Dreams

DREAMS

(This is a chapter from my book Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere, link below).

Another reason for our differences arose shortly after we met. The subject of dreams came up and he reacted a bit strangely about it in my view. He doesn’t have them, none that can be remembered in any way at least, but found it bizarre that I did so much. And that I could replay them the next day. I have them every day, sometimes recurring, but mostly all dramatic and tiring. I had spent years despairing of them sometimes, unable to shake them upon waking. Having them follow me throughout the day, the feeling, the memory, the tiredness. Sleep is often not refreshing for me, but because my brain feels so overworked everyday just by thinking, I require sleep. I cannot escape it.

The whole concept of the above is as foreign as it could get to him when I broke it down. Why would you go through the motions of things that aren’t real when you’re asleep? All I could do was agree, it is weird and I cannot explain that bit, in fact, I have been trying to for a while now.

I watch a lot of horror (or at least have done), and often used to have apocalyptic dreams involving zombies, alien invasion or some such drama. Even when I hadn’t watched the films for quite some time, they could come back any time. Or that is how it looks on the outside. It’s easy to say that our dreams come directly from what we watch – and I have considered it, but what I go through is usually relevant to real life rather than fantasy. Anxiety, stress, worry, fear, anger – all the things we are taught to suppress in our daily lives. They just happen to manifest by way of ridiculous scenarios.

Again, to someone who does not have dreams, or visual replay of any kind, that is crazy talk. But to me it’s normal now, not enjoyable, but a bit more controllable. The trick is, not to get so wound up or anxious in real life, because it will follow me into sleep. There is no respite or escape in sleep, my brain does not shut down, and it just goes somewhere else and takes me with it.

As I got to my early twenties before I knew how to drive, I began to have driving dreams. I wasn’t even learning and had no immediate plan to, but as it was something I knew would come up, it began to feature. My mother didn’t drive and neither did my two older siblings so I had nothing to gauge it on either, so maybe that added to it. The amusing thing about those ones though, was that I had no idea how to drive, so in the dreams the car would usually roll into a hedge or down a hill. Expressing to me my main concern was that I didn’t know how to, rather than I would have to learn.  There was a partly funny, partly scary one though, where I was driving up a hill so steep that the car just tipped back on itself. So I will admit, when going up steep hills thereafter, my brain would default to a mild fleeting feeling of panic, remembering that dream.

Another that featured a few times, were teeth dreams. Occasionally I would have a dream where some of my teeth fell out. If you read any of the dream interpretation books, they say ones like that mean you are worried about money. Personally as I always had a dentist appointment booked around that time and have a fear of the dentist, I put it down to that. Although once you know how much you have to pay for your dental treatment, that could definitely give you teeth-related money dreams!

But as a depressed teenager cut off from the real world by my own mind, I found day-dreaming to be my saviour. I found living with my mother’s weirdness very draining and my only escape was to wander off in my head. I would dream of normality, try to imagine my future, what I wanted to be, dream of being brave and impetuous. Anything that could distract me from my actual reality, I read books, drew pictures, watched films, embroidered, wrote diaries, cleaned, walked our dogs (something that helped me get over agoraphobia), anything I could to not have to stop and be where I was.

I must admit, there is still a similarity as I do not have a quiet mind. But as an adult, I don’t need to daydream anymore, because I can change what I want if I need to. If something in my life is worrying me or is wrong, I can sort it out. I didn’t have that luxury when I was 15, so dreaming was my temporary way out.

The study of sleep and dreams has been going on for an age and I am aware there are people who don’t dream at all. Or some who don’t remember them in any way who do visualise, so this is a varied subject whatever your thought process or visualising capabilities. There are also the extreme sleep conditions, where people have night terrors and actually act out the fear or anxiety being experienced. Where dreams and nightmares can take on a life of their own. There really are some strange things going on inside our heads, whether we are in control or not, and even whether we are awake or not. That can be quite a scary concept.

(c) K Wicks

Hyperphantasia and horror

This is one of my articles about Aphantasia and Hyperphantasia, and although it’s not the only thing influencing what people are into and whether they enjoy horror, it appears to be a big factor in the difference between myself and my husband and our interests (or lack thereof), in fiction and in particular, horror.

