Synaesthetic Migraine

Last night was frightening. During the day, I noticed that I was getting a bit hyper, a sure sign of the onset of a migraine attack — it’s usually a bit like getting drunk and then having a severe hangover. I thought I’d do a workout and sweat it off, as if that ever worked, and after I was done and sure there was no way to stop the headache without chemical intervention, I discovered that I was all out of drugs. Not even an aspirin was to be found in the flat and it was too late to go out and get some. This meant riding out the peak of the attack in darkness and quiet, which I did and even managed to doze off for a few minutes. After that was over, it became apparent that the rest of the night would be sleepless, at least to the point where the headache subsided enough to allow me to relax.

At one point my ears rang for an instant and the noise was accompanied by an associated color. This seemed odd, so I thought I’d experiment with these synaesthetic perceptions a bit. I tuned my guitar to A440 and tried out different colors and their corresponding notes just to pass the time. Turns out, A gave out a gray color, G green, E blue, and so on. I had heard of a trick that some people who claim to have perfect pitch use, focusing on the feeling that one gets in one’s vocal apparatus when humming a certain note, but that was useful only for ballparking the note. The colors turned out to be more accurate, and as my relative pitch is fairly good, it was easier to get matches through them.

This morning, after I had managed to sleep a couple of hours more, the headache was still faintly present and I decided to give this synaesthesia business another whirl. Surely it was just a fluke or self-suggestion, I thought. But the colors were still there, somehow, especially Bb and G, brown and green, both very pleasant and welcome sensations after a rough night. So, I turned on my Tetris game, the only game I usually play on my computer, and started humming the little blocks as they fell. After a few blocks, a lovely brown one appeared and soon after a green one showed up. I checked the notes on the guitar and noticed I was a semitone too high, which was very odd since B had given out a brilliant white during the night. That’s it, I thought, what a moron you are thinking you can actually color sounds. However, I did give myself the benefit of the doubt, checked the tuning on the guitar, and found that it was actually nearly a half step flat. The strings, unaccustomed to the higher concert tuning they had just been forced to assume, had stretched just enough for me to think that I was sharp. I was right, my measuring instrument was wrong.

According to the internet, almost every single person in the known universe claims to have synaesthesia, so I don’t want to say that about myself. Nor do I want to compare color palettes with anyone, or be tested on these things. But I will say this much: when I am having a migraine attack, I see notes as colors quite easily. On the minus side, when I am having a synaesthetic migraine attack, I’m not much good for anything else than looking at the ceiling and humming colors into the darkness.

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