Taking some time to slow down and relax while the snow falls
Whether struggling to put a seat belt on or not understanding a cash register at work, I face numerous situations that leave me feeling defeated and ashamed. I hate looking stupid or incompetent. When others are around and (potentially) judging me, giving myself the grace to make an error becomes even more challenging.
“I’m not an idiot.” I repeat that phrase to myself daily. Is it because I truly believe it, or is it what I want to think?
Sometimes the mistakes I make can be attributed to my ditsy side. Other times, my desire for perfection and fear of making someone upset makes me so anxious that I struggle to focus. Interestingly, my struggles can also be traced back to sensory overload. When someone else is talking in the same room, I struggle to hear anyone speaking to me. If an item isn’t exactly where it should be, I can search fruitlessly as all the other objects around me start to overwhelm my brain. Or if I try to do a task in a new order, I often stumble over my words or forget an essential component of the task.
Closing out my list of thankfulness concerning the senses is sight. We often talk about what we do not like to see concerning ourselves or the world. Blood, pimples, mud, scary images – the list of what we avoid looking at could continue on for many people.
However, there are probably even more things that we enjoy seeing. This list is honors those images that stick with us and make a positive impact on our lives.
Food in the Vaults at Oxford which is a little cafe in the vaults of the university church.
Having an eating disorder can make enjoying food challenging. However, my illness does not totally eliminate my ability to experience and judge tastes. As I grow in recovery, one of the challenges has been eating things that I enjoy and knowing how to manage the desire to consume more of them.
Slowly, my taste buds have been telling me what they prefer and what is not as good. This process is a bit exciting but frightening too. Here are some of the foods whose taste I am thankful for but a bit frightened of consuming.
Soft cats are another touch that I am thankful is in the world.
Biology lab has certain taught me this semester that I am not a kinesthetic learner. All of the information in my head refuses to come out and interact with my experiments. Luckily, our professor lets us work in groups, so others help guide me along throughout the projects.
This turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. When I mentioned this last minute to my therapist, she correlated it to both my Aspergers and eating disorder. “How does this affect visualizing how much food to have,” she questioned. Eagerly, I told her of my troubles figuring out portion sizes and other tasks because spatial reasoning is so hard for me. After listening carefully, she stated that she would look into different methods to help me with this problem. Having someone from my eating disorder treatment facility work so much to aid me with the struggles Aspergers brings up in my life is amazing. In the past, they have mostly not believed me. This is a great step in the right direction toward recovery.
Anyway, all of that is to say that touch is probably the hardest sense for me. It is frightening and a bit haunting. When people touch me, I tend to pull away although part of me yearns for contact. Certain clothing is difficult to wear, but other fabrics make me so calm. Thus, I am going to discuss those touches that I like despite how overwhelming this sense can be.
The sound of church bells is one noise that I love.
Continuing on with the theme of senses in my series of Thankfulness Thursdays, I am going to now address sound.
Hearing is probably the sense that most affects me and my Aspergers. Classical musical and church hymns filled me with joy as a child, but modern Christian rock or booming bass during praise and worship made me run from the room. I could hear conversations from another room without even trying while not understanding the person speaking in front of me. Thus, noise has been both a bane and a blessing in my life. Looking at the sounds that I am most thankful for is a great activity.
Sensory issues have always been part of my life. Too much light, sound, or action make me very tense and unable to cope. This is a normal part of Aspergers I learned later in life.
However, scent is one sense that I have often felt devoid of having. Sometimes, my nose works too well, but usually I struggle to smell what others do.
More recently, however, people have begun to tell me that I smell good. At the same time, I have started to like certain lotions, foods, and flowers for their scents. Thus, having a list about smells I am thankful for seemed like a nice way to note how this often forgotten scent makes an impact on our lives.
Sometimes, we get so stuck in anxiety and worrying about the future that we forget to look around us. Yes, there is much pain and hardship in life. However thousands of little things of beauty surround us each day.
This week, I took a walk a tried to notice some of the details in the world around me. Instead of overlooking a spider on its web, I crouched down and watched it scuttle about, trying to find food. The ripples in the stream were no longer just moving water but a beautiful pattern of flowing liquid. Birds singing and lawn mower growling added a bit of sound that I normal drowned out with music. Experiencing these small things was rather magical. To help you see how much it impacted me, I too some photographs.
Many times situations overwhelm my senses. Many people who have Aspergers, social-anxiety, bipolar, and other disorders have told me that they feel similarly. Lights shine too brightly, music blares from the radio, perfume tickles my nose. However, using sensory stimulation in the right way brings peace and relaxation.
One of the most helpful senses for me is touch. Now, I often flinch when I am touched. Temperatures too cold or hot bother me greatly. As mentioned in a previous post, clothing either feels too loose or too tight. Certain textures bug me so much that I refuse to put them by my skin. Some of these are wool, meat, sandpaper, straw and tinfoil. Thus, I am very sensitive about being touched by people or things.
“Hiding places there are innumerable, escape is only one, but possibilities of escape, again, are as many as hiding places.” – Franz Kafka
Eating in front of fellow students at school causes me great discomfort. Although I have done so a few times, I usually end up in tears. Fear of judgement overwhelms me. Thus, I attempt to find quiet places to be alone as often as possible. In these safe havens, I still stress about food but my anxiety decreases. Occasionally, someone will stumble upon me and stare, confused by the girl munching on a Clif Bar. However, I normally am left undisturbed.
Suddenly, I realized that I am using a coping skill to manage eating. Although this hiding seems cowardly, it actually helps me to function. Sure, I could attempt to interact more with other students or eat in front of them. However, right now, my introverted side craves silence. Each day, people and senses bombard me. Although I long to be normal, I need to take things slow and not push myself too hard or fast.
Ever since I have been little, I have hated wearing certain things probably due to Aspergers. Shoes, socks, coats, and layers of clothing drove me crazy. To complicate things further, the littlest touch of something against my skin could irritate me. My patient mother cut tags out of clothing, allowed me to not wear itchy wool, and tried to comfort me when I panicked because of uncomfortable sensory input.
As I grew older, other components began to dictate how I dressed. My desire to be beautiful, pure, and good led to me wearing dresses and skirts all of the time. In fact, my mother often cautioned me to dress less formally when I went to home-school coup or youth group. One day, I might glide into classes with a tiara, glitter dotted on my face, and a long dress. The very next day, however, I might refuse to put on any makeup and wear ponytails with ribbons and a cutesy dress in an attempt to look younger. Needless to say, I was a bit of an oddball.