I got my second coronavirus vaccine yesterday, the Moderna option. I have many friends who work in healthcare, and I’ve been following their experiences with COVID-19 vaccination as they have revealed it on social media; I know that some of my friends have had flu-like symptoms with the first and second injections, and a few have noted joint pain, and headaches. Like all issues of health and wellness, everyone is a little different, and we humans react to treatments in ways that are unique to our bodies and constitutions.

I had arm soreness with my first dose, and was quite tired, but I was surprised to wake up this morning feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. I understand this is a sign that the vaccine is doing its job, that my immune system is responding, and I am confident I will feel better in a few days. 

Yet, I’ve had a strangest unexpected outcome from the vaccine: an uptick in my mirror-sensory synaesthesias. To be fair, my synesthesias are with me every hour of every day; I even have synesthetic experiences in my dreams. Yet this is different; I am having more pain and in more locations on my body, and in a broader context. There are other situations that tend to make my synesthesia more flagrant: too much caffeine, sleep deprivation, and sensory overload are my most common triggers for increased synesthetic phenomena. But it’s fair to say I am synthetically on fire today.

For example, my partner Timothy has been plagued with shoulder pain for the last few months. He was asking me about his discomfort this morning, wondering if there is a treatment I am aware of that could be beneficial to him. I told him he might speak with his doctor about trigger point injections, which are typically a mix of a local anesthetic and corticosteroids. Many of my patients in the physical therapy clinic where I was once employed were treated with this therapeutic technique. As I was telling him what the injections entail, I remembered a patient who had significant bruising with her trigger point injections, and I could see the red dot where the syringe penetrated her skin. As I was talking with Timothy, I immediately had bursts of pain shooting down my legs, wrapping around my torso, and coursing down my arms. It comes in jolts, and tends to dissipate unless I get visually triggered again. To that point, just writing this description of what happened earlier today has me feeling those searing hot bursts of pain all over my body in extravagant flashes.

I wish I could call one of the researches I know and get my brain scanned STAT with the fMRI technology that would give a glimpse into what’s happening. Is it possible that inflammatory processes foment increased synesthetic phenomena? Or maybe there’s an intrepid neuroscience student who will undertake a survey of synaesthete’s experiences with the COVID19 vaccine. If there’s anything I’ve learned about synesthesia over the decade I’ve been connected with online communities it’s this: synesthesia is still a bit of a mystery, and the more that people with synesthesia reveal their sensorium, the better we can understand the intricacies of the human brain. 

Brains are strange and they are not all the same. That’s my motto and I’m sticking with it on this morning where I’m hoping a hot bath and a nap will have me on the mend.