Warm in the wintertime

Today I was thinking to myself how grateful I am that I can afford the extra $10 or so a month on my electric bill to keep my apartment at seventy degrees in the winter. I have adequate shelter and the ability to keep it comfortable for myself. I feel so fortunate.

I was thinking about this and wondering why 70 degrees is the perfect indoor temperature for me. I am sensitive to extreme heat and extreme cold, and my mood is affected by both. But I know it’s more than that. When my dad remarried, I was newly thirteen and had been dealing with preteen angst and emotional abuse and neglect from my father for three years, since my mom and dad divorced (he won primary custody, and my mom left the country). When he remarried, the abuse and neglect of myself and my two full siblings got exponentially worse. My dad and stepmother had and have severe [but undiagnosed] anxiety disorders, and their way of handling that anxiety was to exert control over every little thing in our lives—my two siblings and I were once grounded for a week because I forgot to put a basic, cheap Bic pen back in the drawer where I found it. My stepmom’s anxiety would be so severe that it sometimes bordered on psychosis.

Another way they exerted control was over basic comforts. The temperature indoors was at sixty-two degrees from 10 p.m. until 6 p.m. the following day, when one of them got home from work. We were absolutely forbidden from ever touching the thermostat, even though we got home from school around 3:30 most days. When they arrived home, one of my parents would adjust the heat up to sixty-eight degrees. It absolutely never got warmer than that in our house, except in summer when it happened naturally.

To be clear: I understand this need for people who can’t afford the extra two degrees every month. Electric bills are high in a house of six people. The thing is: when my dad married my stepmom, we moved into the first double-income household we had ever lived in, and we moved six months after their wedding into a housing development. My stepmom made excellent money in her government job, and my dad managed an entire department in the school district—on his own, that wasn’t much money, but combined with my stepmom’s salary, they were more than comfortable. I say “they” because we were not allowed to ask for money and had to pay most school and activity fees ourselves with our $5/week allowance. We were to be grateful that they fed us and let us buy clothes once a year. My parents could easily have afforded to at least let us turn the thermostat up to sixty-eight when we got home from school. But if one of them got home and the thermostat had been adjusted…there would be hell to pay.

Even at the time, the cold was symbolic to me. It was the bare minimum, keeping us warm, the same way we were provided for. My sibs and I used to joke about keeping our future houses extra warm, just because we could. We’d be adults and have control over our bodies and homes and comfort.

My relationship with my father and stepmom improved significantly throughout my twenties, and despite no reckoning about the past, we get along very well today. As he’s gotten older, my dad has slowly realized how severe his anxiety has been his entire life. He recently offered me a small, private apology for “the effect” his anxiety had on me when we were growing up.

Anyway, sometimes it’s hard for me to love myself. Depression and PTSD and the hypersensitivity that comes with autism make that very difficult. But I’m glad I’ve found a way to be kind to myself, by keeping myself warm and comfortable in the cold winter.

Relief.

That’s the only word I can think of, sitting here the day after Joe Biden was projected to be the next president of the United States. There is an incredible amount of work to be done; Biden was not my first or second choice for the Dem nomination; a staggering seventy million still voted for fascism, after everything. I know all of this. And I’m allowed to feel relieved that we’ve scored a tiny victory over fascism. I am much, much further to the left than the Democratic party, even the progressives, and always have been. “Anarchocommunism” is the closest political movement to which I subscribe. But the idea that we have an opportunity to excise that cancerous turd in the White House and maybe start to rebuild our reputation as a credible nation fills me with relief.

Far less important things
Personally, my current project is cleaning out my car so that I can donate it and get a new (to me) vehicle. It has been extremely difficult to get myself out to clean out my car. That executive dysfunction rears its ugly head and I’m stuck thinking about what I need to do all day but never actually doing it. I did get most of the trash out, and what is left is mostly things I need to bring into the house—I’ve been using the car as a de facto storage unit and it is a habit I need to break. More than once, I’ve had strangers come to me with concern that I live in my car. It should embarrass me, but it just…doesn’t.