My other article Fiction is Pointless describes how we stumbled upon the difference and what it led to. But I speculate further into the area of horror fiction because I find it interesting and wonder whether it might help other people understand some of the mechanisms going on in mind which shape us. Personally, I had nightmares as a kid and was afraid of things I couldn’t see as well as the things I could. I was probably traumatized by films like any other kid, or so I thought, and watched a fair amount of horror where I could growing up in the 80’s – a time when censorship was moving through and they became sought after and a right of passage for a time.

I kept a lot of my fears to myself, just going through them quietly and possible just presuming lots of people would be effected in the same way. Another article Hyperphantasia, a down side went into a more detailed look at one film in particular that chose to feature and repeat for me as a recurring issue, and one I couldn’t hide, so it was became a family joke that I was scared of sharks. You may have guessed from that which film I’m talking about.

So when we discovered the difference that one of us doesn’t visualise in mind (Aphantasia), and one of us does (Hyperphantasia), I mentally went through it and imagined being someone without pictures in mind, without an internal monolgue or replay going on. Speculating on and how that might affect my interactions, thought processes and general day to day life. The differences were massive, and maybe I shouldn’t have analysed it so much but it’s what I do, so no stone was left unturned as you might say. Then I wrote an entire book on it, steering away temporarily from my fictional writing to write my first non fictional book (link below).

I asked only a few questions to delve into the affect horror films may have had on someone with Aphantasia.

Q: So you have never had a nightmare?

A: No

Q: Were you ever afraid of the dark?

A: Why would I be afraid of the dark?

Q: Did the concept of anything or the tension in a film scare you?

A: Why would I be scared of something I can’t see?

There didn’t seem to be the need for many more questions on that, it was a logical response that summed it up perfectly. I won’t lie though, I was pretty shocked to know some people were like that, and more to the point, that I wasn’t. It’s taken me decades to manage my thoughts, the visualising and replay mechanisms without knowing what they were or why they were there. And once I did, it turned out I had been trying to understand them while also at the same time feeding them. I wish I had know many years ago about Hyperphantasia because I would have known to better filter my input, or understand sooner that what I read or watch, will stay with me, wanted or not.

There is still much to understand about what our brains are up to and how they may help or hinder us along the way, so the research continues…

(c) K Wicks

Fear

This is another chapter from my book – Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere, this one regarding a subject that has consumed much of my thought over the years. Once the difference between Hyperphantasia and Aphantasia was established, it led me to requestion this particular theme and review it from a completely different angle. (If you are not familiar with my book or these terms – I have Hyperphantasia = over visualising in mind and my husband has Aphantasia = lack of visual imagery) And in these strange times where many people are being openly manipulated through fear, it would be wise to understand what it is and how it can affect you.

Fear ~

When we found out about the difference in ability for visual imagery, one of the subjects I raised was fear. I wanted to know if he was affected by horror movies. Although he doesn’t really care for them, I know he had a phase of watching them when younger, and I thought, if he doesn’t get anything from them, why would he watch them? That is one of the areas that I always felt uses your own visual imagery against you, horror films. Creating tension with unseen horrors or just nothing sometimes, only a piece of music – letting your brain make up something more terrible than they could.

And I was correct. It was a flat no. He didn’t get scared watching them or any time after, because his brain literally imagined nothing during the scenes where you did not see the monster or alien. Long scenes of nothing but tension will often lose his attention, and rightly so I realise. Therefore, he never thought there might be monsters under the bed, has never been afraid of the dark or something he can’t see.

“Why would I be afraid of an idea?”

A very logical question, I felt, because without visual imagery, there was nothing to be scared of. He doesn’t visualise what might happen, he doesn’t put himself in the place of others, and therefore no emotion at all is attached. They are just pictures on a screen and when they are finished, they are gone. No recall or replay happens after the event. We can discuss concepts and ideas, but I no longer make any reference to anything visual or implied visual, there is no point and it holds up a conversation.

