Last night I was watching ‘Mozart and the Whale’ for the first time ever. And while I found the characters to be somewhat caricature-like, I must admit I found it very sweet at the same time. They seemed to get the basics right, but everything seemed exaggerated. What it did do for me, however, was inspire me to write this blog post.
In this film (loosely based on a true story btw) there was this scene, where Isabelle, the female main character, and Donald, the male main character, are at a fun fair, and Donald decided to do some ring tossing in order to win Isabelle a plushie, but his noble intentions were in vain as the sound of the metal rings clanking on the metal bottles sent her right into sensory overload. She covered her ears, let herself fall to the ground and screamed even though she was surrounded by people.
Now, I’ve never actually seen any aspie react THAT strongly, some might though, but I do find that it captures the essence of what negative sensory input can do to one.
My senses have always been heightened compared to those around me. I was always the first in class to complain about the heat or the flickering light that no one else noticed. I couldn’t handle rough fabrics or neon colours or drizzling weather, because the tiny, cold drops felt like thin needles that buried into my skin. Back then I used to think I was perhaps being over-dramatic, that it was all anxiety induced over-stimulation and not the other way around. No one else reacted as strongly as I, and it made me stand out as the sensitive, melodramatic and theatrical kid. But hey – typical girls, right? (NO!)
(What sunshine looks like to me at any given moment)
I really shouldn’t write all this in past tense, for it is as true now as it was back then. I still cannot handle any of those things. For the most part I will endure these awful sensory inputs, but I will still try to remove them or remove myself from them as soon as they occur. That is one of great aspects of having gotten my diagnosis: I now know that there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with me, that it’s perfectly normal for someone like me to feel this way. It has taught me that I don’t always have to accept those inputs – it’s okay to find them unbearable, and it’s very okay to adjust my environment to suit me instead of trying to deal with it, because quite frankly I cannot. With some training I might be able to cope better. It will, however, not go away. I cannot avoid sensory overload my entire life, I will have shut-downs because of this, I will look strange to people and some might find me rude when I withdraw to be alone, but that’s okay. The less I hide, the more people will understand, I believe, even if they cannot accept it.
Being as sensitive as I does have some good sides too, I should mention. All those positive sensory inputs can send me straight to ecstasy! The soft, silky feeling of my cats’ fur beneath my fingers, the sound and earthy scent of rain, a stroke down my back, a tight hug that joins together the scents of both involved, a kiss – God, KISSES! Those delicate, rosy kisses, where the lips gently brush against each other, sending tingles through my entire body rendering my legs gelatinous and non-functioning. With greater sensitivity comes both great pains, but also also bountiful joys. Protecting one’s fragility is important, however if one never dares feel anything, one might as well have been dead. There is much pleasure to be sought – even in the simplest of things. Therefore I can live with all the horrible inputs, I will endure, because the rewards, scarce as they might be sometimes, are so worth it. I may experience the lows of lows and break down when it all becomes too much, but when I’m good, when I’m sensory stimulated in a positive way; I AM ON FIRE!