Exercising

I absolutely love exercising. I’m not very good at it because I just don’t really feel a need to go out of my way to exercise. But I enjoy the feeling of my heart beating, my lungs expanding, and the blood rushing through my veins. It’s like the opposite of a tight hug- like being hugged from the inside out.

When I am not in a good mood, I exercise to get that feeling. It makes me forget about what is bothering me and just focus on trying to breathe. I exercise because it makes me feel alive.

Sometimes I feel so extracted from the world. Like my thoughts and mood have pulled me from being able to be around people. But when I exercise, I feel so alive. I just feel. I feel in a way that I don’t usually feel. Instead of all the sensory pressures on the outside, I can feel them on the inside. And for some reason, that makes it easier to go back to feeling pressure on the outside again.
Sensory Blog hop

 

It’s All About Timing

The past few weeks I have had a lot going on and it has been pretty stressful. But the added stress, has reaffirmed to me how important timing is when you have autism. Well, timing is always important, but it can be an especially important factor for someone with autism.

I talked about timing before in a guest post that I did a while back. In that post I emphasized how important timing is in preventing a meltdown. (You can read that post here if you’re interested.) With the stress of the previous week, and the accumulation of stress over the past few months, I have been reminded why timing is so important.

I’ve heard it said that we all have buckets and that when those buckets get too full, we overflow and the result is meltdowns or blow ups. For me, I can tell that my bucket is getting full when things become harder to deal with- when sounds that I can normally ignore feel like jackhammers in a closed room, or when a gentle touch feels like unbearable pressure. I don’t know how most people feel when they get stressed, but for me it’s like all of my senses are magnified and it becomes very hard to deal with sensory input.

However, by taking some time away from everything and refocusing myself, it becomes a lot easier to deal with the world again. It’s all about timing. If I don’t have time to regroup, even simple things can seem like impossible barriers. But if I have the time I need to relax and refocus, I can often handle the more difficult things.
Sensory Blog hop

Clothes

The most common question I get or perceive is “Why is clothing such a big deal for someone with autism?”

Well, the obvious answer is that clothing is sensory stimulating. You wear clothes pretty much all the time so they’re constantly touching you and rubbing against you and putting pressure on you. The thing is though that you’re used to it so you don’t generally notice it. It’s like wearing a wristwatch. The first time you wear one, it feels chunky and strange. But after a while, you get used to the watch being there and you don’t even realize you have it on.

However, when you have sensory sensitivities, getting used to that feeling is a lot harder. I’ve compared it before to running in jeans. If you have ever run long distances in jeans, you know the feeling of clothes rubbing against your skin. That feeling is similar to the feeling that people with sensory sensitivity get with most clothes. Even things like cotton can feel like wearing sandpaper sometimes.
And it’s not just clothes, although clothes issues are the most prevalent usually.

Because of that feeling, I usually choose my clothes based on how I feel that day. If I’ve had a hard day or week, I tend to wear softer clothes that feel less abrasive on my skin. But if I’ve had a pretty good day or week, I’m more open to wearing rougher clothes like 100% cotton or jeans. There’s certain types of material that I can’t wear when I’m not having a good day. They just feel too harsh and that extra thing to deal with will make the day just that much harder.

And I always gravitate toward soft things. They make me feel so much calmer. And when I have soft clothes to feel when something stressful happens, it can help prevent breakdowns or stressing out. Soft sweaters have given me a huge sense of security in difficult social situations over the years.

Clothes aren’t always a big deal but depending on what else is going on, they can be a huge factor in how life goes. Rough clothes can make difficult times even more difficult and harder to cope with. While soft clothes can sometimes make just enough difference to ease a difficult situation.

Sensory Blog hop

Feeling Full

With the upcoming holidays, this has been on my mind lately.

I have never been the type of person to overeat on Thanksgiving. I eat on Thanksgiving the same way that I eat every other day of the year. I eat until I’m just satisfied. I enjoy Thanksgiving and the food and everything, but I just can’t stand the feeling of being full.