I watch less horror myself these days. Once I realised my brain was imprinting most of what I saw and could recall it at any given moment, I decided I need to be a better filter. My moods and emotions are greatly affected by what I read, write, watch and see, so I choose what takes my attention wisely now. I have spent a big portion of my life being affected by my fears and phobias, something he simply cannot relate to. I have a number of them and have learnt to manage them over the years. Some may be familiar.

Example: When I was about 8 or 9, I watched Jaws. As you can possibly imagine, it didn’t do me any good. It affected me so much I didn’t go swimming or have a bath for a year. Only showers. Because my brain decided to visualise and imagine jaws coming up through the plughole. Or in the swimming pool, the filter became my point of fixation. I had nightmares about the sea, about swimming, about sharks. It haunted me greatly.

After a year or so, I started to go back in the water. But with a very changed mind-set. Every water experience was a chore, an anxiety-ridden feeling I tried desperately to hide. I was a tomboy and wanted to be cool. So swallowed my fear and did it, along the way reading as many factual books about sharks as I could. Trying to dispel my unnatural fear of something that did not inhabit the same terrain as me.

Around the age of 12 there were a couple of experiences that reminded me I was not over it, just working through it. In the Army Cadets we were on annual camp and part of our training was being made to jump in a lake, swim out to a small boat and back to shore. Sounds simple enough. Let me set the scene as it really was – it was a grey February day, a freezing cold lake in the woods, and the water was black as night, zero visibility. I was the only girl taking part because the other three had managed to come up with excuses. My fear was so paralysing I couldn’t think about anything other than what they were about to make me do. All I knew was that I couldn’t bottle it in front of everyone.

As the only girl they tried to make me go first, but that is where I put my foot down, no, I would go second. I may have also watched the film Alligator by then too, which only added to my already massive issues. Watching someone else jump in first and struggle to the boat did make me feel a bit better. I was a competent swimmer so my concern wasn’t skill based. I jumped in, and as my head went under just for a second my panic hit a new level. The only reason I think I managed it was the adrenaline from the fear. That same mechanism got me bronze medal at the cadet championships too, for swimming. Visualising a shark actually helped me there!

I am still not over it, I just don’t go near the water anymore. I love swimming as a sport and exercise but it’s not relaxing or enjoyable for me. Or even being on water; over a decade ago I visited The Gambia on holiday and had to go in a dugout canoe, the rim was only a centimetre above the water line. I was so tense I gripped the edge of the canoe the whole time, with fingertips only ever so slightly hanging over the edge, crocodiles and piranhas being my fear there. Again, I was just trying to save face but hated the experience and that I put myself through the anxiety of it.

So I now avoid water still because of a scary film I watched. It sounds pathetic, but the struggle is real. To my husband, it sounds mad and he can’t believe these things have affected me so much, but he kind of gets it a bit more now. He just doesn’t get why I continued to keep watching films that would give me nightmares and real fears. Zombie films also have their place in my Hall of Horror Phobias, but I now feel I am trying to put it to good use by writing books. I am torn though; when you work out what scared you so much, do you really want others to go through what you did? It’s the author’s dilemma for me; just because I can, does it mean I should?

I have also observed that fear and anxiety can be and are used in conjunction with each other for manipulative purposes.

Example: After my breakdown my mother was my sole company for most of the day. At first she seemed to be trying to help me get better, then after a year or two, the rhetoric changed. Instead of preparing me to reintegrate into society and become a real person again, I began to hear things like,

“You’ll never cope without me.”

I think it was from that point on all I could focus on was getting old enough to leave home. I didn’t care that I might not cope and the world was scary, I desperately wanted to have the chance. She, however, seemed to be filled with regret and constantly talked of plans involving me and her in the future. I was afraid I would never get away which added massively to my anxiety. Obviously the events that followed did ultimately see me get my wish to leave, but at the cost of everything. It took me quite a number of years to work through all of that and put it all where it needed to be. I can’t say I had it harder than anybody else, but it was definitely weird.

(c) K Wicks – Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere.

Photo and words taken from the film V for Vendetta.

