Can’t brace for shockwaves

I’m sitting on the couch in the living room.  My partner, the more physically coordinated and adept of us two, is in the adjacent kitchen, preparing dinner.  I know I should be helping, and to ease my conscience, so as not to feel lazy or ungrateful, I asked if he needed any help early on in his preparations, to which he answered “nope, it’s all good”.  (Part of me accepts this on its face as truth; the other part of me figures he was telling me what he knows I secretly wanted to hear…because although I am grateful, I do tend toward laziness at times.)

Dinner is almost ready, and my partner is rinsing out the plates and bowls.  The apartment/flat’s open floor plan positions the sink almost right behind my head.  A bowl slips out of my partner’s hand, into the sink, making a loud noise.

I flinch.  The familiar Aspergian/autistic sensory overload is undeniable and instantaneous.

It happens again.  Soapy bowls are slippery.  And again.  And a few more times.

Each time a bowl hits the bottom (or the side) of the sink (the sink is small), I begin to realize that I feel a physical sensation that I can only describe as a shockwave through my body.  My entire body.  No area of my body is unreached, unaffected.  Nothing is immune to this noise.

It’s more than “just” a jolt or a startle at an unexpected, surprising noise; it’s physical.  First it creates a slight crackling in my ears, but it doesn’t stop there; it flash-fans outward, extending all the way to my fingers and toes.

As the noises continue, random and unpredictable, I attempt to brace for the shockwave, only to realize that I cannot.  No matter how much I may try to tense up, distract myself, brace myself, and so on, nothing works.

I also realize that I can feel myself becoming more and more irritated, in a step-wise fashion, inching up a notch with each instance of the noise.

I’m not irritated at my partner–at least, not at first.  For the first few times, it’s only the sound that is overloading.  But eventually, the irritation does drift toward my partner a little.  OK, maybe more than a little, especially as the noise repeats.

My partner is a guy, sometimes consistent with the mannerisms of the “‘typical’ guy”, if there is such a thing.  Society has taught him that it’s not necessary, or even desirable, for a guy to be “dainty” (i.e., graceful) (which also i.e., sensory-friendly).

I attempt to decode the irritation.  Part of it is obvious–the noise itself, and the fact that it is loud.  Another part is likely due to my own frustration at not being able to “handle” it.  Another part probably arises from my inability to prepare for it, physically or mentally.  And yet another stems from my assumption that this noise is quite unnecessary.  My partner may not realize he’s facilitating these sensations, nor does he have any idea how unpleasant those sensations are.  He’s not doing it on purpose.  But it’s still unnecessary.  He doesn’t need to be that loud or obnoxious.  He could exercise a little control.

…And I could speak up about it.  I don’t expect him to read my mind.  I don’t expect him to cater to my every quirk or idiosyncrasy, especially if he doesn’t realize it exists.  I could attempt to collect my thoughts, translate them into cross-neuro-culture-friendly words, and approach him after my frayed system has been soothed and calmed and made serene again, after the waves fan out to ripples and the bobbing in the center has faded.  I can gently, tactfully, constructively let him know what I experience.

I could begin with something like…

“I really, really appreciate that you make dinner every night and you’re an awesome cook!  I can’t express what that means to me.  There is one thing I need to tell you about, something that experience during dinner preparation, and I make a small suggestion.”

That’s a shockwave he’ll be able to brace for.  It’s small enough.  I’ll be gentle.  I’ll be calm.  I think I’ve phrased my words correctly.  I’ll take care to ensure that I’m not coming off as ungrateful, and that I’m telling him about my experiences and my needs.  I’m not criticizing him personally, and I’m not self-deprecating, either.

It is what it is.

He already understands sensory sensitivity, so that’s an advantage.  He understands that I have sensory issues in other places, such as, oh, the grocery store.

