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bred to cope
how i want to see the world
by katherine l (aka clevertitania) (@CleverTitania)
7.14.10
general

This is the first article I've actually written about Agnosia since I wrote Dreaming in Emotions almost one year ago. Over the year I've just added all the new information I can find to my original blog post of the article, trying to create a repository of sorts. My plan is to move the entire Agnosia library - so to speak - into it's own page. But right now there are a lot of things I need to do in the near future, and that's just another on the long list.

A few weeks back I started the next leg of my journey; an online survey to gather more information about the way different people experience Agnosia, whether it be visual, auditory or other. My hope is that, one day I'll be able to take this information to real scientists and get some academic interest piqued. Getting responses has been slow but steady (helped by a certain MSNBC pundit generously taking - and tweeting that he took - the survey).

Of the people that have taken my Agnosia Assessment Survey thus far, only a few have shared additional details about their experiences in the comments boxes. But I've noticed a trend (among many other interesting trends in the data so far) in who does comment. Most often it is people like myself, who have little or no ability to visualize. The other thing that has struck me about these comments is how people talk about coping with the condition.

Now believe me, I understand coping. The last three survey takers and I have some significant commonalities. We all have severe visual agnosia issues, we all have constant rapid eye movement - awake or asleep - and we all have ADHD or ADHD-Pi. Talk about being bred to cope. If we didn't learn how to compensate for our disadvantages, we'd never have made it past kindergarten.

But several comments now have talked about how they see this deficiency - in their perception and recall - as a minor thing and not something they dwell on. That fascinates me, and I want to ask those people follow up questions. I want to ask what they do, if they have any artist endeavors, how they sleep at night and what their favorite hobbies/interests are.

The main reason I am so curious? Since I first realize there was something slightly off about my brain - other than the general weirdness of it of course - it has rarely been out of my mind for long. It nags at me sometimes, how much I could do with the visualization abilities of an 'average' person. Putting aside things like drawing or graphic design, how about the ability to learn a language (spoken or programming)? Because I know that is one of the reasons I can't retain that information. Creating any kind of long term memory is doubly difficult if you can't even picture the letters - much less the word or what it represents - in your head. I want to know why I'm so different from the few people in the world who are most like me, neurologically speaking.

I've talked before about lucid dreaming, but now I've come to realize it's bigger than that. If dreams are a way for you to deal with psychological issues, how much can they be dealt with if you can't even really see what you're supposed to be looking at? Would I be past my fear of heights if I didn't spend so many nights navigate insanely dangerous paths which become even scarier and more treacherous because they are formless to me? Could my claustrophobia issues have gone away if I didn't dream of moving through incomprehensibly tight spaces where I can't even really see the walls? Do I still have lingering emotional baggage because I can't see the faces of people my mind wants to show me? Could my lack of ability to properly process subconscious thought be the root of even more?

Is my brain trying to do it's job properly, but rendered impotent by it's own limitations?!

Then there are things like knowing my son is only a couple of years from leaving home, and I won't be able to see him every day. Sure, there are photos, but imagine being a mother who can't just close her eyes and see her child's face. Or how about retreating to an image of a safe isolated cottage when I'm riding on an airplane? It would also be great not to have to drive to a place a half dozen times (relatively close together) to remember how to get back without directions or an address. Or for more practical purposes, I'd love to not forget the total of a customer's order because I was also trying to remember their apartment number and I couldn't retain them both.

I agree with the people who have talked about just living with it and not dwelling on our impairment. Sometimes you just have to do the best you can with what you have. But for me, there's no way to reclaim the blissful ignorance. If nothing else, I want to see that sunset again. The one brief moment I had of a solid visualization experience showed me what I am missing, and it's haunted me since. It haunts me even more because I can describe what I saw, but I can't see it again. And I cannot express just how badly I want to see those purple clouds against that teeming sky.

Of course having any of the Agnosia's (with the exception of some of the nastier ones like Anonagnosia) is not going to prevent you from living your life. I found ways to cope and so does everyone else. But I still believe it's a detriment to quality of life that needs to be studied. And if there is any way to help people with these conditions, that information could be a wake up call for millions of people. It can change forever how we view the sharing of information, both educationally and in our day to day lives.

For my part I continue trying to gather as much information as I can. And I'm really hopeful that - even if it takes a few years - I'll eventually have enough survey data to get an actual scientist/doctor interested in making a more significant study. I really do feel like the key to all of the Agnosia's is understanding the ways in which they overlap and what outside symptoms/conditions might contribute. And so far, the data is showing strong indications that the rapid eye movement is either a cause or affect of the visual agnosia's. That alone makes me feel a little more informed and a little more hopeful.

I have utmost respect for anyone who has to overcome a physical, learning or developmental disability. And I understand why some prefer to downplay it, because they've lived with it for so long. But I can't put it aside until I understand why and how. The odds of a treatment/medication/therapy in my lifetime are probably slim. But I keep imagining a world where kids are taught in ways their brain can absorb the information, instead of just in ways most kids can absorb it. I imagine a world where people aren't hindered by something, that's basically a minor neurological wiring issue, and their imaginations can truly run wild.

It might sound cheesy, but if you think about what we can all accomplish with these shortcomings, just picture what we could do with out them. The following painting was emailed to me by a member of the small community that's formed in the comments of the original article . He wanted to show me what an artist with no visual memory paints, since most of the zero visual memory crowd can't draw a decent stick figure. I look at something like this and I both see a wonderful piece of abstract art, and a talented person who should be able to do even more than he's already capable of.

In Place of Vision


So maybe that's what it comes down to. I'm greedy. We can already do so much - in learning to live with our impairments - but I want to be able to do more. I want to be even better at reasoning and absorbing information than I am, and I want to really be able to retain and recall what I want instead of just what worms it's way in. I want that for myself, my son, my sister, and all the people who've already stepped forward to add their names to the list of affected.

I wonder if I should add some questions to the survey to assess the incidence of overlapping Agnosia and 'teachers-pet-syndrome'. :-)


ABOUT KATHERINE L (AKA CLEVERTITANIA)

When I grow up, I want to be; whoever Joss Whedon wants to be, when he grows up. I am a writer because it's the first thing I want to do when I wake up in the morning; aside from eating and using the lavatory of course. My work includes screenplays, short stories, film/TV/music reviews and socio-political commentary. The last one is a fancy way of saying I like to shoot my mouth off on many topics. I excel at using $1.50 words. They gone up, thanks to inflation. Isn't our economy awesome?

more about katherine l (aka clevertitania)

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