Seeing things differently

It’s no secret that people see things differently to each other, think differently and react differently. It’s pointed out to us often, within men and women hugely – a classic book I never got round to reading springs to mind – Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus. I have heard this book mentioned and referred to by title on many ocassions (never an actual quote). But almost possibly to deflect from the fact those differences can cause issues and it’s easier to breeze over them and wave them away as ‘they just are’ rather than address them. It can be hard to get along with, communicate effectively with and have a balanced relationship with someone if you are unaware of why or how you are different. Just acknowledging it exists isn’t really enough in my opinion if it’s a fundamental one. We give people many excuses for their behaviour often without delving into the reason for it. Or think that by giving it reasoning can go someway to excusing it. Not in my mind. I like to know the why, it usually helps me to determine any possible conslusion, judgment or result that may need to occur.

There are many reasons why people don’t get along, and with some people you never will. But I find it interesting to understand why, even if the fault lies with me, it’s still good to know that. There are lots of important lessons around this I think, helping to form how we see the world, how we think the world see us, if people have that concept. But understanding why you are different can actually help you to fit in. Not in the tradiontional sense of adapting to others ways and fitting into their pattern – but finding your own fit. To a point, we all have to get along; living side by side and weaving our way through life together (unless you have removed yourself from having to). But finding out who are can be a tough one and coming up against others opinions, ideals or wills can be a challenge when they clash with your own. In this modern time of instant and sometimes public ommunication, being aware of the impact of influences is important.

But it should also be factored in that ideals, thoughts and perpsectives can change with time and experience. Your own and other peoples. It would be odd to expect to be the same person at 40 that you were at 20, impossible in my view. So it shouldn’t be a suprise that you may ‘outgrow’ people as they say, or ‘drift apart’ or simply just change. All of those can be correct, and are ok. But if poth parties aren’t aware or mature enough to really understand that, then there can be difficluties and I guess, arguments and fall outs. It’s not easy when you may have outgrown someone, but they haven’t you.

On top of personality and general interest differences, there are the fundamental ones that can affect things. For that I will reference one that can go completely undetected, for decades and even life, but is a really important one in my recent experience. The ability to visualise in mind. Some people can’t. Most people can apparently, and there is a percentage who over visualise. Although they don’t actually know, they have presumed that only 2% can’t visualise – calling this Aphantasia, the small percentage, maybe 10% they say over visualise – called Hyperphantasia. And everyone else they say is on a varying scale of being able to visualise between not at all and all the time. That is what they used as the base ‘normal’ level.

I didn’t know this was a thing, until well into my 30’s. All my life I have visualised, over visualised and remembered much, places, dates, times, people, events, amounts, information. Usually relevant to my life, some of it outside events and extremely useless trivia that seems to hang around of it’s own accord. I naively presumed that everyone did this. So, the applecart in my mind was well and truly tipped over, when through various discussions and disagreements between myself and my husband, I discovered through continued questioning and reasoning what I consider to be a fundamental difference, and one that was actually the root of many of the issues. He did not visualise. At all. It sounds small doesn’t it? He doesn’t ‘see’ pictures in his head, and I do, what’s the big deal? I wish it weren’t one, and that it was just as easy as he is left handed and I am right handed. But the nature of what unfolded from that was more complex – there were different areas it affected firstly between us, and then indivdually. We also both had to content with understanding we really aren’t like each other or everyone else. And being honest, it can throw you sideways a bit when you just thought you were average and like everyone else. Then also realising that no-one else is really who you thought they were either. It can bring a whole lot of questions, and did. Opening a few more strange doors into self knowledge that I couldn’t help but venture into.

I then tried to work through it all and address which areas I felt it affected and why, trying to help my husband adjust to this new knowledge and explain to him as best I could, what is going on in peoples minds. While at the same time trying to integrate this new aspect of thought into my own assessments, of myself and others. It was a game changer for me and has given me an entirely different perspective on my past, present and future, and how I view and try to understand other people.

If you would be interested to read more about this experience, my book Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere is available on Amazon.

(c) K Wicks

PTSD

This is a chapter excerpt from my recent published work – Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere.

PTSD 

I wasn’t sure where this fit so it has its own small chapter. I also wanted to include it because before we knew of Aphantasia, my husband was actually rather dismissive of this condition. He said he didn’t understand why people were so traumatised to have this in the first place and why it goes on for so long. He can be extremely perceptive, so not getting it confused me and maybe because I had been diagnosed with this very thing, made me start to piece things together. Trauma and PTSD are different for everyone, but I believe memory and mental time travel made this last longer than necessary for me.

