Hypersensitivity vs Hyperawareness

As part of a recent assessment, I was asked a number of questions about my sensory experience. One of the questions was “Do you tend to notice sounds that others don’t notice?”.

Of course the answer is “yes”, but when I went into more depth and started analysing *why* I notice sounds that others don’t, I realised that it is probably somewhat related to why I see things that others don’t. No, that sounds like I hallucinate; what I mean is, that I notice things in my field of vision that others don’t, just like I notice sounds that others don’t.

The seemingly logical assumption for the reason why one would notice sounds that others don’t notice is that they are hypersensitive to sound – as in, their ears (or perhaps their brain) experiences aural stimulation as louder than how other people experience it. They notice these sounds simply because, while for other people the sounds are below the threshold for “being heard”, the sounds come through “loud and clear” for people who are hypersensitive.

So why then do I see things that others don’t? Visual hypersensitivity generally causes everything to appear brighter than for a normal person, just like aural hypersensitivity causes things to sound louder than for a normal person. Indeed, many visually hypersensitive people find a well-lit room to be painfully bright, and I can’t say that I don’t experience this at times myself too. But just because things are brighter doesn’t mean that I’m going to see things that others don’t – indeed things that “hide in the shadows” for normal people may be clearly visible for me, but that doesn’t even begin to account for the number of extra things that I notice.

The key, thus, is in the word “notice”. It’s not necessarily that the things are more prominent due to being louder/brighter; my hypothesis is that it’s to do with sensory awareness. Whereas normal people may well see/hear these things, they filter them out because they focus only on the input that they are actively processing – such as a conversation that they are having – and ignore anything else. And that’s a good thing at times, too: it certainly means that they can have a conversation even if there is a lot of background noise, unlike me who can’t even hear what the other person is saying! So thus we can conclude that I *don’t* filter out other sensory stimulation; I process absolutely all of the stimulation that enters my senses. That’s why I see things that others don’t: they don’t even notice them because they are not processing that stimulation; I do notice them because I am processing all of the stimulation that I receive. That’s why I call it “hyperawareness” – I am exceptionally (excessively?) aware of background sensory input.

That’s also why I can’t hold a conversation when there’s too much background noise: I can’t block out the background noise and separate out the person’s voice!

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Armless, the movie

A few days ago I watched the film “Armless”. Having previously seen Quid Pro Quo, I was hoping for a similar nice overview of BIID but with more of a lighthearted touch, as the film was supposed to be a comedy. This, I thought, would be an interesting mixture and something that I believe the right filmmakers could have pulled off very well.

Let me start by saying that it failed at both. It’s probably the worst representation of BIID that I have seen from the media (even worse than the recent Jewel Shuping story), and this is particularly disappointing considering that this film was released two years later than Quid Pro Quo, the latter of which gave an almost perfect representation. The comedy elements are also rather cheap, and are incredibly thin and dry most of the time. The plot also remains rather flat, and the ending is disappointing although could have been better with a different build-up.

Nevertheless there were a few funny moments, and perhaps two continued gags. There’s plenty to keep a viewer laughing on the surface for most of the film, but it’s not the kind of in-depth, well-planned comedy that I value. And considering that there is pretty much no value in the film from a BIID perspective – if anything it does more harm than good – I can’t see any reason for someone to watch this film over and above any other mediocre comedy, BIID sufferer or otherwise.

I’ve given a more in-depth look at the film below, however this section contains spoilers. You have been warned.Read More »

I guess Ham Radio just isn’t for me…

For almost nine months now I have had an itch to get into amateur radio in some way or another. It started when I had been reading about shortwave radio and I wanted to listen to it for myself, so I tried to find a circuit diagram of a simple shortwave receiver that I could build on my breadboard. And it didn’t work. Then a little while later, for some reason or another, I tried to build an SDR (software-defined radio) quadrature mixer to let me experiment with a range of radio encoding methods on one of my Linux computers. And it didn’t work. Then I decided to keep it simple and just build a direct-conversion CW (Morse code) receiver – not much to go wrong there. And it didn’t work.

