a dream, in that I’m not seeing it with my eyes but from within my mind.  I can’t handle any­thing touching my elbows or the backs of my arms.

A few nights ago, my hus­band rolled over in bed and a cold corner of a pillow brushed my elbow.  It caused my brain to short cir­cuit.  I saw a vision of a coun­tertop cov­ered with bright red con­tact paper.  There was a large air bubble under the con­tact paper, and the vision was as dis­turbing as watching a mas­sacre happen.

When I touch microfiber cloths, I see a vision of a scraped knee. If I try to swallow slimy veg­eta­bles like okra, I see a dead jel­ly­fish on the beach. My brain likes to tor­ture me in metaphors.

3. My feelings are not connected to whatever caused me to feel.

zombie-1399939_640Yesterday evening, I noticed that I was feeling intensely, but couldn’t explain what I was feeling. It was just cat­e­gor­i­cally unpleasant. My dis­com­fort gave way to extreme agi­ta­tion. I started sweating pro­fusely, and my chest watight­ening.

This hap­pens to me from time to time, and I have this over­whelming sense of, “I need some­thing but have no idea what it is.” Finally, after an hour, pain like knives shot up my arm. I pulled up my sleeve and was hor­ri­fied.

I had mul­tiple third-degree burns on my arm. Then, I had a flash­back and remem­bered the grease pop­ping on me. My brain decided to forget about it imme­di­ately after, so I didn’t put any aloe or water on it.

5. My depth perception is abysmal.

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For many autis­tics, visual-spatial intel­li­gence is low. My visu­ospa­tial sub­scores on an IQ test are more than 100 points below other sub­scores. I have, at all times, at least five bruises, broken bones, or knots dis­trib­uted around my body from mis­judging dis­tances.

The most fre­quent is that I always hit my face on cab­inet doors when I retrieve some­thing from a cab­inet. Stairs look like cruelly-painted ramps to me, and I tend to fall up steps fre­quently.

My first kiss was one of those horrid, teeth-on-teeth inci­dents because I thought he was far­ther away. I often have dif­fi­culty with photos and under­standing what I’m seeing.

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6. I feel color.

umbrella-1588167_640I am extremely tense around most shades of the color yellow, and I can’t stand to look at it. Non-metallic gold, mus­tard, gold­enrod, dan­de­lion, nico­tine, amber, citron, pastel lemon, per­simmon, and but­ternut are the worst.

I love the yellow of my daughter’s hair, of the flicker of a lazy flame, of bum­ble­bees, and of pho­tons. I need to sur­round myself with vivid and deep reds, mint greens, teals, and aquas to be happy, and every­thing I buy is in these shades, black, or grey.

7. I see music and feel it like motion.

Often, it’s pulsing, bright colors. If it has yellow in the sound, I never listen to that music. If a yellow song is playing on the radio in a store or restau­rant, I leave.

But, this might be my favorite part of my sen­sory imbroglio. If the music and the mixing are right, usu­ally orches­tral music, then the visu­al­iza­tions that go along with it are pow­erful and intensely moving. I’m ren­dered a weeping heap on the floor, so over­come that I lose motor func­tion.

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I some­times see vibrant land­scapes in oth­er­worldly colors or a three-dimensional grid against a back­drop of space, and the grid changes colors and morphs with the beat.

Rarely, but some­times, music makes me feel motion, like the drop at the top of a roller coaster.  I have to sit or even lie down lis­tening to some songs because the motion is indis­cernible from actual motion.

7. Eating is miserable.

dinner-1246287_960_720 The expe­ri­ence of eating and digesting food, espe­cially if I’m on sen­sory over­load and tired, is extremely unpleasant to me. I feel that I need to eat standing up. I’m not sure why, but it just feels like it’s less trau­matic that way.

If I touch a bone, skin, or (I’m lit­er­ally cringing and gag­ging as I type) bite gristle, I can’t eat any more for a long time and might go days or weeks without eating meat. There is almost never a food that I feel like eating, and I almost always regret eating what I’ve ordered.

It can take me longer than two hours to eat a snack. After a meal, I feel totally zapped, and the only way that I can process diges­tion is to lie on my stomach, in a dark, quiet room, propped up on my elbows, with my head lifted in the air.

8. I laugh at the wrong things.

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More than once, I’ve laughed at the worst times. My lan­guage is processed in a dif­ferent part of the brain from most peo­ple’s, and so some­times the way sen­tences are con­fig­ured are just so odd to me that they are hilar­ious. Certain words always make me laugh. Maybe it’s synes­thesia?

l’ve burst out laughing, hard, during pro­fes­sional meet­ings. I laugh at my own suf­fering and awk­ward­ness, too. Because of my impractically-detailed memory, nearly any­thing can trigger a memory of some­thing hilar­ious.

I almost always laugh when the words dia­betes, bishop, rag, or were­wolf crop up in a con­ver­sa­tion. If I see Old Bay, the seafood spice blend, I usu­ally lose my com­po­sure.

These are just a few of thou­sands of odd ways my brain has man­aged the hyper­con­nec­tivity and diver­gent writing of my neu­rology. When I intake too much input and my brain is tired, sig­nals some­times get re-routed and crossed.

Some of my wires were crossed from birth, and the sadistic sabo­teurs that are my hip­pocampus and amyg­dala have man­aged to do the rest. It’s a per­petual macabre car­nival to live in my brain.

At least, I’m never bored.

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you, this is useful to me even though I rarely expe­ri­ence any form of synes­thesia. I’ve always been curious about it and this gives me helpful insights into the phe­nom­e­non’s work­ings.

    1. Author

      I am working on some­thing that will explain this fur­ther, and the post from Chris Godley that is a letter from an Aspie father to an Aspie son does a lot to explain those mechanics, too. In fact, that post may be the most helpful infor­ma­tive post to date with under­standing the brain of the tribe.

      Always happy to hear from you, Frank.

  2. That is a lot to digest. Seeing colour when hearing music. I have heard of that before and part of me wishes that I had it. As an artist, I imagine it could be inspiring, but of course, it might have neg­a­tive attrib­utes that I am unaware of. Perhaps it can be over­whelming. I listen to music con­stantly so per­haps it would affect my need for music as a stim. I don’t know. I also expe­ri­ence those dis­con­nected feel­ings, but they are sually depres­sive in nature. It can sud­denly over­whelm and ruin my day or it can just vanish again. I have won­dered if it might be some sort of sen­sory issue that I am unaware of.

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