A 29-year-old Russian woman Lena Ash is suffering from prosopagnosia, a rare condition that makes it impossible to recognize faces, including her own.
It is gathered that Lena only learned last year that she was suffering from prosopagnosia. Prior to that time, she had managed to convince herself that was simply slower than other people.
Growing up, she had difficulty recognizing faces and although her parents weren’t very helpful, she does not blame them as they didn’t even know such a condition existed.
She also visited neurologists for headaches, migraines, low blood pressure and nausea but not even them could figure out the cause of her health problems.
All these made her feel ashamed of herself but she is now trying to let others suffering from the condition know that they are not alone.
In a chat with Bright Side, Lena explained that when she talks to people, she is unable to see their faces clearly and when they leave her field of view, she forgets what they look like.
“I use some life-hacks to recognize my own face. When I look in the mirror or at a photo of myself, I understand who is in front of me by the mole above the eyebrow, the shape of my hairline, by the scar on my chin and the shape of the nose. I know my facial feature and can keep them in my head.”
The young Russian woman has also developed the same strategy for other people she meets by focusing on certain irreplaceable features, like noticeable moles, scars, tattoos, or crooked noses.
She tries not to focus on clothes or even facial hair, as this can be really confusing. For example, her husband with and without a beard looks like two completely different people to her.
She has also taught herself to recognize people’s voices in order to tell them apart. She makes memories of people’s voices and relies on them. For example, when picking up her son from kindergarten, it really helps that he yells ‘mom!’ when he sees her. He also has a bright orange backpack that helps Lena tell him apart.
Lena admits that living with prosopagnosia isn’t easy, Lena admits.
“Some people consider me arrogant, because I do not greet them when we pass by each other on the street, but I just don’t recognize them,” Lena said. “Some people don’t believe me when I tell them about my condition, while others are understanding and ask me how I live without being able to recognize faces.”
Prosopagnosia has no cure or treatment, and sufferers can only rely on a series of techniques for improving memory and fine motor skills in order to develop the hemisphere that is responsible for facial recognition. However, these techniques don’t work for everyone.
“I wish doctors came up with a solution that at least stabilizes my condition, if not cure it,” Lena Ash said. “For example, my memory is deteriorating: every year I revisit the Harry Potter films and it feels like I am watching them for the first time. As if I had only watched the trailer before, and not the whole movie. Also, my vision is deteriorating, and I do not know what will happen to me tomorrow. I’m afraid that in 10 years I won’t be able to recognize anyone at all.”