I realize that some of the stuff I write on this blog makes me sound like either a lunatic or a superhero. Monitor whine, UV glare, pitch discrimination, microexpressions, etc. I am definitely not superhuman, and if I am a nutcase, I don't think this is the evidence you need to prove it.

What I am talking about here are a lot of edge cases. All of this stuff is overtly perceptible to some subset of perfectly normal human beings, and probably there is a larger subset for which the sensory input exists, but is below the threshold of conscious perception. They'd know that some whites in sunlight were extra-glarey but probably wouldn't describe them as going purplish, and a room full of CRT whine or diesel idle would feel stressful but they would not be able to tell you why. Liars look hinky, but what makes 'hinky' different from 'not-hinky' is a mystery.

My actual mutant superpower is a chronic inability to stop paying attention to this shit. I phrase it that way for a reason: It is decidedly opt-out, not opt-in, and the only way I have ever found to genuinely turn it off, rather than just note and file everything away for later, involves benzodiazepines. Even dissociatives don't actually make it stop -- they just put a lot of the external inputs on pause while I bang around in the file cabinets, sorting previous data.

Anecdotally, a lot of the sensory weird seems to be the kind common among autists, particularly the "jesus fuck I can still hear that TURN IT OFF" parts. I also get some of the common scramble conditions. From time to time someone will say something and I'll be completely unable to parse it -- I usually respond with 'what?' which is stupid of me, because then they just repeat themselves louder or slower, when what I actually need is for them to rephrase. It's rare in person but it happens all the fucking time over lo-fi speakers like telephone receivers, which is one reason I hate phones so much. The more stress I'm under, particularly if it's physical stress like illness or pain, the less I'm able to consciously put anything on the ignore list, and the lower my tolerance gets for irritating stimuli. I hate everything in the entire universe when I have a migraine.

Most of the raw ability is probably congenital. A lot has been published on the heritability of intelligence (or whatever is measured by IQ tests, at least); my parents, though bonkers, are both easily genius-level. My mother was part of a number of pilot programs that eventually turned into the "gifted & talented" educational supplements I was dumped into while in public school. My father is an aerospace engineer, which is not a career path for the dim-witted. Joint hypermobility syndromes show evidence of being passed down along family lines; my mother and all of her sisters were dancers, and it was not uncommon to see her reading a book in the kitchen with one foot on the floor and the other leg propped casually up on the breakfast bar. My grandfather was red-green colorblind, and my mother tells a few stories about having a bizarrely hard time matching indicator reds while doing titration labs in a chemistry class, the significance of which I do not think she realizes.

Last I checked, both parents looked much younger than they actually were, despite being chain smokers since their late teens. I am informed that I do not look 33, either. I don't see any reason why the response curves on my senses and/or brain should deteriorate any faster than my face. You would think that turning every music player I have ever owned all the way up all the time would have ruined my ears, but given charge of the remote control, I still keep the TV volume so far down that other people need the subtitles to follow along. (Not that the numbers mean anything useful, but I keep the TV set to about 9, while Jazmin will usually crank it into the 25ish range. Any higher than that and I visibly wince.) I have gotten a lot of very strange looks from Harvard psychologists, when I volunteered to be an adult control for their experiments, and they discovered I use the same basic algorithmic deduction process to detect patterns as a particularly quick child.

The ability to use any of it, I think, is a matter of experience and environment. Supposedly you can train yourself into it as an adult, but I could not tell you how. My antennae are all very finely calibrated because I grew up in a nuthouse. It's difficult to predict people who refuse to use Earth logic, so the only way to deal with it is to learn how to read them quickly and accurately, and respond as fast as possible, usually by fucking off to the other end of the house and hoping that out of sight also means out of mind. I give it 0/10, would not recommend. It was highly effective at teaching me how to be hypervigilant, at the expense of basically all of the other people skills that the normal kids were learning at the time. The fact that it also works on normal humans is a happy accident.

Being able to explain it is yet a different meta-layer. I taught that to myself out of sheer necessity. I couldn't have otherwise figured out what the fuck was going on or why I was so unhappy all the time. It's a protective measure as much as the hypervigilance is; it gives me the ability to argue with profoundly narcissistic/paranoid people like my mother (or just people who mean well but execute very poorly) who make a lot of assumptions about what I'm feeling, and try to shoehorn me into "help" that makes things worse. Judging from what I read in psych research and the suggestions I get from professionals, a lot of my brain weasels operate in non-standard ways. It's difficult to get people to believe that unless I'm very definite and very articulate about outlining how the process really goes, and sometimes they still don't get it.

Anybody want to make me feel like less of a circus freak, feel free to share your own personal weird talents and abilities down in the comments.

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