A few days after I started dating my boyfriend, he had to go on a study trip. I had already known him for some months, so it was just the dating part that was new to me. He wasn’t. We had met once a week for several months, because he was my mentor at university. However, when he was on this study trip, I couldn’t imagine in my head how he looked like. I had started to like him a lot and I missed him, so I really wanted to see him in my mind. But I just couldn’t. I kind of remembered the color of his hair and beard, but that was it. I also couldn’t look at any pictures, because he only had one picture online and you really couldn’t recognize him. So, this was the first time, when I realized that I really can’t have a picture of others in my mind.

What is aphantasia?

I guess, most people don’t know what aphantasia is. I didn’t for a long time either. But you might be able to guess it after reading the first part of my blog post. Aphantasia is the inability of visualizing an image. You just can’t imagine something in your mind. Basically, you don’t have a mental image or mind’s eye.

Can I imagine how people look like?
Today I was talking with one of my counselors and she mentioned, that we would have a meeting with my case worker, soon. My counselor is so new that she doesn’t know my case worker yet, so we talked a bit about her, and I got to mention, that I’m always a bit nervous to have a meeting with her, because I just can’t remember how she looks like. And that’s a really common thing for me. Unless I know someone really well, I don’t remember how they look like. And even when I do remember, how someone looks like, I can’t have a picture of them in my mind.

What else can’t I imagine?
Do you know this game, where you have to draw something, and others have to guess what your drawing is about? I really like the game, but I’m awful, when it comes to drawing animals. It’s not that I’m bad at drawing (or maybe I am?), but I just can’t imagine how animals look like, so I can’t draw them either. I REMEMBER that a horse has four legs, a donkey has a tail and a bird has a beak, but I don’t SEE those things in my mind. So, it’s really hard for me to put those things on paper.

Do I have aphantasia?
I’m really not sure, if I have aphantasia. If it was just about having a visual image of people in your mind, I would immediately agree to having aphatasia. But I’m not sure, if I can have a visual image of other things in my mind. It’s hard to know, because I don’t know how others imagine things. I definitely think, that I rather remember things instead of seeing them in my mind.

What does it mean to me?
I feel like it’s not a big deal to me to might have aphantasia. I have always been the way I am, so I don’t know any different. The only thing that does bother me sometimes, is, that I can’t recall how others look like in my mind. One part of why it annoys me, is, that I can’t just see my loved ones when I want to imagine them. I always need a real picture. The other thing is, that I’m often nervous that I might not be able to recognize people, because I don’t remember how they look like, when I’ve just recently met them. Most of the time it’s no problem for me to recognize people, but it’s still confusing when you just don’t remember at all, how people look like.

More info
The way I found out about aphantasia was through a YouTube video by Yo Samdy Sam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KebPocVj0Q&t=437s . I’ve been following her channel for a while, because she’s autistic herself and makes videos about neurodiversity. When I started to look for more videos about aphantasia, I also found one by Wanted Adventure https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx4TutpgWhU . It’s really cool because it’s a couple where he does have aphantasia and she doesn’t. So, it’s great to see the difference between the two of them.