There is a local medical rehabilitation center that works with a lot of the physically disabled people I cared for in my former life in social services. I donated my last vehicle to them a few years ago, and got this car for free from an ex who was moving overseas. She’s a 2007, and she’s outlived her usefulness. There are dash lights on permanently. And I’ve dumped so much money into her maintenance and repair, I finally decided this summer that that was it. It’s not worth it anymore. This time, though, I think I will be donating the car to an Black mutual aid charity. I don’t have or make a great deal of money, so I am not always able to lend as much monetary support as I might like to the cause of racial justice and anti-racism. I hope this will help a family in some measure. I don’t believe in bragging about charitable acts, but since I am pretty anonymous here I am just discussing it in the hopes that it might occur to a reader the next time they have a car to get rid of.

Why don’t I just sell the car? you might wonder. Well first of all, on the most basic level, I don’t have a great grasp on nor attachment to the value of property. This isn’t altruism. It’s autism. Ha! I am never particularly attached to material things. There’s been so much transience in my life, possessions just matter very little to me. Second, I can afford to finance a (used) car for myself without trading in—truly a blessing that was only made possible by the $600/week in unemployment I received this summer after being temporarily, partially laid off.

Looking at getting a Subaru. If I can’t escape the harsh winters of the northern midwest right now, maybe I can at least drive through them when I need to!

The pre-SAD blues

Seasonal affective disorder’s acronym has always delighted me. I’ve dealt with SAD for as long as I can remember. This year, it’s been ushered in early with the arrival of snow in mid-October, like this is the 1990s or something. It already feels like December in the upper midwest. This has a pretty foul effect on my overall mood.

I start to get stressed out about SAD right about the beginning of October, because I know just how deeply depressed I will be beginning in November at the latest and lasting until March at the earliest. I don’t know if it’s the cold, the dark, the snow, or a combination. I’ve tried “therapy lights” and currently own two–they’ve done absolutely nothing, never come close to resolving any part of the issue. It makes me think that despite my loathing of the early dark, it might be less of a factor than the cold and snow.

But I get downright bleak around this time of year. I’m bracing myself for the tumble down into the darkness coming some time next month. I get very little done in the winter. The cold and crummy roads conspire with my already-dismal executive functioning and I am lucky to get up and do my work every day. Getting out of bed becomes next to impossible once the sun starts waiting until 8 a.m. to rise. I’ve been doing the Work From Home Shuffle since mid-March thanks to the pandemic, so the stress about my extremely long commute has disappeared–I’m so relieved to not have to drive tens of miles for at least the first part of winter during rush hour.

It feels like the pandemic has given me practice, though–a summer spent not being able to do much outside the house besides shop for necessities and take solo walks sounds oddly similar to the way my typical winter usually goes. I just hope I don’t hit the wall of “I can’t take this isolation anymore” smack in the middle of the winter.

I live in a drafty old building that is horribly sealed; it seems like the windows migrate further outward from their frames with every thaw. I hate to be cold. And baseboard heaters are the worst–all the mucous membrane-drying effects of a radiator, with none of the heat.

Anyway, I’ve toyed for years with the idea of moving to a warmer climate. I’ve been to both Florida and Cuba in the wintertime, and the feeling of euphoria when I stepped out of the airport into the humid air was almost overwhelming. But I don’t know how to do that–start over in a brand new place, extremely far from family. I left my hometown for “the big city,” but I had relatives there and could stay with them while I established myself. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with getting someplace warm. It’s so expensive to move and it’s such a gamble in the field I am in, because demand fluctuates so much.

I found a dead bird on the doorstep of my building on Friday. I moved it into the grass and then cried about it for half an hour. I want to blame it on emotional dysregulation due to the pandemic, but this is…a pretty normal response for me.

I’m all over the place with this post so I’m going to stop here. Love and solidarity to anybody else getting ready for the SADs.

