I Can’t Remember Your Face…

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Or the sound of your voice.

I recently found out that I’m not exactly “normal” when it comes to how I remember how people look. My world is black and white, but not just in the BPD/cognitive distortion sense of the word.

I’m unable to remember what people look like. How their voices sound. The way they walk. I was talking to an old school friend recently, and she was talking about some other students and teachers from our school days. The way she was describing them, I just couldn’t see it. I can’t remember what any of them look like. I have the memories of some of the events she was talking about, but had no recollection of how those she spoke of looked. I don’t quite know how to describe this, since it’s a normal thing for me. I can’t visualize the person’s face. It’s weird. It’s much more of a sense of that person, which for me, translates as seeing. I don’t know if this makes sense. How can I explain something that was always normal to me, and compare it to others experiences?

The strange thing is that during a flashback, I can see the faces of some of “them”… And their facial expressions of the moments I’m reliving, but not always either. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve known someone, if I don’t see them face to face, or in a photo, I can’t picture them. For example, even with the dad. I’ve lived with him most of my life, yet I can’t remember what he looks like when I don’t see him. It’s the same with everyone. With him I can see the facial features I inherited from him when looking in the mirror, but that’s still not the same thing.

I also struggle with my other senses, like smell and taste. Like in guided meditation, when they say something like “bite into the apple and taste the sweetness of it. Feel the juice dripping down your chin. Smell the ocean air, hear the sound of the waves, the birds singing overhead.” Nothing. I can visualize it, but there are no senses involved.

When I say “I can still remember her face, that look on her face”, it’s not the person’s face I’m recalling. I know who it is, but I can’t actually see their face, their nose, eyes, etc. It’s because I know what a smile looks like. I know what expressions look like. So it’s not an actual snapshot of how the expression looked like on them. God, this is confusing. Instead of “out of sight, out of mind”, the more accurate phrase for me is “out of view, out of mind’s eye”.

It’s unsettling that others can do what I can’t. All those times I’ve said that I hear someone’s voice in my head? Well, it’s their words, in my voice. I thought this was how it is. I didn’t know there was another way. As for the method of self-soothing that some people use… Picturing the faces of their loved ones helps them feel calm and safe. But I can’t do that. I have to rely on voice notes and photo’s. It doesn’t seem fair. But hey, life’s not fair.

I’ve “interviewed” most of the people I know, and I’m the only one who seems to struggle this much. They can all visualize someone’s face, some clearer than others, and hear the sound of their loved one’s voice. I’m the odd one out. They’re fascinated. I’m pissed off. Does anyone know whether this is a BPD thing, or a “me” thing?

25 thoughts on “I Can’t Remember Your Face…

  1. I have similar issue… I can’t remember many things, including people. My take is that it is trauma related more than a side-effect of a specific disorder, or maybe a combo of both? I don’t have BPD, but I do have PTSD, anxiety, depression and trauma. I think because I have always had high cortisol levels, it has impacted my memory.

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  2. bethanyk

    Wait i am exactly the same!!!!!! I can’t believe you wrote this and it is just how I feel. How wild is that!!!!!!!!! Im so glad you wrote this becausei literally thought i was the only one

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for this Lily. Wow, that guy they based the article on has it really bad. He can’t visualize much of ANYTHING. I have a big imagination, and even though the visuals aren’t clear, they’re still there. It’s just people’s faces that I can’t visualize. I took that test, and I got a lowish score, so apparently I “have” it. Still not entirely convinced though, lol. This part really resonated with me:

      “This is the hardest thing to describe, what happens in my head when I think about things. When I think about my fiancee there is no image, but I am definitely thinking about her, I know today she has her hair up at the back, she’s brunette. But I’m not describing an image I am looking at, I’m remembering features about her, that’s the strangest thing and maybe that is a source of some regret.”

      Very weird. 😦

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  3. I posted a comment but it doesn’t seem to have gone through (it didn’t say ‘under moderation’ and it didn’t post, so I’ll try again). Have you heard of aphantasia? It’s a very real condition that doesn’t make you ‘weird’ or ‘broken’ or ‘disabled.’ It’s just a different way of thinking about the world. What you describe sounds a lot like it. I have a friend that has it, and you are definitely not alone!! xoxoxo

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  4. drgeraldstein

    It doesn’t sound like a typical dissociative symptom, but that is the only thought that comes to mind other than a medication side effect.

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  5. This is fascinating..I am very good with faces and I will recognise someone many many years later, if for instance I have only met them once in the past..I might not remember where, but I know that I have seen them before..I am sorry you can’t visualise people’s faces..My husband is ridiculously bad at recognising faces..It is known as prosopagnosia…In your case, it might be trauma related..or it might be something else..
    Check out this questionnaire..It might be useful: http://www.troublewithfaces.org/test-yourself-1
    hugs xx

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      • Yes, i understood what you meant, sorry..I just got carried away thinking of a whole bunch of other related areas and also you reminded me of my husband’s difficulty (although not the same)..i remember when I had a crush on a boy on a family trip once, and a few days after the 1 week holiday ended, I couldnt picture his face anymore..I was sooo disappointed.This is my tiny experience of it, which is not the same as it is for you..It is obviously a lot more frustrating for you with the faces being familiar..I agree with Blooming Lily’s post. Thats your explanation!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lol, no problem. “i remember when I had a crush on a boy on a family trip once, and a few days after the 1 week holiday ended, I couldnt picture his face anymore..I was sooo disappointed” Yip, that sounds about right. 😦 I’m really not happy about this, lol.

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  6. all the little parts

    I have that! I can recognise people but I can’t picture them in my head. I can describe them… but the visual picture just isn’t there. I sometimes can picture certain BITS of them, if I think about it hard enough but it’s very fleeting. Like right now, I can ALMOST picture my husband’s nose!!! LOL!! I never realised it was a thing.
    But I definitely don’t hold people’s voices. Like right now, in my head, my therapist’s voice sounds like me! I can remember what she’s said, but not the tone, pitch or speed of her voice… I wonder if she would record a little message for me so I can hold onto that better?
    xx

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