(Note: this isn’t to criticize the people involved; the situation just is what it is, due to differing neurology.) 🙂
For the cheap seats, the sensory aspect of an Aspie/autistic person’s nervous system is wired differently. This occurs on many levels, with a variety of effects. The effects themselves are complex, too; we experience them in our way, sometimes not knowing exactly what’s going on, but knowing on an instinctive level that we’re not content. Sometimes we have trouble sorting through, sorting out, all of the mushy mess happening inside us, against our will.
The effects of an overtaxed nervous system feel one way to us, and often look completely different to an outsider. What we may feel as some kind of plea to “please–make it stop! I can’t take it” may look like “anger issues” or “moodiness” or “too picky” to others. If we’re biologically female and premenopausal, and it’s nearing that time of the month, the hormones involved do amplify the effect and thin out our resilience that much more. It’s not an overreactive phenomenon, nor is it a misogynist sentiment. Different genders are built…differently.
But that’s neither here nor there, because the phenomenon of sensory overload can happen to anyone, regardless of born or acquired anatomy. Nervous systems “is” nervous systems.
For me, the world has a volume, and it’s turned up too loud. For every person who would say that I’m “too sensitive”, I would retort with, “you’re dull.” Because it’s all relative anyway. We’re sensitive compared to them (those with typical nervous systems), and they’re dull compared to us. Who’s to say what’s “normal” or “ideal”? At best, the neurotypical nervous system is more common, whereas ours is outnumbered, but that’s really about it. Behind the annoying, disabling effects of our neurological wiring may actually lie an advantage in there somewhere. I’m still looking, but I haven’t given up. I’ll let you know.
Everything is meadows and rainbows, no harm done, until you put two (or more) people with different neurological configurations under the same roof, together in the same space. And the needles of contention only grow in length with time.
I can illustrate this with a few examples…
My partner and my friend came home after a grocery shopping excursion. I had been sitting quietly on the couch (you don’t think I’d be foolish enough to play with my sanity by venturing into a grocery store on a Sunday afternoon, do you?) I’d been getting some (blogging) “work” done, and had been perfectly content and comfortably adjusted in harmony with my surroundings. I had my laptop, remote control, a couple of sleeping cats, and my new weighted blanket (!) Life had been grand.
Then they came home. I was glad to see them, of course. But then the banging started. First it was the front door. Three separate times, between two people. Slam! Slam! (Did you really have to–) slam!
OK, that’s enough. I wish I could say that it ended there and that my poor nervous system could go back to its rare dormant state (which might be considered “average” or “normal” by everyone else’s standards), but no. Then came the groceries, out of their bags and onto the glass cooktop stove, which had been co-opted for a temporary countertop. My partner is legally blind, and despite the fact that he’s a big guy, he tries to move a bit more gracefully, having sensitive hearing and failing to see a need to bang around. But my friend is even less graceful, and has profound hearing loss to boot. Even so, this hasn’t always been the case, and both might (“should”?) know better.
Talk about a Neuro-culture clash.
I can only handle so much unnecessary banging around. And I did believe that it was indeed relatively unnecessary. The glass cooktop and counters don’t change height, and we’ve had them for years, so their dimensions should be familiar by now; does everything need to be set down so hard? The cupboard doors always close the same way; do they really need to be slammed? Did the front door really need to be slammed? (Does anything really need to be slammed?)
Stop. Just Stop.
Two people doing all this slamming at the same time was too much for me to handle.
I’m telling you, Make It Stop. Please, just Make It Stop. Sooner would be better.
So I left the apartment for an undetermined length of time. I’ve been outside for over an hour now, trying to keep reminding myself not to clench my jaw, for fear that I’ll fracture a few more EDS-stricken teeth.
Was I being over-sensitive? Was I being anal retentive? Was I being too persnickety?
Was I overreacting to a benign, everyday situation?
I only wanted to Make It Stop. I don’t want to get crabby. I don’t want to snap. I don’t want to dive off the deep end and plunge into churning waters where I’m swirled beyond my control. I don’t want to say or do things I’ll regret and have to apologize for afterward.
Or did I simply trust my instincts? Did I simply oblige my screaming, desperate nervous system and leave an assaulting environment? Did I simply preserve my sanity? Have I merely recognized this aspect of my Asperger’s/autistic neurotype and answer my personal need instead of trying to “just deal with it”, denying my instinctual desires and remain submerged in an environment in which, several times a second, without any knowledge of a light at the end of the tunnel, a loud crash, boom, or bang would ring throughout every fiber of my system?
Sometimes it seems as though nobody understands. And that, in turn, creates a confusion within as well. I cease to understand them, too; I don’t understand them either.
When it’s just my partner and me, he bangs around at times, but I feel free enough to tell him to simmer down. My friend, on the other hand, is extremely sensitive to comments like that. Even a simple, forcibly-lighthearted “that’s really assaulting my system right now, do you think y’all could be a bit more gentle?” might as well have been a tirade of personal attacks. Thus, since I don’t want to cause drama or catch the Silent Treatment of brusque “I’m fine” when you know damn well that something is not fine, I don’t want to add water to waves.
When my space isn’t safe or conducible, or it’s temporarily incompatible with my nervous system, or I need some much-treasured Alone Time, I do what I always do: I go outside and Just Be. And I might be out there for a while, Just Being.
It’s all I can do. If I can’t “Make It Stop”, then that’s the only survival strategy I have left.
Facing my realities and putting the situation through a Logic Filter illuminates the absurdity of my self-consciousness and self-skepticism.
But those self-directed thoughts didn’t come from nowhere; they were leveraged on me by the people surrounding me. Thus, facing those realities and putting that situation through that Logic Filter also illuminates the absurdity of my having to be self-conscious and self-skeptical. Nobody should be made to feel that way simply because they follow their instincts and act on their need to preserve themselves.
Being in nature, however, is a giant reset button for me. It’s my antidote to a world that insists upon fraying my nervous system with a volume set too high. It’s my answer to the cumulative chaos that threatens my equilibrium. It’s my secret weapon, a weapon of mass defense.
It’s mighty peaceful out there 🙂