It might surprise him that the bowls and frying pans clanging against the sides and bottom of the sink actually bother me.  After all, I’m hearing-impaired.  But that doesn’t mean I’m deaf; I can still hear quite a bit, and what I can hear affects me greatly.  (This is why I’m actually a little thankful about my mild-to-moderate hearing impairment; I’m not sure I could handle having excellent hearing.  I’ve heard plenty of stories of people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum having excellent hearing and it appears to present many unpleasant experiences and additional sensory issues.)

What I did that day, because I hadn’t yet thought of having such a conversation, is to honor my fight-or-flight response–the physiological response that occurs during times of stress–and instead of becoming combative, I finally left the apartment.  I didn’t leave in a huff, leaving him wondering; I simply said, “I need to go outside for a bit.”  He understood; I do that a lot anyway.

Going outside gave me a two-for-one benefit: first, I was able to get away from the noise with dignity intact, and second, I was able to obtain a little bit of Quiet Alone Time to myself.  Score!  🙂

But there may be times in which going outside isn’t feasible.  Maybe there might be company (such as my parents or a friend) who might raise their eyebrows at such behavior.  Or perhaps it might be too hot, too cold, or too humid to spend very much time outside.  Or I might be in physical pain or illness, with limited mobility.

Thus, a conversation about this is necessary after all.  I think I’m ready.  🙂

***

(Image Credit: Films & Fashion Academy)

 

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53 Comments

  1. Ah, how well I can understand! I am one of those on the spectrum with supersonic hearing, so the sensory issues I experience are numerous. I also know how challenging it is to try to phrase something gently yet in a way that asserts my position. My husband, too, has that penchant for butthurtness. 😉 Best wishes, friend! 🙂😘

    Liked by 5 people

      1. You’re welcome! 💓 Oh, it definitely has its major disadvantages, but there are perks-I can sit across the room and hear what people are saying about me without them realizing. 😂I can also pick up on a tune playing in a crowded restaraunt. ( that has often been my lifeline in sensory hell.☺)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I love the idea of focusing on a song in a restaurant – that’s really cool! Usually I’m all, “what’s that song? The beat sounds familiar, but that’s all I can hear” lol. Ahh, the interesting quirks of uneven hearing lol 😊. (I have normal hearing at the top and bottom ends of the audio spectrum, but it takes a nosedive and bottoms out through the middle range.). Lol 😉💚💙💜

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Lol. My husband’s hearing is like that, so I can understand. I have had to learn to speak on the level he hears best and to never expect him to know what song I am grooving to. 😁

            Liked by 1 person

              1. Thanks. It’s taken time to figure out what he needs, but, with so much practice working similar things out for my kids, it’s kind of become second nature.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. That’s totally cool 😊😊👏🏼👏🏼👍🏼. We’re still working out our specifics 😉❤️. But I think he might be an Aspie, too; he certainly does have *quite* a few of the traits! Different ones than mine, though; some more stereotypical, some less so 😉😁. He can be kind of inside-himself, and so can I, so it’s taking us a little while lol 😉💓💖✨💖

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. as we learned in ad
    friend is more necesary than fire or water
    yet just the same
    it is plain
    if love is accepting
    then he must accept you for whom you are
    and build an altar
    of trust
    somewhere in there eh?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You always describe things so well. I have super-hearing. It makes it so most of the time I have to have earplugs in (inside) and outside I have to have my music all the way up to block out the noise, but even that doesn’t work at times. It’s interesting how you have to create even more noise sometimes to cover up the more unpleasant sounds. But even the volume of the music can get to me if I’m going into sensory overload. I’ll need to turn everything off, go lay down in the pitch black in silence (if there is silence). It can be difficult to live like this and even more difficult for others to understand. Thank you for another wonderful post. -Violet-

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re very welcome, Sister, and thank you so very much for your thoughtful words! You’re very kind 😊😊💚💙. What you said sounds quite familiar; I often find myself doing the same thing–cranking some music until I can’t even handle that, and then trying to create a makeshift sensory deprivation tank of sorts 💖💜💖

