What Synesthesia Looks Like

G&B Listener and co-producer Alyssa tells us she has Synesthesia, a condition in which people see colours in letters, numbers or sounds. She doesn’t see sounds, just numbers and letters. We asked her to call in to describe it, but she points out it makes more sense to email us. This is what she wrote:
I know I was asked to phone in and describe the number and letters synesthesia deal, but I was trying to compose what I would say in my head and I settled on it being easier to just email for one simple reason:
This is what numbers and letters look like to me.
Every letter and every number has a colour that it just *is* to me. They don’t change.  It doesn’t have a lot of use or specialness to it, except that certain numbers are more pleasing to the eye than others to me (for example 367 is a rather ugly combo of blue orange and brown and thus, I’d be less likely to pick it for say, a locker number at the gym than 324). Its very easy for me to remember phone numbers because I can remember their colours as well as their numbers. It also had a net result of making me very horrible at math in high school, until it turned into all letters. Because the numbers add together to make a new number that might not be related to the original numbers, but letters in algebra mostly just compound. (a * b = ab where as 2 * 4 = 8) Mostly the colours just add an extra layer of noise to everything.
While I’ve never been formerly tested for any of this, as an adult I’ve interviewed several other folks and found that their experiences do not match mine and that my condition matches with the text book definition of a synesthetic. I have different theories about how its helped or hindered me in life. For example, I think my spelling is as good as it is because I have an extra set of information in colour, in addition to letter patterns and shapes to help me remember how words are formed.
Anyways, that’s the best ways I can think to describe it. If you wouldn’t mind sharing this with Alan that would be great.


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