As if dealing with sensory acuity and all its triggers and reflex responses isn’t enough, many autistic individuals also struggle with physical problems. My ‘icing on the cake’ is a painful autoimmune condition, which will most definitely flare up after any sensory assault or overload. Of course, the severity of the flare depends on the level of sensory distress.
Dinner last night was a stressful effort. There is so much space in that lovely chapel converted into dining room, but they squashed all of us into cramped rows, elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip even, if you have normal sized hips (mine are thankfully abnormally small!). That is enough to trigger a sensory scream. Wait, there is more. The noise levels created by the chorus of mostly social-minded neurotypical academics, some dominating the conversations with pompous pontifications, others adding a few words in side ways and any which way they possibly can with as much feigned or real enthusiasm they can muster – I wish I had brought my recorder in to dinner last night!
What does an Aspie do? I was actually silent for most part, I was quite overwhelmed by the soundscape that intruded upon every cell in my body, and I was happy to eavesdrop. Sitting on my left was a particularly sententious professor going on and on about how horrified he is with the current state of higher education etc blah. Almost funny, really. But after awhile, I noticed that other people who noticed me at all began to be uncomfortable with my silence, but yet did not begin a conversation with me. Interesting social-scape, as always, observing neurotypicals and neurotypical wannabes from the fringes. So, anyhow, I ended up engaging two people in a shouting match across a narrow table but in the midst of the incredible reverberating chorus of babbling noise!
Of course, that was just the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. (Yes, I have a visual image for that too!) My wonderful friends from South Asia across the hallway had already given me a huge, whopping, sensory gift of fever, swollen lymph nodes, deep and painful aphthous ulcers all over throat and mouth. The dinner assault was a small thing compared to these guys. For those of you who have ever had an ulcer, do tell me how many you’ve had and how much you enjoyed the sensation? I woke up at 2.30am in a great of pain, but familiar pain, though one never does ‘get used to it.’ Burning fever. Burning ulcers. Yes, more than one. In fact, more than two or three or four. I have given up counting. And with that, the senses being on a constant high alert, every other fibre of my body feeling as if it is on fire too. This is when rest – physical rest without sensory disturbance – is sorely needed.
I have decided to ask to be excused from the afternoon session. I shall be presenting tomorrow. I also have to perform in a week’s time, in Cardiff. I cannot afford to allow myself to spiral down into the deep yawning open grave of a full blown severe flare up. It is a daily battle I have faced since the age of five. You win some and you lose more. But one just tries to get better at the prioritising. Though that is not always possible. Life in the neurotypical social landscape is extremely punishing for any autistic person. Life in general is a harsh task master, especially to those who have physical ailments. Combine the two?
Bunny does the best she can. Bunny needs rest. Bunny is hoping her South Asian neighbours staying across the corridor will not anymore a) create incredible deafening noise, b) stuff plastic bags down the toilet bowl, c) create a swamp in the bathroom each time they use it, d) leave soiled toilet tissue everywhere in the toilet (how difficult is it to dispose of this in the bowl and flush?), e) wet the toilet floor and seat with I-don’t-want-to-know-what-but-I-smell-it, f) try to force their way into bathroom when I am inside (these are supposed academics or conference delegates anyway, why can’t they READ that the sign says “OCCUPIED” or hear the sound of the shower?… etc etc etc.
Here is an exercise in empathic skills for you. Have good look at the photo and see how many details you can pick out. Now, try to imagine the smell. Then, turn up the volume of your senses to fullest screaming maximum decibel levels and leave it on for just one piddly little hour. This is close to what most of us with hyper senses endure every single second, minute, hour, day of our lives. Is it any wonder we wish to be alone so much? I am sorely tempted to fork out the extra money and make the effort to move into an ensuite room today. Sigh. My heartrate is increasing again and temples beginning to throb. Yes, at the mere experience of going to the toilet, and then seeing the bathroom that is awaiting me this morning. Maybe I won’t even shower? Ew! Either way, ew!
Intense detail focus cognition doesn’t help the sensory nightmare does it?