Now, before y’all get your dirty little minds in a lascivious lather, this is a post about how a good many bipolar individuals—myself included—interpret the world and all it has to offer in the way of sensory stimulation.
To say that it’s complicated would be the understatement of the decade. It’s like seeing everything and everybody in 3-D Technicolor while taking in textures, aromas, and flavors. A few of us even experience a phenomenon called synesthesia, in which wires get crossed in the brain and we “see” numbers and letters in colors, or we “taste” words.
Even though I’ve been this way all my life, I never knew there was a word for it until I was well into my forties. I just thought I was weird, and so did the (very) few people to whom I tried to explain it. And while synesthesia is an unusual occurrence in the general population, it’s relatively common in those of us who live somewhere on the bipolar spectrum.
Of course, never having known what it’s like to NOT have this, I’m fascinated by people who don’t see the letter “L” in yellow, or taste butter when they hear the number “two” spoken aloud. I’m also intrigued by those whose brains have an OFF switch (you mean there are times when people’s minds don’t race every waking minute??) and who don’t experience life in all its dimensions. I don’t necessarily want to be one of them, but I’m still curious about how they operate.
I can’t imagine taking for granted the cool, smooth whisper of a satin sheet against bare skin……..the commingled smells of burning leaves and cinnamon spice……..the crisp bite of a snowy morning while standing on the porch and drinking coffee. I love watching the world explode into vibrant color during the spring and summer months, with its profusion of flowers and brightly-hued decorations. I look forward to each fall with its riot of red, gold, and orange leaves and the rush of the wind through the trees on a brisk evening. I even enjoy the smell of winter pine, the reassuring patter of rain on the roof, and a crackling fire in the fireplace which reminds me that I’m safe and snug inside our big old rambling house.
The flip side to this, naturally, is that there are unpleasant sensory experiences as well. In depression, everything appears to my eyes in sepia tones and washed-out blues and greys. There is no joy in music; food doesn’t taste good; smells are flat and the weather is just as dreary as my outlook, even when the sun is out. The rich textures of better times cease to exist when I’m down, and the edges around my world begin to blur and fade into nothingness.
Still, I wouldn’t trade my life for any amount of normality, if it meant forgoing the ability to sense everything so keenly and experience it in all its multidimensional glory. I only wish I could capture it as well in print as I can in my own mind.
And for those of you who are interested: the number “7” is bright pink—almost fuchsia, to be more exact—and tastes like carbonated fruit punch. 🙂