Let your prayers go drifting into space

I was raised Roman Catholic. That is to say: we went to church every Sunday for the first four years of my life, because we could walk there. Once we moved to a rural area, we became Christmas-only Catholics. I never had a First Communion, never went to Sunday school. I was baptized Catholic, and that’s the last time I had a meaningful interaction with the Catholic church. The brilliant comedian Cameron Esposito invented the term and concept of being “ethnically Catholic,” which I find quite clever and now use to identify myself. There is a culture to Catholicism that is hard to shake, especially given the fact that my generation was largely raised by people who were raised by devout Catholics.

As a kid, the concept of religion and god was a foreign one to me. To make it make sense to myself, as a tiny kid, I decided that the idea of god and the bible were stories that grownups told themselves and each other. I still have never been able to grasp the idea that there are many, many people who believe literally in the words of the bible, believe in the idea of a single patriarchal figure literally creating the universe from nothing. It’s a level of faith I cannot achieve. I would define myself largely as an atheist, with a lowercase “a.” I’m not aggressive, I don’t debate people of faith (I think it’s rude to challenge someone on their faith OR the lack), and I don’t talk down to or think less of someone with a religious faith unless they use it as a cudgel to harm others.

With those caveats firmly in place, I have found myself wanting as I’ve grown older. Wanting to believe in something, even if it doesn’t fit a conventional model of Abrahamic or any other religion. To me, what is most “miraculous” in this life is the beauty of nature. I find it incredibly beautiful that all of this could just happen because of scientific evolutionary processes. Look outside! I feel moved by the existence of the earth and all its inhabitants as completely random more than I jive with the concept that someone specific “created” all of it.

I have become more interested in reform Judaism as it relates to a view of the world and our role in it as human beings, stewards of the earth and the human race. Something I really appreciate about the Jewish faith is the belief that we should be good to one another and do good things while we are here because it is the right thing to do–not because we will reap rewards after we die. It’s the way I have always striven to live, despite my previous complete lack of faith. It’s also the only religion I know of that asks and encourages questions, and then offers answers. Not only does it offer answers in the form of the Midrash, it doesn’t present these scholarly interpretations as absolute. It doesn’t demand unwavering, literal belief in scripture. I’m in the very early stages of researching the conversion process, and have been reading the five books of Moses over the last few months.

One of my siblings has been on a similar journey: searching for faith after being raised a skeptic. They recently made the decision to start covering their hair unless they’re in a private home with loved ones. For this sibling, homemaking is a spiritual practice. I don’t pretend to understand that, but they talk of their head covering as “always having their home with [them].” Before I learned that this sibling made this decision, I had considered it myself for a little while–though for reasons far less spiritual: I thought about covering for sensory reasons. I feel so calm and centered with a weighted blanket on me if I’m stressed out, and I have always loved the feeling of being squeezed–because of autism or because I wasn’t hugged enough as a kid, one never knows (¿por qué no las dos?). I saw a woman on TikTok who was demonstrating how she wraps her tichel, and was enthralled. Something warm, gently squeezing my head? Not having to fight with my curly hair every morning? Where do I sign up?? I should note that neither hair-covering nor this Jewish woman were the impetus for my interest in Judaism; they were purely incidental. After mulling it over and talking with my sibling (and–of course–asking them to demo their covering on my head), I’ve made the decision to try out covering my hair. Still not for religious reasons, but for sensory ones. I may love it, I may hate it. But I’m kind of grateful for this endless quarantine because it has allowed me to explore so much of myself and the world in the privacy of my home.

Sharing

Tonight I made the difficult decision to talk about my autism and feelings about it with one of my siblings. They* were supportive and said that they were glad I’d told them about it. It was a bit of a relief. I still have a sibling I haven’t and may never discuss it with–I adore them, but they can be very judgmental in a way that is reminiscent of my parents, specifically my dad, when it comes to concerns about my health and well-being.

