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my sensory needs

lm

Hello!  This post is about my sensory needs.  Also I’d like to announce my new website: ilikeyourstims.com.  I started it last month, striving to meet the need for more autistic liberation, autistic resources for adults, and more varied voices speaking our disabled truths.

When I look online for info about how to be kind to myself in terms of my autistic needs, I find way more info for stressed parents wrangling autistic kids.  So much is readily available about kids, much of it fluffy–not for the autistic kids themselves, but for their parents.  So it makes sense, I want to make something more in depth to support the autistic adults, who are under-supported.

I hope I like your stims can be a useful resource for autistic liberation.  Right now I’m just starting out, trying to see how to make it work with my other projects.

Sometimes I feel like I’m separating out parts of myself into more comprehensible chunks than the confusing whole that is Laura-Marie.  The separated out parts seem more palatable and marketable than a mishmash of everything.  But I’m a whole person, so it’s confusing.

meme

I saw a meme about sensory triggers and then possible upset responses.  My reaction was like–wow.  I wish I only had this few sensory triggers and upset responses!  The meme-maker did a very incomplete job.

That’s ok–memes are small by nature.  Bite-sized truth can be nice, sometimes.  I love memes for what they can do, and I still want a master’s degree in them.  But there are many things memes can’t do.  We need big truth-containers too.

discomfort

Sensory discomfort can be more than discomfort.  When it’s at a 2 out of 10, it’s not too bad, unless it goes on for a long time.  When it’s at an 8, then I’m in trouble.  The word discomfort no longer makes sense.  It’s more like pain, or torture.

My senses are sensitive all the time.  But the sensitivity can increase based on where I am on my resources wave.  Toward the end of the day, when I’m out of spoons, small things can cause big reactions.  Something that makes me wince in the morning, on a low stress day, could make me panic in the evening or on a high stress day.

what hurts me

Noise is a big one!

“I was somewhere and somebody turned on a vacuum cleaner right by me,” I told Ming.  “I jumped and moved away, like wtf are you thinking.  You don’t just turn on a vacuum cleaner next to someone!”

We laughed.  Yes, it’s a big deal.  But to some people those kinds of sounds are nothing.

Garbage disposals, chain saws, circular saws / table saws, drills.  Motorcycles and any loud car revving.  Blenders.  Tree trimmers–all they do.  I just need to leave home for a while, when tree trimmers are here.

Leaf blowers.  I can get mad sometimes, that the world is so loud and no one cares.  Really?  Blowing around those three leaves and a bunch of dust into the street–did you accomplish anything?  Is it really worth that sky-splitting horrible life-disrupting sound?

TVs in restaurants, movies playing.  Loud voices.

combination

A combination of sensory and social sensitivity is a dog whining because it’s upset or in pain.  The noise hurts, and I can’t stop feeling the dog’s pain.  So I can’t handle that.  I try to help the dog, ask Ming to help the dog, try to figure out what’s going on.  Earplugs and noise-canceling headphones might help, or playing soothing music.

This is a soothing playlist I made for a friend.

Sounds of domestic violence / arguing neighbors is a similar thing.  The noise hurts, but the feelings hurt more.

visual

Busy visual patterns can hurt me or delight me.  It can go either way.  My everyday carry / purse is a cartoon bag, of fabric that’s very busy.  Ming and I call it the purple bag or the cartoon bag.  It makes me happy.  But many visual patterns hurt.

Seeing depictions of people’s faces when I don’t love them hurts me.  I mean around the house.  For example, the box of the Lite Brite–it was in the bedroom showing the faces of the white children playing, to convince a potential buyer of the fun you can have with this toy.  Seeing the kids’ faces hurt me.  I had to turn the box around to the other side.

Same with magazines–if a magazine is lying around, with the face of a person on the front, I have to turn it over.  Faces are a really big deal to me, and I can’t not see them.  But it can drive me crazy to see them.  I can handle an hour, but after a while, I feel like my soul is being invaded.

By my desk right how I can see a picture of Buddha, Frida Kalo, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, some masked dancers, baby Krishna…  These depictions are no problem for me, as I love them.

I guess the faces of marketing people hurt the most.  People whose pictures are being used to try to sell something hurt me.

tactile

My tactile issues are extreme.  Wearing clothes can be a lot of work.  Tags, seams, remnants of tags.

I was wearing a shirt yesterday that was driving me nuts.  The clothing company printed words on the fabric instead of using a tag–nice try!  But the word-ink got slightly hard and brittle.  So the words are way worse than a tag.

I would be sitting at my desk writing, doing my thing, living life.  Then I would feel an intolerable discomfort–a feeling like I needed to rip my shirt off immediately.  There’s an urgency.

These kinds of impulses make being in public very difficult.  I can’t concentrate on what I’m trying to do, when my body is giving me messages of sensory emergency.

In the past I’ve used sandpaper to try to file the print off the fabric, which risks putting a hole in the fabric.  It’s easier to wear clothes inside out, but I don’t always like how that looks.

other tactile

Water can be a big deal: on the floor, on the kitchen counter, on my skin.  Washing dishes can be hell.  Taking a shower can be very difficult, and washing my hair quite an ordeal.  Wet hair is a very difficult sensation for me.  I have to psych myself out and offer myself a treat.  Even the feel of humidity on my skin can be overwhelming.

Being bumped, like my chair being bumped in a restaurant, is almost immediately meltdown-causing.  I want to be touched intentionally, with care, by people I trust.  Being touched accidentally or jarringly is horrible.

my sensory needs

I need lots of quiet, to know what sounds mean, and to avoid upsetting repetitive sounds.  I need not to be bumped, soft clothes, and rest times when I don’t need to wear clothes.

It’s important for me to have places without busy patterns that my mind goes nuts looking at and following over and over.  Places without marketing pictures of people I don’t know.

I need to avoid strong smells also, unless they’re nature smells I really like.  Sensory food needs are a big deal too.  I need mostly soft foods, and not to have hard and soft combined.  A hard food in my mouth at the same time as a soft food makes my mouth freak out.  My mouth thinks something is very wrong and gets overwhelmed, and that makes it really difficult to eat.

movement

Also I need to be allowed to move freely.  The more I have to stay still, the more stressed I am.  Movement is a way I process ideas, feelings, and sensory input.

At the silent book club, I can only read sitting still for about ten minutes.  Then I need to get up and walk around a while, or dance around a while, to let the ideas move through my body.

Life is very embodied for me, now that I let it be.  For most of my life, I was repressing my needs because I’d been trained to do that at my expense, so I wouldn’t bother other people and get in trouble.  I was as still as a statue, because I needed to be for my survival.  I remained still as a statue, not ever allowing myself to wiggle in my own chair when no one else was in the room, until just recently.

Now I give myself permission to move, and it’s still edgy and vulnerable.

thank you

Once at the library, the worker told me, “Just wanted to let you know–your shirt is on inside out.”

“Thank you, yeah–I do that on purpose.  I have sensory differences, so it works better for me that way,” I said.

“Ok,” the worker said.

I didn’t want to make her feel silly.  She was trying to help.  It was a teaching moment, but we would need so many of them, to make any changes in the world.

I’m valid–my differences are valid.  There are many people in the world like this.  Hiding disabled people away is easier.  If I never left my house, my life would be much easier.

But I was put on earth to be a person among people as I can, speak my truth, model how difference is valid.  Thank you for respecting who I am and respecting the friends, relatives, and strangers in your life who are like you and different from you.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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