I had a breakdown and suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – just in case you haven’t come across this term before) from the age of fourteen, then spent the next three to four years at home with just my mother. Very limited home schooling and little or no socialising outside of the house. Then just before I turned eighteen, my mother suffered a massive brain aneurysm. I’m not going to lie, it was the most shocking event of my life. Whatever trauma I thought I had experienced up until that point, was completely overshadowed. It was on my watch too, I was home late from an appointment mid-morning and found her, having to call the ambulance and deal with the initial fallout. We had dogs so I called my step-father and the ambulance left with her, leaving me alone in the house with the dogs for company.

But what I do find interesting is despite the awfulness of what was happening, a part of my brain kept functioning but in a very detached state. Reason and logic were working on a different level. It happened on a Monday, and although my older brother lived away, I knew it was his day off. So I didn’t call him. My reasoning being, I’m about to change his life forever, nothing will be the same after this. And although I desperately wanted company and to share this tragedy, I wanted him to have one more normal day. And he did, I told him the next day. So there is a part of me that does and can keep functioning when the other part of me has shut down. All I can call them are split experiences, I have access to both and took part in both, but which one I focus on can determine how I cope with them.

It has taken me years to get over that event. To make matters more complicated she survived, but not in a good state. She ended up stuck way up north where we were residing at the time, so very cut off from anyone. I was the only child left living at home and made the choice to not look after her. I left and chose me and my upcoming life instead. You may judge me as harsh for leaving, but if you knew the full background you would possibly understand. I was followed by years of guilt for leaving, having to find out what had happened in my life so I didn’t have to have it following me anymore.

It was five years later she passed away and although I was relieved, I was not left with a sense of peace for some time after. My guilt at not being there to save her, and for not looking after her kept followed me. Every minute of that experience is etched in my mind, and for years it replayed whenever it felt like it. But the whole five years it went on for too, and after the funeral. It’s for things like this that I do not appreciate having such clear memories with full imagery. The only thing I could do over the years was to dissociate the emotions that I had attached to them, gradually minimising the impact and effect it would have on me. My life is still up and down as I am, I’m just dealing with it slightly better these days.

After knowing people like me see images and memories in our heads, my husband did understand why PTSD was such a thing for so many people. Even giving me a bit of insight into how people without imagery may still be affected. He says that maybe by not being able to adequately remember or visualise a traumatic event end up leading to a lack of closure. You aren’t able to work through it and put it behind you. I know it’s different for everyone though so it’s always going to be hard to say for sure.

(c) K Wicks

Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere

Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere

You know when you hear the phrase ‘not on the same page’? Implying that you are both not quite thinking along the same lines. When we realised there was a massive difference in thought going on, I realised we weren’t even in the same book.

We discovered that my husband is Aphantasic, meaning he doesn’t see any mental imagery in mind. I on the other hand, it turns out, am Hyperphantasic, someone who visualises most of the time. It may seem like a small difference to some people, and maybe it is to others, but for us it was huge. And went some way to explain why he just couldn’t understand my viewpoint on many things – despite various method of breaking it down or through logical explanations. Once we knew, I don’t expect him to understand certain things now. Because I can imagine what it is like to not have the ability – or affliction, to see images in mind, have internal narration (inner monologue) and recurring memories. In fact, once I did imagine what it was like to not have them, I understood him better and things made more sense. But the flipside of that, is that he can’t do the same. He does not imagine. So his understanding of me is limited, the best way I felt I could explain it was to write it down. Put in into sections of what areas of life I felt this made a difference.

From that came my book, Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere, describing what it is like to have Hyperphantasia and how I feel this has affected many areas of my life and experiences. And describing as best I can, the viewpoint on those subjects from someone with Aphantasia.

Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere.

(c) K Wicks

Labels

Another excerpt from my book – Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere. It’s about having Hyperphantasia (myself) and Aphantasia (my husband), about living with both and the differences we have noticed between the two.

