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A Blind Mind

I’ve developed a lot of strange symptoms over the last ten years struggling with Lyme disease. Some of them come on so gradually that I don’t even recognize them until it becomes a problem. One I didn’t even know had a name until today.

In the last few years, my neurological symptoms have worsened, and it’s affected all my senses. I can still hear, smell, taste, see, and feel, but it feels like I’m experiencing things in low def versus 4000k. It’s sucked a lot of the enjoyment out of life. I can still function but I feel sub-human.

The most alarming change has been to my vision. I had eye surgery back in 2010 and ever since I’ve had perfect 20/20 vision. I still have good vision, but now everything looks slightly out of focus. It doesn’t matter if it’s close or far. If it’s really close though, like words on a screen, I start to see double. This makes reading or writing this blog post difficult as you can imagine.

Recently, I realized I can’t conjure up images in my head for more than a brief flash. I was trying to think of my friend recently but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what she looked like. If I saw her in a crowd, I could pick her out easily. But in my mind’s eye, it was a very distorted image. I have to look at a photo of her now and again to remember what she looks like. But shortly after, I lose the ability to visualize her again.

Apparently this is a known condition that was only given a name a few years back. It’s called Aphantasia and it’s not that uncommon. The thing is I don’t think I had this condition before. I noticed I had a tougher time visualizing people and objects in the last year as my other senses started to go.

I’ve never been great at visualizing images in my head. I recently learned that most people can not only visualize an image perfectly in their mind’s eye when asked but also manipulate it. I’ve never had this ability. When I visualized people and objects in the past, it was not a 1:1 image. It was still fuzzy or distorted.

This is a big handicap as a creative. When I was younger, I used to love to draw. I would draw the same characters over and over again until I had them in muscle memory. But I struggled with drawing common objects without a reference. Composition was difficult too as I couldn’t visualize the scene well in my head until I sketched it out. I would go through several erasers whenever I worked on comics, drawing scenes over and over until they looked right.

I’ve been a big believer in Neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections even into adulthood. When I realized I was holding my pencil wrong, using a claw grip that put a lot of wear on the side of my middle finger when drawing, I corrected my grip and was able to retrain myself after practicing writing in a composition book for weeks. I’ve also been doing eye exercise tests involving 3D glasses to correct my vision problems.

I learned with a little research there is a technique called “Image Streaming” that you can use to help develop your visualization skills. It involves closing your eyes and saying out loud what you see. If it’s just blackness, you can press on your eyes to generate lights and begin describing them. You do this for 10 minutes.

I’m not sure if it will work but I’m going to start experimenting with it. If I train my visualization like a muscle, it should improve overtime. If I notice a large improvement, I’ll update this blog post with my findings.

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