I explained to my sibling tonight that after a lifetime of being called “weird” by both my parents and kids in school (which, as a child, to be called “weird” when what you want most is to blend in, can be very wounding), I was coming to understand that okay, maybe “weird” was the best way these people could describe the way I access and process the world. But it’s not “weird,” it’s just different. I can come to the same conclusions as others, I can function in a neurotypical world with a degree of success, but I don’t move through it and experience it in the same way. In some cases I process emotions very quickly to the “action” stage, and in others I can become stuck on an initial reaction and take forever to move on.

I know I’ve said this before, but there is so much about my past and the way I’ve experienced life that is coming into such sharp focus when viewed through the lens of ASD. I think back on reactions I’ve had to information in contrast to others in the room, and for a change I feel like I have an answer for “why the hell did I react so differently from the other people there?” I’m approaching the coming winter (ordinarily an extremely difficult time for me emotionally and mentally) with a slightly revised outlook and finding myself less dismissive of my feelings–I don’t feel as ready to accept that I’m just depressed and low-functioning for a majority of the year. (I still hate the winter, though.) It is hard sometimes to know whether I am in charge of my depression, or whether it is in charge of me–I have always attributed my executive dysfunction to depression, even when I did not feel depressed. It makes so much more sense that it would be more likely to be connected to my autism, as it’s a problem I’ve had all my life–it did not start when I became symptomatic for depression.

It’s bedtime for me. Just wanted to express some thoughts.

*None of my siblings use they/them pronouns, but I’m trying to keep my blog as anonymous (for the people in my life who haven’t consented to be named here) as possible.

Special interests, or: the shit I love

I have tried to embrace more of my autistic “special interests” more during this long quarantine, and especially lately have been making an effort to refer to them as “special interests” rather than “things I’m obsessed with.” The latter sounds, to me, like they’re things I should not care about as much as I do–and I don’t think that that’s accurate. There are things that contribute to my anxiety that I ruminate on too much–that sort of thing is more accurately an “obsession” in my eyes. This post is about stuff I really enjoy immersing myself in.

Movies. I come from a movie-loving family. Movie quotes are an official language. The two people aside from me with the most prolific memories for not only movie quotes, but the inflections with which they’re delivered, are my uncle and grandfather, both of whom I suspect are on the spectrum. I love movies considered “classics,” and will study them furiously and memorize whatever piece of trivia I can about them. Westerns have a special place in my heart, despite how problematic the genre as a whole is.

Bruce Springsteen. I admittedly have not heard every work in Springsteen’s oeuvre, but after encountering him for the first time when I was fifteen, I’ve looked on much of his music as my soul’s salvation (if you’ll excuse the Boss-esque hyperbole). I can listen to certain songs of his on repeat for hours, deconstructing the lyrics in my head, feeling the longing for a fast car and an open road especially present in his early career. I’ve seen him live three times; the last time I saw him was the year my mother died. She had wanted to come with me to see him. At this performance, he finally played mine and my mom’s favorite song. It was the first time I’d seen it live. I sobbed.

History. This is a broad category, but I could read history and historical accounts all day long. Particular areas of interest are Irish history, the American Civil War, the “American West,” 20th century Latin America, labor history, and Native (American) history and culture. One of my favorite TV programs (my god, I sound like I’m 80 years old) is Ken Burns’s documentary series The West. It’s one of those docuseries you probably watched for social studies if you went to elementary school in the ’90s–interviews with historians of all stripes, sweeping views of the western landscape, excerpts from historical diaries and accounts, all with an opening and transitional score of indigenous chanting. It doesn’t gloss over the horrors that a colonizing people wrought and continues to wreak on the first inhabitants of the land, and I appreciate that.

This is a post I’ll likely add more to later.

Down with the sickness–literally

I caught one hell of a chest cold at some point last weekend and have been absolutely dosed all week this week. It’s not The Virus (I know exactly from whom I caught it, and they tested negative on Wednesday), but it was brutal. I took two days off of work to just lay in bed, and coughed so much and so hard that my ribs are sore today, two days after the worst of it. I couldn’t keep food down for days, but I didn’t feel hungry so I didn’t bother eating very often.