I don’t like feeling like there’s food in my stomach. It is uncomfortable. On the other hand, I also hate feeling hungry… which means I pretty much have to eat all the time to make up for it.

In general I probably eat about 7 times a day. (I used to eat more often, but since I work for 8 hours a day I don’t generally eat more than once during that time, but on weekends I probably eat about 10 times a day.) I usually eat less than most people at regular meals and then eat snacks and mini meals throughout the rest of the day. Sometimes it seems like I hardly ever stop eating.

The most unhealthy part of not liking feeling full is that I have a hard time drinking much water. I can’t handle very much water in my stomach at one time. Water just gives me such an uncomfortable feeling, especially if I drink it on an empty stomach. And because I don’t drink much water I tend to have some problems because of that.

I think that may be one reason why people with autism may have more digestive problems than others. Water is just hard to handle sometimes. I’m working on getting better about drinking water though and I’m hoping it’ll help.

Bathrooms

This is a post that I’ve been debating on writing for a while. I know that it’s probably necessary and very informational, but it’s not something people talk about very often. Hopefully you’ll learn something from this post though that helps you in some way. If so, then it was worth writing this.

Why using bathrooms may be hard for someone with autism:

1. It is a social situation.

2. It is a high sensory environment.

3. It is a germ-filled environment.

  1.  Bathrooms are social environments. Whether you are at home using the bathroom or at work or at a park, if anyone else is in the vicinity, using the bathroom necessitates social navigation. If there is only one stall or toilet in the bathroom, there could be people waiting to use it after you. If there are multiple stalls, then there’s the added pressure of choosing a stall and the socializing that may happen with the other people in the same bathroom area.
    • If someone is waiting to use the bathroom, you have to decide what is a socially acceptable amount of time to take in the bathroom. If someone sees you go into the bathroom or knows you are in the bathroom, you still have to decide what is socially acceptable only without the added pressure of knowing they are waiting just outside the door.
    • If you are using a bathroom with multiple stalls, you have to decide what is an appropriate stall distance. Is it appropriate to take the next available stall or to leave a stall empty in between the one in use?
    • If you’re with someone, are they the type of person that tries to talk to you while you are using the toilet or do they like to converse while washing their hands? If you’re waiting for a stall, is it appropriate to have the same conversations you would have outside of a restroom or are there conversations that are inappropriate for bathroom areas?
  2. Bathrooms bombard your senses.
    • Bathrooms are often either the brightest or the dimmest places in a building. Most bathrooms either have multiple lights or have large LED ceiling lights. If the bathrooms aren’t well maintained, some of the lights may not be working, making it very dim.
    • Bathrooms tend to be very loud. There’s the noise of toilets flushing, water running, shoes walking on tile, toilet paper unrolling and tearing, the door opening and closing, and then any noise that people in the bathroom are making. The sounds in bathrooms are often also magnified because the walls and tile tend to echo the noises inside the bathroom.
    • Bathrooms can often have strong smells associated with them. Sometimes these are the smells of cleaning materials or air freshener. Sometimes it’s the smell of feces or urine or mold. Sometimes it’s the smell of people that used or are currently using the bathroom. Sometimes it’s simply the smell of water or the walls.
    • Bathrooms are usually small, enclosed areas and so everything is very close together and can seem even more sensory invading because of that.
    • Then of course, is your own use of the bathroom. Whether you are using the toilet or washing your hands or taking a shower, these are all incredibly strong sensory experiences in and of themselves.
  3. Bathrooms are full of germs. They may not have as many germs as your kitchen sink because they’re not dealing with raw meat, but they’re still pretty germ-filled.
    • If you have a problem with the feeling of dirt or grime on your hands, then using the bathroom makes you want to scrub your hands for an inordinate amount of time sometimes.

So what can you do if your child has a hard time using the restroom?

  1. Emphasize that waiting to use the bathroom makes the problem worse. By not using the restroom when needed, you can cause constipation or make current constipation worse.
  2. Provide social skills and guidelines for restroom etiquette, how to respond if someone attempts to talk to you in the restroom, and how long is appropriate to stay in the bathroom and where/ when those guidelines apply.
  3. Normalize the use of the restroom. If kids see the bathroom as an anomaly or a nuisance, they’re less likely to want to use it when needed.

