Love & Hate Relationship With Senses

Sometimes music is calming. Sometimes music makes me feel like screaming. There is truly a fine line between my love for my extreme senses and a hate for the level of anxiety it causes when things are not “just right”.

For example, most days at work I listen to about three songs on repeat. I’ll feel moved and maybe even inspired and then something happens. It might be that I stared at the lights for more than a second or something is wrong with my PC and I suddenly rip my headphones off and the thought of listening to another second of any of those songs makes me want to scream and run outside.

I tend to be drawn to bold colors. Toy stores are a nightmare because I literally could stare at the packaging for hours if I wanted to. Children’s books are the same way. But in the same way, if the colors are moving too much or if there is a loud noise involved with those bold bright colors, my head starts hurting, my eyes start hurting and I want to cover my ears and sometimes I do and don’t even realize.

During my school years, I can only recall two meltdowns because of sensory issues. The first one was in second grade. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was asking a fellow student if she would be my friend. When she said “No” my world went reeling. I started holding my breath and I remember the whole world seemed to be almost spinning. And then it happened- a fire truck siren started up and it was at that moment I literally stopped breathing and started running.

Not a good combination. I ran straight for the water fountain to drink water but I felt so faint that I stopped and kept running to the nurses station. I remember her calling 911 and the EMTs staring down at me and putting an oxygen mask on my face. I remember them saying “If her mother doesn’t get her in a matter of minutes, we’re going to have to bring her to the Emergency Room”..

My mother did get there. She wasn’t happy. I’m sure she was very confused. I could not articulate what had happened. The EMTs said “Maybe a seizure of some sort” “Maybe an asthma attack”. I’m not sure what changed but I started breathing normally again. I could barely walk for the rest of the day I was so drained and the hospital handed my mother four inhalers and said “Probably an emotionally triggered asthma attack”. Remember, I was not diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome until the age of 23 and so they had no idea what was really going on.

The second meltdown was more painful to remember. I was sitting in my guidance counselor’s office and there was a construction vehicle outside the window. I remember calming asking her to shut the window. She gave me an odd look and didn’t move and my level of agitation grew more and more.

Suddenly the lights were too bright. The room felt smaller and that god awful sound was getting closer and closer to the building. I finally yelled “PLEASE SHUT THE WINDOW” and she got up slowly and slowly started to close the window and for the first time in my entire life I started screaming like I’ve never screamed before. I don’t remember if I was rocking back and forth but I do know I was covering my ears. She just sat back down and stared at me like I had five head. But she never mentioned the incident again. She never did anything about it.

For the most part I internalize all of sensory issues if I can. At work it means taking a smoke break and if the smoke break area was too loud I go to the bathroom for a minute to settle down. At home, my anxiety is much much worse which is ironic. Nighttime intensifies my anxiety at least ten fold. But I have a lot more control over my response to whatever stimuli comes my way. If the TV is too loud, we shut it off or turn it down. If it’s too bright I put somerthing over my eyes. Sometimes I ask her to brush my hair to calm me down or hug me. It seems to ground me.

I cannot watch scary movies- not even the commercials. I will literally cover my ears and close my eyes and start humming to block out the noise. The commercials alone are enough to send me into a panic mode. I have been this way pretty much my whole life. I stick to the same TV shows that I have seen before, the same movies most of the time. Repetition is very comforting to me. Physical touch CAN be very comforting at times but there are definitely times where it’s simply too much and if it is from a stranger- it is almost definitely not welcome.

More Later.

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About Gretchen Leary

I am 30 years old, I live in the Boston area, and I am writing from the perspective of an individual with Asperger's Syndrome.
This entry was posted in ASD, Aspergers, Autism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Love & Hate Relationship With Senses

  1. Cindy says:

    I love how you explain your sensory overload and tolerance. My boys and myself can totally relate. You are a great writer. Hope you keep blogging. Good luck with the fun stuff blogs/web offers.

  2. raeme67seriousreflections says:

    It must have been very confusing for a child …my family history is 2 grown children on the spectrum and a strong suspicion that my husband may be also… I realize in reading your post I empathize but can not fully understand…

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