I become almost entirely unable to function “normally” when I get sick. Any issues with my executive functioning in my daily life are magnified by illness. I’m not able to serve as caregiver and sick person at the same time. I haven’t had someone take care of me when I was sick since I was about 9, and the best I can do for myself is get enough fluids, take some medicine, and sleep. I did force myself to shower daily, which I was proud of as I have previously skipped two or three days when I’m sick. But now the cat box needs cleaning. The produce in the fridge needs to be prepped and stored very soon because days have passed since I intended to use it. And on top of all of it, I’m still just absolutely bushed from being sick, so I’m too tired to do any of it in addition to not being able to self-motivate.

Last night I came across this brilliant article by Reese Piper on being an autistic woman. It describes me to a T. I always get a little feeling of frisson when I read a piece I can recognize myself in; it seems to happen so seldom that it feels special every time. It got me thinking about how many of my allegedly “depressive” symptoms and behaviors may actually be the result of my autism and as a result have never improved with conventional treatment methods for depression. Maybe my depression isn’t the treatment-resistant type (as I’ve started to worry over the last couple years)–maybe my most severe issues are not depression-related at all (or at least not primarily).

Finally, the last issue I’m working through today is dealing with neighbors who smoke. I have a chronic lung condition and cigarette smoke aggravates it. My building is nonsmoking, but the fellas downstairs smoke in their apartment and it’s becoming disruptive to my health. My bath towels smell of cig smoke because they hang on a towel bar right over our shared vent. I have had a cough since January that I’ve variously believed to be linked to allergies or GERD, but it doesn’t respond to treatments for those conditions. I dislike landlords and don’t want to be the reason anyone loses their housing, but I’m also struggling with how to confront them without escalating it into a “shitty neighbor” situation. I’m terrible at a cold-approach–I’m either too passive or far too blunt–and there’s also a language barrier between us. I don’t want to tell them they can’t smoke it all–that’s their business–but I just want them to stop doing it indoors. My sibling has suggested a friendly, plainly worded request in the form of a note stuck under their door. It’s the best idea I’ve heard so far, so that may be the route I take once I can work up the motivation and energy.

I am tired.

Executive dysfunction

Executive dysfunction is associated with all of the mental illness I deal with, in addition to my autism. It is one of the more disruptive symptoms I experience. It leads me to not eating, not keeping my space clean, an inability to get out of bed in the morning, and often, an inability to deal with problems until they become urgent. It’s probably the most frustrating part of each of my disorders.

Today, though, I celebrate a small victory: I made myself a “Sunday morning breakfast,” and all (3) items were ready to eat at the same time. I ate it and truly enjoyed it. All that while my brain was screaming at me to go back to bed! Cooking becomes a major obstacle for me, especially as the seasons change (winter is a nightmare for my executive functioning because my mood is the lowest it ever gets, for a sustained period of time).

I have been following a user on TikTok who is herself experiencing postpartum depression, and posts extremely simple recipes with her own narration validating her viewers’ food choices if they are struggling. It has been comforting for me to watch. Something I only began to touch on in therapy before the pandemic started was the fact that I was never validated for my concerns or choices as a child, meaning that–as I’ve mentioned–I am constantly doubting myself. As a result of watching this new mom on TikTok, I have quietly elected to start to be kinder to myself with food. If that means I buy frozen meatballs instead of browning my own meat–fine. If it means buying pre-breaded fish fillets instead of buying fish and breading them myself–great. I try not to eat too much meat, but with winter (and my significant mood drop) coming, I’m trying to take a more compassionate approach with myself and eat as healthfully as I can without exhausting myself with the mere idea of preparing dinner.