Chapter – Labels

There are many labels given to things and people. They don’t need to cause people to be excluded, singled out or make them seem different in a bad way. Unfortunately though they are often in the minority, so they are left out or excluded. Maybe it’s easier for society to treat people like that rather than accept and help to understand. Although it makes me wonder how we ever made it this far with that kind of attitude.

Example: At school I had a friend who was severely dyslexic, his writing was like a scribble, and the teachers treated him as though he was thick. What I saw was a clever boy with an aptitude for computers when they were just coming into schools. Not very good at writing and who got bored in class quickly leading to what they called ‘acting up’. It bothered me they didn’t care or have the time and resources to deal with differences, whatever they were. I noticed lots of bright people, but they didn’t fit the curriculum so they were singled out and treated differently, not in a positive way usually. They couldn’t be what the system wanted.

This seemed to lead to developing behaviours and characteristics I felt may not have been there otherwise. As goes the saying, if you tell a child they are stupid long enough, they might just start believing it. People are very easily to influence and manipulate given the right tools and environment, school being a perfect place for this.

This belief of mine was compounded further by reading a certain book. I did not stumble across this book by accident. It was handed to me by my Grandmother from her personal bookshelf. She could see what I was interested in and was a clinical psychologist by trade herself. I took the book and kept it on my bookshelf for years, many years. It was only unfortunately after my grandmother passed away at the age of 90 a few years ago, that I actually opened the book. And for me it was a game changer.

All of my theories about how society controls, manipulates and conspires against us were confirmed. We were all pretty much an experiment of some sort. For decades now processes and systems had been put in place and executed for a systematic overhaul of who we are and how we are meant to be. This book – The People Shapers by Vance Packard was a revelation to me that someone else had so concisely worded and researched exactly what I had thought. But he knew the people doing it and reading the details of what I had thought, made me feel sick. Because it was so much worse. As if the eugenicists had infiltrated every level of society and decided everyone was defective in some way. Not that we were just different. I could see this was both harmful and damaging to society, not helpful at all. What I didn’t understand initially though is that this all creates industry and profit. However much I would like to think the powers that be want to help people, they only want to for profit.

This book was first published in 1977 which made me aware that I was living in the repercussions of those times. Pretty much all of these projects he had written about either had already been rolled out or were in the following decades.

I had recognised some of these issues at quite a young age before I got to this book. Had already began to engage in learning about the Theory of Mind before I knew what it was. Through various circumstances I saw more than maybe most by twenty and was taught how to fit in, that you had to comply and be what society wants. Keep your head down, do what they say and try and get on. It took me years or trying and working hard to get it, but I knew what I was looking for. I had a plan.

Around me I saw most people did not understand what was being done to them, did not have a plan and instead seemed quite lost. Either in themselves or within society which demands and dictates at a pace that most people really aren’t quipped for, let alone comfortable with.

I complied more than most, but I was steered by my grandparents who managed to override or interrupt my parents having more influence over me. They taught me to fit in and how to comply, what I needed to do to have some kind of easy life, because if you didn’t, it wouldn’t be made easy for you. I am extremely grateful now for this overview they had, obviously being of a time when all of these societal changes were being implemented and at the helm of some of them.

Another interest I developed along the way, which I felt was necessary to my understanding, was social history. Possibly not interesting to others, my research included the history of taxes, benefits, mental health, criminal laws and medicine. Trying to understand how we go to this point, what rules and laws we had along the way that led to now and the world we have created around us. Knowing how and why we got to this point meant everything to me, without those I felt blind.

I have suffered the usual labels along the way too, and again having some of these ‘given’ to me, led me to want to understand them even more. To understand the impact these mental processes can have on a person, and how just the word or label can destroy someone. Alongside these ‘labels and categories’ though comes industry, pharmaceuticals and money. Lots of money. So I can see why it might be easier to keep looking at the cure rather than the cause.

Through various issues at home and in life – I have had the following labels – clinical depression, a mental breakdown, PTSD, stress headaches, potential anorexia, normal depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, dissociation disorder, separation anxiety and a behavioural disorder.