A Hot Sauce Addict

I am a notoriously picky eater. I have a lot of foods that I don’t like mostly because of texture, but sometimes because of taste. There are few foods that I really love and could eat all the time. Pizza is one of them. And I generally despise condiments. I enjoy barbecue sauce and teriyaki sauce, but I can’t eat ketchup or mayonnaise or any salad dressing. The one thing that I am really addicted to though is hot sauce, well mostly Tapatio sauce. I could practically drink that stuff.

The problem is that I have GERD so I can’t really have foods that are acidic or spicy. Hot sauce though is one of the few things that seems to wake up my senses and help me forget about the world. If I’m having a rough day or just feeling a little down, I can eat some hot sauce with a couple chips and it makes me feel so alive. I know it’s not good for me and will probably give me abdominal pain later, but the sense of feeling something so powerfully draws me to it anyway.

Is there anything that wakes up your senses and makes you feel alive?

I’m participating in a Sensory Blog hop for this post. If you would like to read more sensory specific stories, please click on the little frog to see the other participating blogs.

My sense of hearing

I was talking to a coworker the other day that wears hearing aids. She had just had her hearing aids adjusted and said that sounds were too amplified and were hurting her so she was going to get them adjusted. I told her that my hearing is pretty much always like that. I have very sensitive hearing and little sounds can seem extremely loud.

Things like the ticking of a watch, the sound of electronics humming, and the padding of someone’s steps can be debilitating at times. I can’t fall asleep with a watch on or next to the bed because the ticking is too loud. I have been known to take batteries out of clocks because I can’t tolerate their ticking. And that high pitched sound you sometimes hear from the sound waves of electronics is all too well known to me.

On the other hand, sometimes I can’t hear well at all. My ears produce too much wax sometimes and it becomes hard to hear certain sounds. When this happens I have a hard time hearing people over the phone or understanding what people say in person.

Sometimes I can even have super sensitive hearing and not be able to hear other things at the same time.

I really don’t know what triggers any of these times. They just kind of happen.

The hardest part of all this is trying to filter the sounds that come in. When things are too loud, I try to focus on something to try to filter out the excess sounds. When I can’t understand someone because I can’t hear them very well, I try to focus on what they’re saying and filter out the background noises.

For the most part, I do pretty well with dealing with sounds. Sometimes it is harder than others, but I do my best to remain calm and ignore the sounds that are overstimulating. It just gets harder when other things add to the stress of sounds.

The Reality of Pain

I may not register pain in the same way other people do because I do not know what it is like to NOT be in pain.

My life has been filled with pain and so I sometimes don’t really realize when I am in pain or why I am in pain. I experience pain from sounds, sights, emotions, stress, touch. Normal everyday life constantly causes me pain. Sometimes it is bearable and sometimes it is unbearable, but it is always there.

So when people say that people with autism don’t experience pain or don’t register pain, I cringe inside. When life is pain, how could you not experience pain? The thing is though, when life is pain, how do you know the difference between the pain of sensory disturbance and pain that signifies a medical condition? How do you know when the pain is preventable and when it’s not? How do you know that pain is a sign that something is wrong when your body is constantly telling you that the world is wrong?

To me, there are many different types of pain and sometimes one pain can masquerade as another pain. Sometimes I feel a tingling pain like when your foot falls asleep, only it happens when someone touches me. Sometimes I feel stabbing or throbbing pain when I hear a loud or prolonged noise. Sometimes I feel a dull ache when I’ve been in the same room for too long. Sometimes I feel a choking pain like the gripping pain of frostbite when I see someone else hurting or lonely.

All of these types of pains are normal to me. I feel them nearly every day. However, they can also signify that something is wrong. They can be signs of a medical condition or a danger in the environment. The problem is telling the difference. The problem is knowing when your normal pains aren’t normal.

