Mirror-Touch Synesthesia and Me
When I was young, I loved gruesome, gross things. If it freaked other people out, then I wanted to see it, feel it, taste it, or whatever. Once, in high school, we had a substitute teacher in band class one day. He didn’t know anything about music, so he brought a Faces of Death videotape for us to watch. I was in heaven.
As I’ve gotten older, I can’t handle those things anymore. I started noticing it in my mid-20’s. I saw a video online of a professional wrestler breaking his leg (as in snapping it in half) and my leg felt a sharp pain when I watched. It lasted for hours. To this day, even thinking of that video makes my leg hurt.
When I saw I Know What You Did Last Summer, my at-the-time fiancee’s hand hurt by the end of the movie because I would squeeze it so hard when something painful-looking happened on the screen. It was the first time in a movie that I felt the need to close my eyes at certain points.
A few years later I was working at a movie theater when the first Final Destination came out. Every Thursday night, the employees would vote on which new movie to play after closing time, just for us and our friends. I was a manager, so I didn’t vote, but one of the three managers had to be there to be responsible for whatever may happen during the film.
This time, it was one of my new employees who ended up supervising me. If you’ve seen Final Destination, you know that some of the deaths are rather creatively heinous and could come without warning. I couldn’t close my eyes in time on most of them. My poor new hire heard me losing my mind as I was literally in pain for a good portion of the movie.
I told my parents about this the next day. They said my grandfather had a similar condition, and it kept getting worse as he got older. So I have that to look forward to. His doctor actually told him to stick with comedies like Laugh-In, and stay away from dramas because he would become too emotionally invested.
If I see someone break their bone, it feels like mine broke. Even though I know it isn’t true, can see my arm or leg or whatever in one piece with a normal range of motion, I feel the pain. If someone stubs their toe and I see it happen, my toe hurts.
It happens emotionally, as well. Remember when Bill Clinton famously said, “I feel your pain?” I get it, because I do to. It’s like empathy x 1,000. I am miserable knowing that you are sad.
Oddly enough, my own pain doesn’t bother me as much. I dislocate my shoulder and it hurts, but not as much as if I see someone else do it. I roll my ankle, and I joke about it; it hurts but it doesn’t affect me like watching a basketball player’s ankle roll as he lands on another player’s foot. I lose my job and I’m sad, I hear that you lost your job and I’m full-on depressed.
Hell, sometimes I’ll see an old man eating alone in a restaurant and imagine that he wakes up in the morning and, for a brief moment, doesn’t remember that his wife died years ago. He rolls over to kiss her good morning, and she’s not there. Just a thought like that, projected onto another human that I don’t know, can make me tear up.
It can even happen with words. I just read a tweet that said, “you can cut a mole off with scissors, right?” and it hurt (I have a mole on my neck, and that’s where I felt like a blade was cutting).
Mostly, though, I’m OK with the physical part if I don’t see it happen. I can see a broken leg. I can see a dead body. But if I see it actually happen, I’m toast. I’ve tried to ween myself off of it, force myself to try and handle some of these things, but it ain’t happening.
So that’s today’s TMI update, kids. Ladies say they want a sensitive guy, but I may be a bit over-the-top. Oh well. Maybe I’ll one day feel the good stuff of other people too.
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