Aphantasia: A Bitter List

1. Having aphantasia means you lack the ability to visualize. That’s it. That’s all it means.

2. What is up with that phrasing, by the way? We don’t say that people who lack the ability to see “have blindness.” I know several people who don’t have full use of their sense of hearing, but not one of them “has deafness.” I don’t “have” aphantasia. I am aphantastic. Spellcheck has made it clear it’s going to yell at me no matter how I write it, so I may as well enjoy myself here.

3. “Aphantasia” sounds less like a neurological state of being and more like a tourist attraction. Which is exactly how the neurotypical population has been treating it ever since those little darlings finally got around to noticing we exist.

4. As I mentioned earlier, aphantasia is only itself. It’s very specific. It’s about lacking the ability to visualize. THAT’S IT. 

5. Aphantasia is NOT, as at least one neurotypical has suggested in my hearing, about lacking imagination. Imagination is about concepts, not pictures. That’s why blind people can and sometimes do write fiction. You know Jorge Luis Borges, right? Is your first thought on hearing his name, “It’s so sad that after he lost his sight, he couldn’t write any more of his wonderfully weird stories”? Or did you maybe bother to notice that a decade after he became entirely blind, he wrote The Book of Imaginary Beings? Yeah. Yeah, he did. 

6. Not being able to visualize also is not about not being able to put myself in someone else’s place. Yes, I’m talking about something a friend of mine suggested once. More about this in another post.

7. Unfortunately, people say a LOT of ill-informed things about aphantasia. Some of them are strangers who write for television shows. Others are people I know. Those latter folks might not audibly concoct all their strange theories if they knew they were talking about me. It never occurred to them that someone in their immediate circle might actually be aphantastic. Turns out, we look just like people.

8. Not being able to visualize isn’t anything but itself. Being aphantastic simply means I lack a sense most people have.

9: If you’re someone who’s been spouting nonsense about my adorable brain, please take that illness-as-metaphor garbage of yours, wrap it in something rough and rusty, and shove it so far up your own backside that they name a new medical procedure after you.

10. I’d really, really like to be able to visualize. I can’t. If you think it’s just a matter of trying hard enough, good news – I have one million dollars for you. Tax-free. But you only get to claim it if you flap your arms and fly.

11. What do you mean, you can’t? Try harder! Or don’t you want this million dollars? Oh, well. I guess you like being broke.

12. If you’re neurotypical, I promise that all of your neurovariant friends – ALL of us! – have been wishing and hoping and praying you’d stop making weird assumptions and start paying attention to our real live actual lives. 

13. Make someone’s wish come true!

14. …no? Too hard?

15. Try this. Take that amazing ability to see images in your head and, for five whole minutes, use it to picture yourself NOT being an ableist ass-hat. 

16. Maybe just one minute?

17. Please?

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