All this around the ages of fourteen to sixteen. I was having a tough life I don’t deny it, and I seek no sympathy for it, it was what it was. I cannot help looking back though and really questioning their motive for overloading an already troubled mind with all of that. I felt bitter towards the authorities at the time that they would do that to someone, a child no less. I had some counselling and they tried to put me on antidepressants. That didn’t work out and I didn’t take them, I did however find the need for them years later with a number of repeat episodes periodically throughout my twenties. Like I said, life can be hard. I now realise this doesn’t automatically mean you are mentally ill. This could mean you are having a normal reaction to something that isn’t right and needs addressing, not supressing.

It was because these things had labels and were well established that I was able to look into them. To try and work them out using the only test subject I could ever really get the truth from. Myself. Given that we humans are predisposed to self-denial, even then the truth can be skewed but the best you can get sometimes.

Over the years my bitterness turned to anger, because I knew they were doing it to others. I was not going to accept these conditions or disorders as who I was, I decided I wanted to work out how they came about. I did not have to look far. It was quite obvious where the problems were, at home. Text book stuff really. There were eating disorders, mental illness, drug addiction and parental absences during my childhood, of which I didn’t pay much attention, or so I thought.

But all of these factors, people and environments in my life have played their part to shape me, to determine how I ended up like this.

A few years into my 30’s a curve ball appeared when I met my husband. We met, we fell in love and we married within 8 months. Simple. It wasn’t for about a year or so after that I noticed there were differences I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I had always prided myself on being able to work out how someone thinks, if I spend enough time with them and watch their methods, it can be done. But I wasn’t able to work out my own husband. It started to frustrate me. He would make what appeared to be flippant comments, sarcasm with no thought for my feelings, he couldn’t understand why I talked about my past so much.

I just put these things down to a difference of personality and lifestyle previously. It was never done with any malice or intended offence, and because he is extremely loving as a person towards me, caring and bright as well as mostly logical. It confused me why he was like that. There seemed no basis for it and he seemed confused when I wanted to know why. He just simply said he didn’t understand why I felt the need to talk about my past all the time. He found it weird I could remember the year I did something, or thought something. That I seemed to have an attachment to things and activities. (Movies, books, hobbies, interests), things from past that in his opinion I should have let go of.

That where I found it odd. I had been surrounded by people my whole life who weren’t like him, who appreciated their past and memories, even if sometimes they weren’t the best. Still I couldn’t put my finger on it, why did he think my way of thinking was so strange? I found it maddening, I kept trying to work out what it was. Why did he see things so very differently from me, and more to the point, why did he feel the need to tell me all the time? I couldn’t get him to understand why it was actually quite hurtful to tell someone their past is irrelevant and has no meaning. Which made me think there really was something else going on. It wasn’t personal, he genuinely felt like that about everyone.

It took nearly another year to find the culprit and only happened because I was not willing to let it all go. I also write horror fiction and it was this that bought it all to a head. He didn’t see the point of fiction, didn’t understand why people needed constant escapism and didn’t think it really had a relevant place in society. Red flag raised and cue internal rage. Reading books and watching films have saved me from myself many a time and made my childhood more bearable. To think someone didn’t believe there was a place for this saddened me very much and I felt it needed correcting. How could he have married a fiction writer if he thought it was pointless? It was crazy to me.

Instead of jumping straight in and having an argument about it, I though it through. Thought about things he had told me about his past and childhood – only because I asked him specific questions. Some of which were a surprise or couldn’t be answered as he hadn’t stored the information. One comment had stuck with me when talking about playing as children and he had said

“I couldn’t do what they did, they seemed to ‘Go Cartoon’, and I couldn’t”.

I realised this probably meant he didn’t do make believe and just wasn’t interested. As an adult I get it, but to say you were that way as a child made me realise there must be more to it.

It took hours of questions and talking to try and get my head round what it was that was so fundamentally different, no-one I had ever met had this view – and I have come across some very different opinions and view on things in my time and travels. It only took one sentence in the end to break all this open, when I finally worked out what I needed to say.

“You do realise that when people like me read a book, we see pictures in our head don’t you?”

“No”.