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I often “hide” in the bathroom when I need a break from King Ben. Of course he just kicks the door so that doesn’t always work 😕 I have to make sure I phrase things just right when talking to Ben’s mama. She gets super defensive. It’s not always guys😁 She’s the type to slam harder with a sarcastic ” oops, sorry”. Good luck my Dearest Dude 😘💞 🌹🌻🌴 😎

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re so right, Dearest Sister 😘😘 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼. It’s definitely the females too 😉 And oh boy, yes, females can get super-defensive! It’s one of my challenges in interacting with them at times. I’m extra-sensitive, but I’ve learned over the years that people didn’t always mean something the way I could take it, so before reacting, I have trained myself to pause and try to find out what direction they were going, and in what context they meant what they said. Often, my defensiveness proves to be an overreaction, so I’m glad I didn’t let it show just yet! Finding out more info definitely soothes my turbulent internal feelings first, before they have a chance to escape 😁💖💖. Thank you so much for your encouraging words! The feeling is mutual, of course 😘😘❤️☄☄☄

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  5. despite being a guy, the dishes making noise thing is one we have in common. i was going to recommend going outside (which doesnt always work as an option, for various reasons) until i noticed you did exactly that.

    its extremely difficult to avoid dropping soapy dishes back into the sink as you pointed out. most people just let them clink and clang in a major cacaphony. thats not going to work for either of us.

    i find i am 100% ok with an automatic dishwasher, so thats does wonders for the noise of dishes! (unless hes one of those “well im going to make sure theyre clean BEFORE they get washed automatically” types. i know theyre not magic on grease, but…)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, I’m a dish-dropper too lol 😉 Our dishwasher is practically useless, I’m afraid 😊 The jets get all gummed up because of our crazy-hard water lol. So, by hand it is 😉 The difference, of course, between my dropping dishes in the sink and anyone else doing it is that when I do it, the noise is expected 💜 So I can brace for that lol. You’re spot-on, though – I totally agree, and I always love reading your comments! 😁💓💓💓

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, can I ever relate! Unexpected/unwanted noise really bothers me, always has. As a child every time my father was hammering or my mother would vacuum, it really disturbed me. Noise in general is my nemesis, and as I’ve aged, I’ve had a lot of hearing loss, so I relate on that level, too. Don’t even ask about 4th of July and fireworks! Aaaarrrgghhh!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Omg yes, the vacuuming! Oh yeah, and I also can’t do garbage disposals, either, for several reasons (which I will spare everyone and *not* elaborate on). Strangely enough, I can do fireworks, IF they’re in the distance or they’re nearby but I’m actively watching them. Babies crying or children screeching really really get me, though. I like kids in general but I get *really* unnerved at malls, airports, grocery stores, any place where there are likely to be excited or energetic children whose voices *echo* 😣😣😣. That just hurts my whole system. 💟💞💟

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh yeah!! 💞💞. I’ve found that the worst combo for me so far is a boy age 2-5 and his father figure (who doesn’t make noise himself but is oh-so-proud and does nothing to modulate the volume–and in fact encourages it!) Little girls can be quite lethal, too, though! Especially if they’ve been taught that whining loudly in a store gets them what they want 😣😣💚💙💜💖

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  7. Hi Laina. Very nice piece. I enjoy your blog a lot. Just a thought, and forgive me if you’ve already covered this, but do you think that there could be an element of PTSD at work here? I understand that the startle response is never accommodated with people who have post traumatic stress. Or perhaps some of the same mechanisms of PTSD are at work with those who are hypersensitive to sounds.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Excellent thought! 👏🏼👏🏼. I do have PTSD (diagnosed with both forms 😳), but their nature (origins, triggers) is very unusual 😊.