See the pattern here? Yes, none of them worked. And today, even after I managed to receive and (manually) decode the 60kHz MSF time signal with the help of (the same) Linux SDR program, I still failed to get a simple frequency mixer working in order to tune higher up the LF band. And I only managed to get the time signal experiment working because the sound card in my new computer can sample at up to 192kHz sampling rate, and 60kHz is thus below the maximum tunable frequency of 96kHz, meaning that I practically just had to connect a fairly long random-wire antenna to the line in port on my computer, fire up the SDR, and type in “60kHz” – not much of an achievement there. Heck, even the magnetic loop antenna didn’t work.Read More »

Born blind

I’ve figured out why I wasn’t born blind: if I was, then I would never truly appreciate blindness as it would be all that I had ever known. Now I just need to figure out why I wasn’t blinded in an accident.

Micheal Johnson

Quid Pro Quo, the movie

Yesterday I decided that I really ought to watch the film “Quid Pro Quo”, a.k.a. the BIID film. I’ve known about it pretty much since I first started researching BIID, but so far I had not thought to watch it.

Overall I’d say that it was a good film. Bearing in mind that this is 2008 that we’re talking about, it gives a surprisingly accurate representation of BIID, considering the usual mis-portrayals that the media somehow manage to come out regarding even things as common as blindness. Although it focuses specifically on the paralysis variant of BIID, one could easily apply the ideas suggested to any other variant.

On the other hand, the plot had numerous holes in it and was not exactly consistent, generally falling apart in places and the end of the film could quite easily be from a different story to the beginning – although that might have been the intention. The general tone is that of a drama with a bit of a thriller thrown in in places, and the plot and portrayal thereof also has quite a heavy psychological element.

As someone with BIID, I’d say that the film hit home with me in a lot of places, despite me personally having the less-common blindness variant of BIID, and I could frequently identify with the characters. I also found that the depicted relationships between the paralysed protagonist and the “wannabes” was very close to the real-life experiences of people with BIID that I have read about. Nevertheless I found the “creepy” aspect a bit offputting in the beginning and slightly offensive, although this softened as I got further into the film.

For someone without BIID, I can’t see much in the film that makes it exactly amazing. The plot is interesting, and contains a lot of small details about BIID which are actually true, so from an informational point of view the film is better than one would expect for something of this nature, but I can’t imagine someone without BIID really being able to engage with the story. The numerous plot holes also detract from this element, and quite frankly I think the film is of rather poor quality apart from its informational accuracy. For someone trying to learn more about BIID, however, I would say that the film does offer a good overview however it is important to bear in mind the factual inaccuracies which I will point out below.

I’ve given a more in-depth look at the film below, however this section contains spoilers. You have been warned.Read More »

Current BIID support groups

If you’ve done much research on BIID you’ve probably come across numerous references to a website called transabled.org. You probably then tried to find this site, and got either a 404, a “server not found” message, or a domain squatter’s advert (“this domain is for sale” or “find other content about transabled” with a bunch of spammy links) depending on how long ago you looked for it. The bad news is, you’re not alone. The good news is, you’re not without (all) hope.

In its heyday, transabled.org was indeed the most vibrant community of people with BIID around. People from all over the world and with diverse medical histories contributed to the site, which was an unusual mixture of a forum, a blog, and a collection of informative articles. The goal of the site is not entirely clear either, as in some ways it seems to be aimed at increasing awareness of BIID while the users definitely regarded it more as a support group. Run by the former BIID sufferer and advocate Sean O’Connor, the site sadly disappeared at the end of 2013 along with the rest of Sean’s online presence (we still don’t know what actually happened to him). Almost all of the content has nevertheless been archived at the Wayback Machine and you can read it here.

But while that may be good for informative purposes – and indeed I have gained a lot from reading the archives of the site – it’s not exactly exciting news when you’re looking for a support group, like I was when I first found out about transabled.org.Read More »