So before you think that someone won’t be able to feel pain because they self injure or because they don’t seem to respond to pain, maybe think about some other reasons they may not seem to feel pain. Lack of emotion to pain doesn’t necessarily mean that the pain isn’t felt. It just may not be fully understood.

Breaking down

This week has been hard. It has been harder to keep myself calm and in a good state of mind. Sometimes I have to stop myself from yelling at people or being brutally honest. Sometimes I have to calm myself down so I don’t run to my room and cover my ears to try to escape the world. Sometimes I have to remind myself that people aren’t doing certain things to annoy me, they just don’t understand that having things a certain way helps me get through life more smoothly.

I have had family visiting so this is part of what makes things hard, but I have also been more irritable lately and more depressed and lethargic than usual.

My last post was about being an extrovert and needing to spend time with people. Now I must clarify though. I love spending time with people, but I generally hate spending time around people. What is the difference? The difference is when you spend time with people you’re a participant, you’re a partner in an experience, but when you spend time around people you’re all individuals, separate and in all reality, alone.

Although I generally don’t mind being alone, I hate being around people and being alone. I hate when there are people you know around you, but they’re all so distant from you- like when a seal swims next to the glass of the aquarium as you watch it, you are so close and yet you are so incredibly far away.

Seal

These are the times when people most aggravate me. When they are so close and yet, it is like they are in a completely different world.

Because of this, my roommates and family have born the brunt of my incompatibility with people. I often get annoyed with people because I see them do certain things around me and I want to tell them to do it differently, but I know that it isn’t kind to correct people when they’re doing something differently than you would.

So this is why I have been wanting to break down lately. Because I feel isolated in a world that won’t leave me alone. I feel segregated even though I’m with people who I connect to more than almost anyone else. And I just haven’t been in the right mindset lately to be able to handle that. I have already been fighting the darkness, and fighting the darkness while feeling like an alien makes you want to break down.

Fireworks

I have a love/ hate relationship with fireworks. I love watching fireworks, but I hate hearing them. I hate the sound they make when they go off. I hate the squealing sounds and booming sounds and crackling sounds. I hate that they are so loud. You can even hear fireworks sometimes when they’re miles away.

I can usually get by with wearing earplugs, but I really hate having to do that. Earplugs feel so invasive. They feel like putting elephants or knives in my ears, but that’s nothing in comparison to how fireworks make me feel.

When I hear fireworks, especially loud ones, I feel like I’m exploding inside. I feel pressure inside my rib cage like my insides are trying to squeeze through the bones. My eardrums feel like they’re pounding and ringing. And overall, my body feels tense and unstable.

This description is mostly how I feel about loud fireworks though. The more quiet fireworks are still uncomfortable, but they are much less pervasive. I can get by without earplugs when it’s only the more quiet fireworks. The loud fireworks though sometimes push me to the edge of my sanity.

Sometimes, I want to run outside and yell for everything to be quiet. I know it won’t do any good, but I can’t stand the feelings so I have to do something. Sometimes I just want to cover my ears and yell because I’d rather hear the sound of my own screams than hear the sound of fireworks. Sometimes I want to just curl up in a corner and rock and try to pretend that the world has disappeared around me.

However, everything I’ve said is dependent on how I feel. If I’m stressed or anxious, what I’ve said definitely is true. But if I’m calm and relaxed, the noise of fireworks seems to slide past my ears instead of going into them. It’s almost like I don’t even really hear them so they don’t bother me.

Because of this, fireworks on the Forth of July aren’t usually an issue for me. I expect them to happen and I’m usually watching them and I’ve usually had a good day before they go off. The fireworks that really get to me though are the ones people set off early. It’s the July Third fireworks that really become unbearable. They’re unexpected; I’m usually a little stressed or anxious about the next day, and I don’t usually go out and watch them.

I think watching the fireworks really helps with the noise because I just love how fireworks look. I love the colors and lights of fireworks. I love the way they follow patterns and make shapes. I love that they burst in beauty and then fade into darkness. I can connect with the way fireworks look.

But until I can find a way to enjoy fireworks without the noise, the days surrounding the Forth of July will always be tough for me.