I’ll be honest, though: eating has been a major struggle lately. I often don’t have the energy to eat, so cooking is out of the question. It isn’t until my stomach starts to hurt from hunger that I’ll get serious about eating, which leads to low blood sugar and shakiness in addition to…most quick places to grab food being closed. It’s a cycle and it feels difficult to break out of. I would like to start meal planning again (if not prepping), but I want to be cautious that I’m not restricting myself and that I’m getting enough calories–another major struggle of my trying to prepare in advance, in the past. I either underestimate my calorie needs or try to restrict them from the get-go. It’s not a good relationship to have with food. I have never been anorexic, just deeply disinterested in food much of the time. That bit I can trace back to the death of my mother over 8 years ago.

I had leftovers for dinner, which means I successfully prepared (or reheated) and ate two substantial-enough meals for myself today. If I can turn this into a streak…

Finally got my ASD assessment results…from over a year ago

This was for the assessment I had almost a year and a half ago. I finally emailed both the clinician and the clinic he works for and two weeks later (today), got the report in my email.

The results are not as I remembered them being presented to me at the time I initially discussed them with the assessor. Throughout, he indicates that I have a high likelihood of Asperger’s and ADHD, but then turns around and insists that any of those symptoms are explained by my other diagnoses of persistent depression and generalized anxiety.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder is what he ultimately assessed me as having. I looked up the criteria in the DSM-V to compare it against my results and my sense of myself, once and for all.

Like the name suggests, people with SPD have similar symptoms to those with Schizoaffective Disorder/Schizophrenia, though they present as much more mild. This means that major components of SPD include magical thinking, ideas of reference (believing that certain events have a deeper, secret meaning), paranoia, odd or eccentric manners of dress and thought, and social anxiety.

There is no shame in a diagnosis of SPD or any other disorder. But of the symptoms of SPD, I experience…one. I am socially anxious. I mask this very well most of the time, and most strangers would not recognize me as having this tendency. Ironically, I think that much of the anxiety stems from the fact that I’m afraid of screwing up socially. I struggle with questioning the opinion of a trained professional, probably for good reason. But I feel very strongly that an SPD diagnosis does not accurately reflect my experience.

I don’t experience delusions or “ideas of reference.” My primary issues relate to appropriate social and emotional expression and sensory input, and even then, “odd behavior” isn’t something I outwardly exhibit or internally consider.

I am arguing with no one, here. Just typing out thoughts. A diagnosis of Asperger’s (which I know is being gradually transitioned into being referred to as simply “mild autism”) makes the most sense to me. I can conceive of an ADHD diagnosis as well, however, I know that autistic people are often misdiagnosed with ADHD, and vice-versa. To my mind (and the extensive reading, research, and experience with autism “up close and personal” through my work over many years), my sensory problems make Asperger’s more likely than an attention disorder.

There’s often a genetic component to SPD, and I can’t think of any relatives who have been or could be diagnosed with it. My parents are/were each extremely depressed and both likely have/had PTSD related to their childhoods. But I know that one of my grandparents and at least one of my uncles likely live with an undiagnosed ASD.

Anyway. Those are my thoughts on that. Still struggling in a major way with the notion of self-diagnosis, especially given how mistrustful I have always been “trained” to be concerning my own health. Too afraid to discuss this with those close to me as I’m afraid of being labeled “overdramatic” or “attention-seeking,” the latter being the absolute last thing I want. I’m not totally sure where to go from here.

Sensory overload: not just me being “melodramatic”

A quick note here: I don’t intend for this blog to focus solely on Autism, nor do I intend it to become a diary of my daily life. I’m hoping to find a home for some of my creative writing here. For now, though, it feels empowering to list out my experiences with what I now know to be Autism. It is helping me connect with the online autistic community, and I already feel calmer and like my thoughts are better organized just having a place to talk (even to myself!) about what I am learning about my past and present self. So much of my life makes so much more sense as I settle in to an awareness of my neurodivergence.

Throughout my life, I have experienced what has become a predictable array of sensitivities or aversions to certain sensory experiences. Because I was raised and socialized to believe that these specific “quirks” were just me being difficult or dramatic, I am working on unlearning that and coming to accept that there are sensations I find bothersome to the point that my focus is pulled away from whatever I’m working on until I can resolve the issue.

