Cleanliness and Sensory Meltdowns

I need cleanliness, at least in some form. Dirt, dust, small particles, grime, anything that feels grainy or slimy makes me feel uncomfortable. When I cook, I wash my hands every chance I get because I can’t stand the feeling of my hands being wet or dirty. The feel or sound of stepping on crumbs is literally painful. Even the smell of dust can cause sensory discomfort. I can’t relax when I see potential sensory problems. I know until I feel comfortable in my environment, I will be irritable and on edge.

Going back home was really hard for me. It probably seems like I’m always cleaning when I go visit my family. I sweep the house and wipe off the counters and do the dishes. The thing is, everyone expects me to participate and have fun, but all I feel is discomfort. I feel trapped by the dirtiness around me. Everything isn’t excessively dirty, but there are lots of little things that aren’t taken care of. I see dust everywhere and the floor needs to be swept and vacuumed before I can relax.

My family doesn’t understand it. They just see a jerk who gets upset with everyone for no reason. The truth is, I’m dying inside. I want to run away and breakdown in tears because I can’t handle the sensory pressures. It’s too much for me. I get anxious and feel like I’m suffocating. And I hate it. I hate myself. I hate that I yell at everyone and get overwhelmed. It also doesn’t help that I’m usually around more people and little kids so the sensory pressures are even more prevalent.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about all of this is I don’t actually have to touch anything for it to be uncomfortable. Just the thought of touching it makes me anxious. That’s not to say I keep everything in my life immaculate, but things are clean. I don’t leave anything where I could step on it or touch it and get dirty. I keep things organized and avoid allowing things to pile up.

I worry about things not being clean. I worry about being too busy to clean. I worry that I will become a monster, a jerk, unbearable because I can’t handle the pressure. One of my biggest fears is exploding at someone I love because I’m stressed about my environment. And it happens more often than I want to admit.
I wish I could explain that it’s not the person. I don’t get angry with people. I get frustrated by situations and take out that frustration on people.

I wish I could tell them I love them and I’m sorry for how I’m acting because I know it’s ridiculous. I can sometimes explain this later if I can find the words, but during the situation I am an uncontrollable mess. I hate how I’m acting and who I am but I don’t always see a way to escape. And if there’s no escape, the only way to cope is to blow up or break down.

And I hate it and I hate myself, which only makes it worse because I know I’m ridiculous but it’s hard not to be. It’s hard to keep the pain inside instead, to feel my insides churn, my skin feels like it’s holding in a million tiny armies trying to march out of me and the pressure builds in my head until I get a headache and collapse from the strain of it all.

This is what a sensory meltdown feels like. You try so hard to handle everything that causes you pain until you can’t take the pain anymore. You try to act normal and like things don’t bother you, but they build just under the surface until the pain and discomfort is too much. You try to escape if you can, to find a place to let go where you won’t hurt anyone, but you can’t always escape. Sometimes people won’t let you or you can’t get out of the store fast enough or there’s no where to go.

And then you become someone you hate and that everyone else probably hates too, and you break because it will never be enough. You can never hold it all in. But you try again the next time and the next time, and you just pray that you can keep the monster inside yourself away from everyone else.

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6 thoughts on “Cleanliness and Sensory Meltdowns

  1. Yes, yes, YES!!!
    This, especially: “I wish I could explain that it’s not the person. I don’t get angry with people. I get frustrated by situations and take out that frustration on people.”
    Can you show this to your family???
    Thanks and love,

    Like

  2. I hope this post helps your family understand how hard you are working when you see them to manage your sensory challenges. And my wish for you is the next time you visit your family, they try to be more accommodating and understanding of what you are facing — whether they can see it or understand it.

    I always tell people “You don’t have to understand my son’s sensory challenges, but you do have to respect them.”

    Jennifer @ The Jenny Evolution

    Like

  3. What a powerful post. And I have to second Jennifer in that I hope this helps your family understand how hard you are working as well. I always hoped that my family would read my posts to try and understand my son’s challenges…and I continue to hope.

    Like

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