I’m currently diagnosed with both Bipolar 1 and ADHD. After finding out that I have Aphantasia this weekend, I’ve realised there’s virtually no chance I have ADHD, and my ADHD symptoms can pretty much all be explained by aphantasia.
So here’s the confusing bit though.
I’ve been sectioned many times for hallucinations and psychosis during what were labelled as “manic phases”. But now I know I have aphantasia, I’m looking back at those times and have come to realise that I wasn’t hallucinating, I had just suddenly gained the ability to conjure voluntary mental images at that time. I remember writing really detailed movies in my mind, I could see them in front of me and I could write the story as it went along. And I remember being able to conjure images of things and manipulate them in my mind too.
I was really excited about this at the time, and trying to tell everyone. I instinctively knew that everyone else could already do it, and I could remember (in moving images) that I was able to do it as a child before it went away. I knew that it wasn’t unique to me because something “clicked” about how people communicate and I saw all the things I didn’t “get” before. It was incredible, so beautiful, and really ridiculously fun, like playing a computer game but in your mind. I couldn’t stop looking (yes, looking) back at my life and just having this complete sense of understanding.
But of course, trying to explain phantasia to people who have no idea that some people are aphantasic makes you sound absolutely batshit crazy.
Things I remember saying and doing:
- “I can move things with my mind”
- (When asked if I think I have special powers) “Yes but everyone has this same special power, it just went away for me for a really long time and it’s back”
- “I finally “get it”, everything makes sense now”
- Laughing to myself lots at jokes I never understood before that suddenly made sense now (can’t for the life of me remember what they were)
- Lots of happy tears
- Getting VERY frustrated and angry that people didn’t understand
- Imagining and remembering movies of things in vivid detail and it just being the most amazing thing I have ever experienced by far
- Spending a lot of time in lala land, just recalling nice things, or imagining nice things
- Being unbelievably excitable
- (When asked if i could see things that aren’t there) “Yes but everyone can do that”
- Basically just looking around at things around me, and things I could see IRL triggering happy video memories and just crying with happiness almost constantly.
- Feeling like I was finally “alive” again.
So looking back on those times, I always thought “blind mind” was normality and those things I had experienced were definite proof that I was hallucinating and psychotic, because I was able to see things that weren’t physically in front of me. Now I’m very confused and overwhelmed trying to separate it all out (and obviously because I’m back to being aphantasic it’s all so vague and I can sort of remember the emotions, and I know that these things happened, but I can’t remember them as movies).
I just wanted to share my experience and try to make sense of it a bit more, if anyone has any insight (“in”-“sight” are you actually kidding me right now, I just realised what that word means to most other people) that would be great.
I’m very hopeful that there must be a way of getting mental images back, but also it’s super terrifying and I’m scared there’s not a way.
But I feel totally blessed that I’ve had the experience of seeing the world as most other people see it, even for short times. It really was like the world made total sense for the first time in my adult life.