And there it was. The bombshell, the game changer – in fact, the life changer. But it was now something I could work with and instantly took to the oracle (google), to find out what this was. I found it pretty quickly and was excited to know this was a thing, he wasn’t weird, I wasn’t weird, we were just different. The excitement was short lived for me and was non-existent for him. This was a label he didn’t want and one that would both take us quite some time to get our head around.

(c) K Wicks

Hyperphantasia now

It’s been a strange road learning about Hyperphantasia. How imagination, memory and thought processes can all work together – or against each other. What always used to just be called an overactive or hyper imagination, really isn’t. It is sometimes a struggle to focus on external stimuli and take it all in, as there is so much going on internally. But this does not equate to ‘not being in reality’ as seen from an Aphantasic point of view. It took me a while to explain to my Aphantasic husband that everyone has their own version of reality anyway. He finds that a weird concept. He said you are either in reality or not. I disagreed and continue to try and explain this very strange thing. From a combination of interpretation, personal ideals, identity and environment we have to build our own realities around us within the parameters of what I guess is defined as a shared reality. And when this comes into disagreement or conflict with other peoples realities, it can be a confusing thing and doesn’t always work out.

He really doesn’t understand what it is like to have a constant murmur and a factory processing everything all the time in my head. Any more than I understand what it is like to see and hear nothing in mind, and when there is nothing happening, there really is nothing happening. I learn to manage the barrage of images and memories. Understand all the triggers and tendencies that I have to ‘keep’ things in mind. I guess almost like a hoarder of thoughts, but not by choice. Within that I realised though, that to a point I do have a choice, because I can choose (mostly) what goes in. Every article, book, film, conversation, theory, experience, idea and thought is jumbling around in mind, waiting to pounce anytime, anywhere for whatever reason. A lifetime of input increasing all the time and since the internet happened, ever growing. It has definitely changed my view on what I watch, read or give my time to.

But it is still a learning process, wondering how and why you are the way you are. Is it natural, was it environment? The old nature vs nurture argument which has been of interest to me for some time…

(c) K Wicks

Here is my book about discovering we had Hyperphantasia and Aphantasia and how I feel it affects certain aspects of life.

Fiction is pointless

Fiction is pointless. What do you think when you hear those words? Do you agree? Have you ever given thought to why fiction is a thing? I am a writer and horror fiction is my chosen genre (or rather I think it chose me). So I was disturbed to hear these words, from my own husband no less. Not when we first met, he just said he wasn’t into reading fiction and we left it that that. But a couple of years later, I was curious and wanted to know, why didn’t he like reading fiction?

The answer threw me completely. Fiction is pointless. I have to confess, I believe I took the defensive route immediately. As someone who has enjoyed many hours of escapism growing up immersing myself in books and movies and writing my own stories. I thought it was essential and it had never dawned on me that other people may not share that. I think I unpicked that jumper thread because I knew my husband would never read my books or be interested in any of my fiction, I wanted further explanation. I didn’t quite realise the can of worms it was going to open.

I tried so hard to explain it, what joy fiction could bring letting your imagination run riot as they say. He shook his head at me. Then I worked out something vaguely in the back of my mind. When talking about stuff previously I had asked him about playing as a child and imagining things and he said the phrase which was starting to make more sense ‘I could never go full cartoon’ like everyone else. I didn’t quite understand it, but couldn’t think of a way to get him to describe it better at the time, but now it came back to me. I had it, and said ‘when I read books, I actually see what I am reading in my head, there are pictures of what’s going on. Like a movie’.

And that was it. What seemed like such a small thing as one person liking fiction and the other not, uncovered something very profoundly different and something that would affect nearly every aspect of our lives thereafter. We discovered he has Aphantasia, a lack of visual imagery in mind. He didn’t see pictures in his head, and to be honest, was pretty horrified that I did. And it turned out apparently 98% of people do in some way or another as well. The adjustment to this has been long and sometimes not easy. It’s made me analyse my own thought process all over again too, because as it turns out, I have Hyperphantasia, which is considered an over active and vivid imagination. Now I know other people aren’t like me either, they don’t have constant dialogue, pictures, songs, films, memories and ideas all jostling for position at once in mind. I have tried to write about the experience as best I can in my book Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere (link below) but it’s been a strange old road, and this year has just made it all the stranger…

(c) K Wicks