Mental Health Misdiagnoses?


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.


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Omg, stop it! This is both the best and saddest post I’ve ever read. I feeeeelllll this SOOO hard. I’ve never seen anything, but not knowing that I was missing parts of life that others (like 98% of “others”) weren’t, I believe at least, caused me to do things in life that now I can see were as “reckless” as everyone always said they were.  But with no ability to see myself in a scenario where the consequences ended up baldy caused me, after gaining success and making money, to feel like I was manifesting all that and the universe is abundant and I was, basically, invincible. Which, of course, is not the case. Ignorance is bliss. Clarity sounds great, but isn’t ever at first.

All those things you said up there, I can “see” myself doing the same EXACT SHIT that situation, even the words you used and how happy you sound like you were. I have known for 18 months or 2 years, and it was only recently that the gravity of decisions I made, while operating under a premise with only partial information available, but I don’t know if I want to see in my mind’s eye. All of that sounds so beautifully wonderful, but I’ve already lived a delusional life (or lack of delusions, but I’m sure it looks like delusions to others) and I think I’d get stuck in like my mind where I really can be invincible. Or see a life passed this present moment even. Hmph.

Everytime I come on this site and read stuff I get exhilarated and then I get sad. Anyway, thank you so much for sharing. That is real shit you’re talking about up there and I feel that. Thank you.

Hi chetty vendetti,

For some reason I can’t reply to your comment, only to myself!

Thanks so much for your reply. I can definitely relate to your comment about being reckless because of not being able to “see” the consequences to your actions. I’m trying to look at the positives, like how we live totally in the moment because that’s all there is. I’m beginning to understand that for most people living in the future or the past is more than an abstract concept. People must get carried away in memories and “what ifs”. It must bring satisfaction, sure, because they can remember these events that happened and that must bring people happiness. But also a sense of things not being “enough” because if I could see things as they could be, I’d always be striving for things to be different.

I learned yesterday that people can access other senses and also their emotions too. They can recall tastes, sounds, smells, textures, and even emotions! When people feel a certain way, it can “take them back” to when they felt that way before. And when they recall an event, they can actually feel the emotions they felt then. For me, for example, I went to a wedding this weekend, I know I was really happy, but it’s not like I can remember it and feel that happiness! That’s really quite amazing. But also heart-breaking, what if you remember something and it makes you feel really sad.

We do have our own kind of superpower. I’m so grateful that I can’t picture things in a way, because everytime I look at a leaf, or hear a bird, it’s like seeing and hearing for the first time. I feel I can always be satisfied with what I have right now because it’s all I have.

People seem to struggle a lot with the concept of death. For me, I’ve known people that have died, but not being able to remember their face, or conjure up the senses or emotions in terms of the experiences I’ve shared, I feel like I just don’t see them often anymore. They’re no more not there than they weren’t not there when they weren’t physically in front of me. I can’t imagine a world with or without me, so it makes no difference to me if I’m there or not, except that I would no longer be able to experience things in the present moment. But I understand now that to most other people, they would be able to see the world with and without me. Death of others must be incredible hard for most other people, though I don’t really understand the concept of being afraid of death. What do people imagine happens when they die? We don’t know what happens when we die so I guess each person has a different version of it.

Notice that everything you experience is like you’re experiencing anything for the first time ever and it makes things a lot easier to cope with. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been reckless. The way we sensually experience the world must be so far removed from how everyone else does, and that isn’t a bad thing. Our only reality is the present.

Ugh, okay, I can only see your responses if I’m not logged in so I’m gna try and respond to you via memory here. I hear you on all fronts in your reply, and I agree with you in a broad sense. I believe that all is not terrible with aphantasia, that we could have worse “conditions” or “unforeseen things that happen to us” and that we have to look at the positive side of this…one hundred I agree. There are courses and articles out there with things like workshops of how to start to visualize things…but I am by no means in a position to try and change the handbook of life I’ve been “writing” since infancy. I’m scared to death of what would happen if I could conjure things up in my mind…like I said before, I am not entirely sure I’d ever come back to reality if I had a literal “Happy Place” versus my metaphorical one, right? This place SUCKS a lot of the time, especially as you get older. It compounds past bullshit and then increasingly throws more at you. I mean, ultimately and for real, we should get a free pass at Reality for the rest of our lives from non-aphants because we’re always stuck here and they can go to their Happy Place or have Calgon take them away. We’re always here. And maybe life doesn’t even compound on them or maybe life increasingly sucks less for them because they really do get to escape or do get to free themselves from reality for a little while, from meditation to just remembering a funny story and laughing, who knows. All I know is that I don’t ever escape, I’ve never been able to really escape…even one vacations I’m still on the same wavelength. I mean, space and time mean so little to me conceptually that I’ve said for years that when I go somewhere, whether it be flying to see family or simply driving to the grocery store, it feels like the ground is moving underneath me and I’m always in the same place. I’m never moving or going anywhere, even though I physically know I am (Note: I chalked that one up to self-centered sociopathism, also #eyeroll). Further WHY ARE THERE EVEN FUNERAL HOMES IF PEOPLE CAN RE-ENVISION THAT??? That’s pretty masochistic if you ask me haha.