      I’ve written a couple of posts, although they’re older, coming from long before most of the blog traffic 😊❤️. I’ll link to them for easy access, in case you’re interested 💚💙💜

      About the traditional acute type:
      https://thesilentwaveblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/standing-at-the-intersection-of-aspergers-autism-and-ptsd/

      About my unusual form of the chronic type:
      https://thesilentwaveblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/aspergers-autism-ptsd/

      About my diagnosis of the acute type (6 years after the event):
      https://wholoveskitty.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/these-days-were-brought-to-you-by-the-letters-p-t-s-and-d/

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Another slightly off-topic comment here, lol. I was looking up the expression ‘Weaponised autism’ as I wanted to know where it came from, and it led me to these things. Now, the first link is from something on Autism Speaks …

    *makes the sign of the cross to protect against evil*…

    But read through the article anyway, it’s very positive:

    https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2016/01/13/israeli-military-utilizing-talents-young-people-autism

    The new program, “Roim Rachok,” – Hebrew for “looking far and beyond” turns things around. Soldiers on the autism spectrum in the program look far and beyond when they identify satellite images that others cannot see. Commanders also look far, and beyond the youngsters’ diagnosis to uncover their true abilities and by that they break the social stigma, and show that people with autism can.

    “We spotted the potential in the special minds of people with autism for certain intelligence jobs that require analytical skills, memory, meticulousness, concentration, and constant attention to details,”

    So I then looked up the expression ‘Roim Rachok’, and that led me to these:

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/topic/idf-autistic-program-roim-rachok/

    http://friends.ono.ac.il/campaigns/roim-rachok-including-young-adults-on-the-autistic-spectrum-in-the-idf/

    Looking far and beyond. I wish more in the West looked at all of us in such a positive light.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh cool! Thank you so much for the information! I really appreciate your bringing this up 😊. It’s perfectly fine to “stray” “off topic” – I’m absolutely cool with that 😁💚💙. So happy to see you!! 💓💓💓

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I particularly liked this which was told the recruits:

        “When you look in the mirror, you must love what you see. Be proud to be who you are, just the way you are. This group and each one of you individually are an example for what people like you can accomplish. I’m proud of you.”

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Really nice description thanks. It would be good if someone could do a “brace for impact” ala Star Trek but as you say even knowing it is going to happen doesn’t help really (or do we need to develop better shield technology!). I feel a bit disloyal saying this but my partner just doesn’t have space in her mind to think about the noise “clunks” she triggers off. Whether it is the sliding closet doors thumping together, the pulled door click (rather than turning the handle) or banging crockery unloading the dishwasher; I find it hard not to get annoyed. She is always planning several steps ahead and I unfortunately do not often feature in this list of things to think about. We do have plenty of rooms though, so most of the time I just walk out. I walked out a restaurant recently during an 80th birthday bash. I was so revived when I went back in, I didn’t realise how tense I was before. My partner came out to see if I was okay which was nice. Nobody battered an eyelid when I went back in but then they all know I need my space at times. Try to be kind to yourself when you have visitors.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear one! You put it perfectly – “doesn’t have space in her mind to think about the noise ‘clunks’ she triggers off” – yes! I imagine that’s what’s going on in my partner’s mind, too 😊❤️. I’m so glad she came to check on you outside that restaurant 💚💙. And it’s so cool that no one batted an eye when you returned 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼💖✨💖

      Like

  10. I keep several brands of noise blocking headphones around. If others’ noise is especially irritating, I put soft music on to distract me from it, because even noise blocking headphones aren’t perfect. This gets me through tons of stuff, and worth the cost in my opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Wow, what a great post. 🙂 I have the same problem. once a girl who had asthma started wheezing loudly (she couldn’t help it) and it made me jump every time. By the way, where do you get your pictures from? They are really good. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Ooh the wheezing sounds bad 🌺🌺. In university there was a girl who had the neverending hiccups and they would come at random, very loudly, every day. I felt so bad for her 💞🌷

      Thank you for your kind words about the blog pictures! I have a lot of fun finding and choosing just the right ones. You’re definitely not alone in asking, so I wrote a post on my (very miscellaneous) other blog that talks about some of the strategies I’ve used, artists I’ve found, and links to their site(s) 😁😁. I hope it helps! https://wholoveskitty.wordpress.com/2017/06/25/readers-ask-i-love-your-blog-pictures-how-do-you-find-them/ ❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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