Aphantasia

This morning I woke up and like I usually do I grabbed my phone and started reading. I usually start with the news and then if I’m not ready to get up I’ll just start finding random articles. I came across one about a man who was on a long journey on a boat and the hardest part was that he couldn’t picture what his girlfriend looked like in his head. My first thought was that I can’t picture what Bronwyn looks like in my head, I’ve never been able to. I read that the man had Aphantasia and stopped reading that article and started trying to find out everything I could. I read the Wikipedia page, found a few studies and joined a Facebook group but I still don’t know much except I guess I have it. Turns out it only affects about 1% of the population and often goes undiagnosed. I mean I would never have known I had it because how do you know what you can’t see in your own head that other people can?

The new discovery led me to ask Bronwyn questions all day. Can you see what I look like when not looking at me? Can you see a garden in your head? Can you see a cow? Can you remember what old friends or family look like? Her answers were always yes, mine were more like kind of. So, I still have no idea what’s the difference between what I see, and she sees but clearly, it’s different. Now there are people who can’t see anything at all, that’s not me. Like I can picture the Golden Arches but not a particular McDonald’s. I can picture a cow but not a cow I’ve really seen and mine is more cartoony and exaggerated. I can picture parts of a garden, a flower or a butterfly or grass but not all of them together at once and none of it moving, only still like a photograph.

The best thing we came up with today was when Bronwyn asked if I could picture a tractor in a field. I could but it’s just sitting in the field and there isn’t really a field just ground under the tractor. Then she asked if I could see the wheels turn and it move across the field, I absolutely cannot. It takes a lot of effort just to see the tractor. Then I asked her if she could visualize in her minds eye what it would look like on fire with flames and smoke and she could and honesty that seems impossible to me. We went through lists of people and some I could get a vague mental image of but most I couldn’t. And it was really random too, I had a good friend who’s face I could not see but I could get an image of her husband who I wasn’t particularly close with. I shared an office with several different people at my old YMCA and if I concentrated, I could find an image, but it was only one snapshot each. As I type this, I’m trying it again and I can only get two of them in my head. But they aren’t moving, it’s just an image, and I can’t hold that image and picture anything else in the room. And until today I didn’t know other people could do any of that. This also explains why I am terrible at directions, I literally can’t get a picture in my head of where I’m going or where I’ve been and again I never knew other people could. I never knew how people were managing to find their way around without getting lost. mind

So, now it’s 3am and although it’s not unusual for me to be awake at 3am it is unusual for me to be thinking about something like this. I mean, I can’t really morn the loss of something I didn’t know I didn’t have but it still feels strange. It makes me sad I can’t get an image of Bronwyn’s face at all especially when I can with some other people. I don’t know what to think of it honestly. I do know this though, God knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalms 139:13) and although this makes me a little different, I believe it’s part of what makes me who I am. And look, I know as far as afflictions go this is a pretty mild one, I mean I was 44 before I ever even knew it was a thing. However, it still has me thinking about it. Colossians 1:16 says “for by Him all things were created”. I’m a thing and so I was created by God, but because of sin we live in a fallen creation and the result of that fall is our bodies are no longer perfect. But with all my heart I know my next body will be. Philippians 3:20 says “The Lord, Jesus Christ will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body”. That body will be able to visualize a tractor moving through a field full of flowers. But I doubt I’ll want it to because all I’ll want to picture is my beautiful Savior.

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