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The day I first touched color as An Acquired Savant with Synesthesia.

Tonight, in the midst of worsening pain in my legs and difficulty walking due to muscle weakness (I’m beginning an NIH study this week for what may be an even more rare unify diagnosis), I came across an old post reflecting on my first exploration with color in June of 2011. It wasn’t until 2012 that I had a name for what was happening - Acquired Savantism. I’m deeply grateful for the encouragement of the late Dr. Darold Treffert, as he was always supportive of our own exploration into the rarity of our new wiring.

…Where I Began…

When I was in the first few months of my TBI recovery and struggling (July of 2011), I was encouraged by my Naturopath/Doctor of Chinese Medicine to consider thinking of my body in terms of colors as a way of integrate my brain.  While receiving acupuncture, she asked me to name a color for my knee, elbow, hair, eyes, toes, and so on…without thinking and without criticizing, I just named colors. It felt so easy!  

At the end of the session, she suggested that I continue this activity in the coming week.  I knew that meditating might be difficult (it was still too early in my process), so I decided to explore drawing.  I had my then mother-in-law take me by the local drug store on the way home from my appointment.  I was thinking of buying some pens or colored pencils…and that’s when I spotted the pastels – serendipity!  It was a small box of just a few primary colors…but it was perfect!

As soon as I arrived at home, this came out of my hands.

I was shocked! I had never worked with pastels before; yet, somehow, my hands just knew what to do.  More importantly, I noticed that I could sit – for quite a while – and draw without feeling exhausted! It was the one activity that I could do, without coming away completely depleted.  I wanted to do more of it. So every day, I contemplated color and produced a new self portrait.

Once again, I was astonished at the next drawing. It looked like me - not physically, but in a way that went far beyond any verbal explanation. To this day, it still looks like me.

I knew I was onto something, though I didn’t have the executive function to wonder why I was suddenly enthralled with Art.  With each new drawing, I grew increasingly trusting of the intuition in my hands – if my fingers felt the urge to draw a circle, I did. If they wanted to blur, scrape, scratch, anything…I allowed without criticism.

And then I discovered my fascination with spirals, which became an insatiable curiosity for quite some time!

When the above piece was completed, I knew it was time to for canvas and paints.  I had a very strong need to blend colors and build complex layers. For the first time, pastels weren’t going to cut it anymore.  Finally, I had the courage to paint.  Although I chose not to write about it here (it will be another post), I had tried to paint once before, earlier in my TBI recovery…and I was painfully disappointed.  So, to have the gumption to paint again was a significant accomplishment in my journey to trust myself.

Little did I know that I was beginning a new way of life, one rooted in radical faith burning beyond comprehension and the audacity to LOVE myself and others simply because we are HUMAN.

After picking up the brushes (or palate knife) eleven years ago, I never turned back…and my passion continues to grow every day.


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