Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Present Tense

The last couple of real essay posts that I did were based on my concept of a neurAtypical literature--whether that's teaching us literature or helping us to use literature therapeutically.  It's really been quite a long time since I wrote about sensory issues.

I find myself asking why this is, but I suspect that it is because I have been quite a long time between bouts of really challenging sensory spells.  Unfortunately, that seems to be changing.  I don't know if it was the break in routine or the stress of so many social gatherings (I had 3) packed so close together, or maybe it was just time, but the last couple of days have been bad.

I'm not sure how to really put this, and I don't mean to be a complainer, but the forums on Wrong Planet show me that this isn't a fringe idea--there are a lot of other people with sensory disorders that agree--but I'm dealing with a bit of synesthesia.  Specifically, I'm dealing with a collision between my sense of touch and my hearing, and it's making sounds irritating or soothing in a way that is affecting my muscle tension, which makes my skin more sensitive.

Call me crazy, but I think this is why I have those bouts of ittitation with certain clothes.  This is another ASD tendency.  Sometimes, certain shirts or pants will become temporarily uncomfortable after having been fine for a long time before that.  As I'm noticing it happen this time, it seems to be directly related to this auditory issue.

I know that Carly Fleischmann, who has far more serious sensory issues than I or any Aspie, describes her own constant irritation as "auditory processing", which seems to suggest that whatever kind of sensory issues we might have, the subjective similarity seems to be some connection of our other (visual/tactile) sensory stimulation back to the sense of hearing.  Like her, when I get just so overwhelmed, I detect a difference between the sensory input and my ability to make sense of it--a sort of delay, like when you see someone at a distance shout to you before you hear their voice.  Mine's just less intrusively overhelming.

One issue that I've seen connect to this experience is my emotional state.  If I am already frustrated, overtired, or otherwise upset, then the chances of an irritating impression escalating into this kind of chaos are much higher than if I am already feeling relaxed.  Similarly, if I am feeling relaxed, then prologned exposure to an irritating sound or texture will, over time, change my emotional state.  In fact, it is the change in emotional state that frustrates my ability to concentrate or to express myself.

Keep in mind, I'm not making any claims about the objective measurement that can be made here.  I'm attempting to reconstruct a narrative of the event that will (hopefully) help you see how it appears to me.  It is only by sharing our sense of how this whole thing works that allows us to form a conversation about what range of experience is typical.  It takes a lot of information gathering before a big enough picture will emerge that we can make generalizations.  I'm interested in hearing more stories like mine, so that we can build a sense of this.

Anyhow, to wrap this up, my own tension/sensory issues seem set up to make the emotional state, tactile sense, auditory sense, (sometimes) the visual as well, and the feeling of contracting and relaxing muscles all cross-wired.  One impulse in one of them affects the others, and sometimes this effect happens before I've even decoded the original sensory input.  In this way, bad Muzak can begin to feel like ants under my skin, which can make me think my clothes are uncomfortable, which can make me tense, which can make me frustrated/angry, which can make me shout in the middle of the store when a stranger accidentally bangs into my cart.

If I had to draw myself an ASD Overload Flow Chart, then that's what mine would look like.

I don't know when I'm going to write here again.  I will probably still keep to the posting schedule I've realistically had.  About one every 3-4 weeks, with alternating topics on education, neurodiversity, and some life stories from my exploits will probably be realistic.  If I could summon up a quality, feature-length essay more often than that, I would.  I'd just rather stick to quality over quantity, and that takes some time.

If you read this and you're ASD of any kind, would you please leave me your Overload Flow Chart in the comments?  I'd really like to see how ours compare, and I think that the parents and advocates that occasionally read these posts would value the ability to see the diversity of our experiences with these processing issues.  It can only help us to understand each other.