Other Sensitivities

Photo by Bill Selak via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.
Photo by Bill Selak via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

This is a follow up to my post My Worst Sensitivities. Here are some more of my sensory issues. I consider these ones to have less of an impact on my life than the ones in my previous post.

Tactile, Continued

Aversion to water. I hate the feeling of water on my skin, and especially in my eyes. I have never learned to swim for this reason. One of the very small number of spankings I ever received in my life was because I was refusing a bath. When my husband and I shower together, he says I have a look on my face like I’m in pain the entire time. Despite how much I hate it, I do shower every day, because I hate feeling dirty and smelling bad more than I hate the feel of water. But sometimes when I can get away with it, like when I’m not working, I put off my shower until later in the day because I’m not a morning person and that horrible feeling in the morning is too much for me.

Visual

I don’t like bright colours. I dislike animated TV shows and movies for this reason. I never really liked most children’s shows or cartoons when I was a child because of the bright colours. I especially hate bright red and orange. But the colours I do like, I love. My favourite is a soft greeny-blue.

Sound

I have sensitivities to loud noises and auditory processing issues.

When the fire alarm in the building I live in goes off, I shake uncontrollably, even if I know it’s a false alarm. It’s the noise itself that rattles me.

I can enjoy loud music if it’s music I like and have chosen to listen to, but it drives me nuts if it’s someone else’s. Conflicting noises also drive me nuts. My dad has the tendency to put the TV on, get bored and leave the room without turning the TV off, go into the next room, and put the radio on in there. When I can hear a TV and a radio at the same time, it makes me feel like I’m losing my mind or like my head’s going to explode. It is very, very unpleasant.

I also have trouble in crowded, noisy environments picking out the one voice that’s talking to me. This has always made church attendance difficult for me, as standing around in a crowded church lobby and chatting with people is the expected thing. Trying to skip this is frowned upon, as churches are big on “community” these days and I would even go so far as to say many of them worship community more than they worship God. Going home to read the Bible and pray? Bad. Standing around making small talk about the weather? Good. (I realize if you don’t believe in God, this may not seem like such a bad thing, but for me, believing in God is the one and only reason I’ve ever gone to church. I’m not there for anything else.) In these situations, I stand there and smile and nod and hope they’re not asking me any questions. I have sometimes told people I have auditory processing issues and I can’t understand what they’re saying to me. Sometimes we then stand there in awkward silence before they excuse themselves to talk to someone else, but more often they just keep chattering away and I keep nodding. I don’t know why I keep doing that after I’ve already admitted I can’t understand them. I think it’s just because I hate making people feel bad or uncomfortable.

There are some sounds I like that you wouldn’t expect me to. I love the sound of traffic on a highway. I find it quite soothing, even when I’m trying to fall asleep. I live near an airport and I don’t mind the sound of planes overhead. I also love the sound of rain and howling wind.

Other issues I don’t know how to categorize include:

Sensitivity to hot and cold. This could be related to my hypothyroidism or other health issues. It’s getting worse as I get older.

Motion sickness, when I sit in the backseat of a car. This makes me not want to go anywhere with others unless I can sit in the front, but obviously insisting on sitting in the front seat on outings with people can come across as pretty obnoxious. It’s easier to just stay home.

Oddly enough, I love roller coasters and never get sick on them (although it’s been a while since I’d ridden one because I don’t know anyone else who can tolerate them). I think it’s because a roller coaster ride doesn’t last long enough for the motion sickness to kick in. I’m usually in a car for at least 10 minutes before I start feeling sick.

I might have more issues I’m just not thinking of at the moment, but the ones in this post and my previous post are the ones that immediately come to mind.

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“I was so happy, I was literally floating on air!”

Photo by J. Michael Raby, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.
Photo by J. Michael Raby, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

You were literally floating on air? No, I don’t think you were.

As a child, I took everything people said literally. I have very clear memories of doing this.

1. When I mentioned something a boy had said to me, my dad asked, “Is he a boy you go to school with?” I thought carefully about the question and then replied, “No, I don’t go to school with him, I go to school with Jason,” referring to another boy whose mom gave me a ride every morning. While the boy I was initially referring to was in my class, I was thinking about the words go to, so I thought my dad meant who I literally travelled there with. The boy I had been mentioning got to school another way, therefore I did not see him as someone I went to school with.

2. When having a class picture taken, the teacher said, “Put your hands in your lap.” I looked down at my lap, not sure what exactly she meant. I tried to reason it out inside my head: Okay, when I sit on mom or dad’s lap, that’s on their lap. If that’s on, what’s in? I concluded that if the top of the thighs was on, there was only one place that could be considered in. So I pressed my hands together and stuffed them down in between my thighs. When I saw the resulting photo, I realized I’d gotten it wrong. Every other child sitting down in the photo had their hands neatly folded on top of their lap. In this context, “in your lap” meant the same thing as “on your lap” and I was apparently the only child who never would have guessed that.

3. For some unknown reason, there was a pile of boards stacked up beside the school building (that would never be allowed to happen these days, but nobody cared about safety back then). A friend of mine pointed at them and said, “On Friday, let’s use those boards to build a pedal car and pedal it to Disneyland.” I agreed to it and went to school that Friday actually thinking I was leaving for Disneyland that day. I didn’t know how to build a pedal car, but I assumed she did, since she proposed the idea. When she never mentioned it again, I was bewildered, disappointed, and a little relieved all at the same time. (We are friends to this day and still laugh about this.)

4. A certain celebrity at the time had the same name as me, and every time she would come on TV, my mom (who has always had the tendency to see significance in utterly insignificant things) would gleefully make a big deal about the woman’s name and say, “You’re just like her!” I remember examining this woman for similarities other than our shared name, and not being able to find any, announced that I wanted to be called something different.

5. I was a little older when this happened, but I had a friend who was from Ireland and often talked about her Irish heritage and Irish pride. One day when I was in a bookstore I saw a book about Irish myths and legends and I thought of her, so I bought it for her as a gift. (For what it’s worth, I thought the book was pretty cool and I would have liked it myself at the time, despite having no Irish heritage whatsoever.) When I presented it to her, she said, “Oh right, because I’m Irish, I’ll like anything to do with Ireland!” At the time I felt pleased that she liked the gift. It was only years later that I remembered the incident (I have an extremely good memory, to my detriment at times) and realized she was being sarcastic and the gift was actually a social blunder.

As I aged I learned to understand figures of speech and other nuances of language, as well as things like flights of fancy (2000 kilometres to Disneyland by self-propulsion, anyone?), mostly due to my love of literature, reading, writing, and English class. But there are times to this day when someone uses deadpan humour and I think they’re serious, even though I can use deadpan humour myself.

I think some people might hear (or read) me using figures of speech, metaphors, similes, slang, sarcasm, etc. and think that I must not have Asperger’s. But if you would have known me as a child and young adult, you might get that I probably do.