Discovering Aphantasia: Realizing My Inner World
My husband and I like to watch YouTube videos together on lazy weekend mornings while lounging in bed. On one of these snuggly weekends, we came across the video: I have APHANTASIA (and you may too… without realizing it!).
My husband and I were curious and clicked on the video. Little did I know, we were about to make an aphantastic discovery that would change my perspective on how I perceive and experience the world.
In the video, popular Youtuber and visual artist, AmyRightMeow asks: Can you picture an apple and make it spin?
I tried to conjure up a memory of an apple I’d recently seen, and… huh? How do I make it spin?! My husband could accomplish the task with ease. I, on the other hand, had my inner world realized.
Could I have aphantasia?
From Struggling Artist to Skilled Mechanic: My Journey with Aphantasia
I am a creative who enjoys art in the forms of drawing and painting, and I am also an author. Having a blind mind’s eye has severely impacted my creativity in ways I never realized until I discovered the truth about aphantasia. Suddenly, things began to make sense.
I had taken numerous art classes through high school with the intention of continuing to obtain an art degree in college. But I struggled. Art assignments involving displays, present subjects, or pictures to copy into a new art form I could handle. But the assignments where I was asked to create an imaginary world? No can do. I aced every project with a subject that I could look at while drawing or painting. But for all of the projects without subjects, I failed.
I thought my artistic ability was failing me. I thought my ‘muse’ had dumped me. So I moved on. My focus became automotive, and my education pivoted in that direction. I put away the pencils and paintbrushes and swapped them out for wrenches and ratchets. I was following in my father’s footsteps anyway. Artists never make any money, so it’s for the best. Right?
Unlocking My Creative Potential: Overcoming Aphantasia in Writing and Design
After I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Automotive Management, pieced together a sports car with a performance engine built by yours truly, and revamped an automotive business, something didn’t feel right. I was going through the motions, but my work felt empty. It was in the midst of this listlessness that I began toying with writing. But it, too, had its challenges.
My characters had names and general attributes such as red hair and green eyes. But beyond that, I couldn’t describe what they looked like. I wrote two complete novels but couldn’t picture a single character or setting in my works. I’m an avid reader and realized that even as I read, I couldn’t visualize the characters or settings described to me. But I never thought anything of it. My reading and writing were always focused on the words. I would mentally implant faces and places with things I knew, unable to conjure any mental images based on descriptions of something I had never seen.
I was in the middle of a career transition when I discovered the YouTube video that changed everything. I was leaving my automotive career in favor of self-employment. I wanted to focus on making my writing more than a hobby. And to fund the endeavor, my husband and I ventured into house flipping. My primary task was the design. It wasn’t until I discovered Aphantasia that I realized why I had such difficulty visualizing the designs I wanted.
As with my writing, my artwork, and now my interior design, I had to seek images and real examples I could see for myself to piece together what I wanted. I could stare at the remnants of a bathroom I had just demolished but had no inkling as to how I would put a cohesive design together. I had to create something of a picture collage to ‘visualize’ the design. Interesting how we find ways to accommodate!
My Aphantastic Discovery and Its Impact on My Creative Journey
I discovered my Aphantasia was not precisely a blackout per se. It wasn’t entirely empty in my head when I tried to imagine something. My mental imagery was just severely limited. If I had recently seen something, I could conjure up details about the memory that I could use to create from.
I realized just how much this impacted my creativity, memory, and all aspects of every job or creative task I applied myself.
“Mental blindness” is similar to eyesight blindness. There are varying levels of eyesight blindness, and not everyone will see absolutely nothing. Some people can see outlines, some light and shadow, and some can see blurry details. For me, my mostly mental blindness is like seeing the world only through recent memories or watching the world through a fogged-up mirror.
Now that I understand how my mind works, I know that I must focus heavily on visual stimulation. I take pictures frequently to piece together interior design ideas. I utilize stock images to describe my characters and settings in my fiction novels.
Thanks to my aphantastic discovery, I no longer turn away from creative pursuits, knowing now that my muse has never left me. She merely waited for me to see her blurry reflection standing over my shoulder in that foggy mirror.