Scent-wise, I have been told I have “a paper nose”–that is, I can smell everything. I don’t have many sensitivities in this area, but notably, the same comment has been made about one of my brothers-in-law, who has a diagnosis of ADHD. He and I have some similarities but have extremely different personalities, which I think leads to a lot of mutual masking.

I absolutely hate the taste of onions and always have. The only onion-related taste I can tolerate is onion powder. I find them overpowering, whether raw or cooked, and totally intolerable. This has been a major source of scolding and teasing in my life: I used to get in trouble as a child for not eating a dish that contained onions. Even this last weekend with family, we picked up two pizzas for takeout. Both had onions. My family knows well my aversion to onions; the dietary restrictions of others in the group (we have some vegetarians) are always respected. It feels like a petty complaint even as I write this. But this weekend, I decided to honor this aversion and simply not eat the pizza. Not “just pick the onions out.” No thanks, I’ll just find something else to eat. Even now, it makes me feel high-maintenance. But I am not a picky eater in the slightest; the only other food I cannot eat is avocado, due to a gastric allergy. I am game to at least try most anything, and the only request I make when deciding what to eat with a group is that there be at least one dish without onion and avocado. That doesn’t seem unreasonable, but the amount of grumbling it elicits (mostly from family–friends don’t really care) never ceases to make me feel like a burden. I also have a weird knack for knowing if a food is going to give me a stomach ache as I am eating it. I don’t know if that’s a function of intuition or just because I know my body very well.

I talked a little bit in my last post about my affection for silky fabrics. I also experience the typical autistic desire for bodily pressure–a weighted blanket I got as a gift last year has calmed many an anxiety attack and made for very restful naps. I love hugs, and The Time of Corona has been difficult as a result. I and my siblings were not often touched from a place of affection as children, and I have grown into a touch-starved adult. Clearly, much of this issue overlaps with my (diagnosed) PTSD. Right now, I miss tight hugs and seek them whenever it is safe to do so. Another touch/feeling related issue I have is having “stuff” on my hands–I love activities like gardening, but once I’m done, I have to wash my hands immediately. Whenever I’m working with something that sticks to my hands, my need to wash them becomes paramount in my mind, to the point that it becomes the only thing I can focus on: I cannot do anything else until I have washed my hands.

My aural sensitivities are primarily related to my PTSD: the sound of a door slamming or a man yelling (unless he is simply trying to be heard in a loud place) takes me through fear-anger-anxiety in the span of a few seconds. I can’t stand to be in crowds, because my auditory processing is hinky: if I’m not staring directly at the speaker’s lips in a place with a lot of ambient noise, I will hear them but not understand what they are saying. I also have a terrible phobia of not being able to breathe, and moving through a crowd makes me feel breathless. It’s also why I never aim my car vents toward my face in the wintertime–hot air blowing at me feels too much like suffocating.

Visually, I’m not particularly sensitive. I don’t like to watch videos of people being hurt. I am strongly drawn to images of rainbows or those with a full spectrum of color and can stare at them for extended periods of time, hyperfocused and nearly hypnotized, sometimes drawing them very close to my face. As far as internal processes go, there’s a touch of synesthesia and has been since before I knew the word: months have a color, numbers have a binary gender, and many words conjure images that have nothing to do with the word itself. I love repetitive tasks and things that others often find unspeakably boring: data entry is a favorite, as I can let my mind wander. At the same time, I love manual labor and being able to get my hands in something and see physical results in real time.

Overall, I don’t share much of this information even with those close to me. I’ve never been much of a talker, always more of an observer. But they are sensitivities that have carried through my whole life, which is another way I know that they are not connected to trauma or anxiety. But this blog feels like a safe area to explore these things, and the way I process new information and experiences, especially personal ones, is to name it and analyze it extensively, as I’ve done in the last few posts.