I think there are 2 or 3 distinct differences between you and I (and this I’ve deduced from our years of knowing one another, lol). First, I think that you have a better understanding what non-aphants can see because you’ve actually seen it (or actually visualized it, twice I think). So you have a better understanding than I do of what “visualizing images” even is. I know you don’t remember it or cannot recall it very well (or at all), but you have previously experienced it. Any attempt by me to “act like I know” or think I can understand their conceptualizations is futile. Secondly, and seemingly somewhat conversely to my first point, it appears that your experience of aphantasia is farther on the dark end of the spectrum than mine…not that there can be much room that way because it’s pitch dark to me…like so dark a photograph apparently cannot develop in there HAHA…but your “being in the present” is stronger than mine. I’m having a hard time with the phrase “being in the present” because that was somewhere I was striving to be, somewhere that I have literally always been working on trying to get to not knowing that the present is really all I have, other than memories I can recall (that may or may not even be accurate). I mean from my therapist to my friends and family to clients even, they always are telling me to not overthink and just “be or live in the now”. So I didn’t know I already was here this whole time, if I even am. I mean, I understand “out of sight out of mind”, and I don’t miss people like other people do, and I have the same experience with death that you do, but I can recall things that I have experienced. They aren’t in images, but I remember them however it is I remember them and I reminisce with people about the same past event and it doesn’t feel like I remember any less than they do. And every time I see a leaf I don’t think of it as the first time I’m seeing a leaf (and I may have desensitized myself to that, because we see so many leaves so many times in our lives), so maybe it is that. I know that I cannot plan and I literally thought “goals” were euphemistic and not something that one really works toward. I am, however, able to somewhat impute myself into a future even IF and only if I have personally experienced that  same event in my past…like car crashes…I can foresee me being in a car crash because I have been in car crashes before. The “future” crashes I am foreseeing are almost exactly the same crashes I’ve been in in the past, just set in the future. And if I wanted to climb Mt. Fuji one day, I could probably envision that because I watch so much geography and nature shit that I can impute that to some extent. I cannot, however, picture myself with a family…I was even engaged once and it was never that real to me. So, I just thought and told everyone “I don’t want kids, I don’t SEE myself with kids (shocker #eyerollagain)” but that is because I was unable to see it, and that potential missed opportunity makes me sad. (Side note: I have since apologized to my prior boyfriends because “I must have been emotionally distant” and they all, separately, agreed with me with such amazement that those words were even coming out of my mouth like they had been waiting to hear me say it since the day we broke up. I mean JESUS!)
Lastly, I think that this is new to you and you’re grappling with it and perhaps using positivity to make it tolerable…or you’re really at peace with it (and a far better person than I), or it hasn’t changed your life experience and you’re good with it. However, from where I’m standing and if I understand your story correctly, you were LITERALLY diagnosed with seeing hallucinations because you were telling people that you can SEE shit that isn’t there JUST LIKE THEY CAN!!! If that doesn’t PISS YOU OFF, then teach me whatever it is you got, because that happening to you pisses ME off and I don’t even know you. I know it’s no one’s fault, not even our own, but come on. I can empathize with that so much because had visions came to me suddenly I would be on every rooftop screaming it until they institutionalized me…because I would have thought I was the only one who could do it. Shit, that’s kind of what happened when I found out. Which was because I had one of those half-awake, half-asleep dreams once where I saw a vivid purple smoke AND I could manipulate the way it dissipated in the air. The background was still black but the purple was SO vivid and it had lighter densities as it dissipated. I got up SO FAST and RAN to my sister’s house to tell her and her man about what I had seen and they looked at me like “aaaannnnddd…”and he said “yeah, I’m looking at it right now…so what happens?” and I just stared at him like “what?” “You just pulled that up as I was telling you the story about my dream and are WAITING FOR MORE like it’s ON DEMAND?!?!” And I could see both of their faces and felt their authenticity and how they were seriously waiting for more to that story. I never saw that purple smoke again and nothing that real ever was in my head before or after.
Then I broke down about it, but after a few weeks I thought, “Hey, I’m good, I’ve done well this far, they see shit in their head and I don’t, never stopped me from winning before.”

That was until it did.

I wrote WAY more, but it was double what I’ve already written so I’m going to post it as another discussion and call it “How my Aphantasia made me Delusional and Altered the Course of My Life”, so if you want to read it, it’s there. I hope I didn’t offend you in any way in this response. I’m just so shook about all of this and talking about it helps me work through it, so know that I appreciate you. Good luck with everything.

wow – that sounds like a crazy ride. It must have been a very strange time for you. While I was reading your post I was wondering if perhaps you were on medications that ‘unblocked’ whatever is ‘blocking’ our ability to see mental imagery. Or if it just happened spontaneously? Like many, I feel a bit ripped off that I can’t visualise. It’s just a theory, but maybe not that crazy. I’ve read accounts of people who lost the ability to visualise after taking certain medications, so maybe the reverse can be true too. Anyway, wish you all the best in making sense of your experience.

I tried to reply to you but it disappeared. Trying again ….