Getting more intense

This is just a personal experience post, about how things are like for me. I have fairly acute senses. Actually, I’ve always had fairly acute senses. Just as a quick run-down:

My eyes are quite sensitive to light.

I can hear into a much higher range than most people.

I have a very sensitive nose and seem to be able to smell things other people can’t.

I don’t know if it’s really a sensitivity thing, but I cannot deal with being lightly touched. I find it incredibly painful.

This has always made things rather, shall we say, interesting for me. Sound always seemed to be the big one. I can get overwhelmed and in pain from sounds that no one else can hear. I’ve had people think I was being sarcastic when I was crying in pain with my hands over my ears, because they just couldn’t hear the sound that was causing me pain. Many neurotypicals seem to have a lot of trouble wrapping their minds around how I can be struggling with sensory overload just from walking down the street, but it’s always been a thing for me.

Thing is, though, I’ve noticed for several months now that everything has been getting even more intense.

Sounds that used to be fine are now starting to hurt. Everything seems louder than it used to be. For instance, I’m turning down the volume on the tv more and more, I’m finding it easier and easier to hear Nee (who can be extremely soft-spoken), and I’m starting to have problems with my keyboard being too loud. It isn’t even a clicky keyboard, but I’m finding myself wishing it was much quieter. Sadly, being that I insist on using a split keyboard, the options out there are slim. Most upsetting is that I’m having trouble with bubblewrap! Popping them is very satisfying for my fingers, but the sound hurts.

I’m finding similar things happening with sight, smell, and even taste. Everything is just so much more than it used to be! As it had already been so much, the moreness is being quite challenging. I’m not sure why it’s happening, though. The anti-depressants are my best guess, but it’s really only a guess.

Though really, the reason why it’s happening is of secondary concern at most. It can be tempting to focus everyone on why something challenging is happening, but it often does little good. What I need to focus on is finding new ways to cope. I may have to go shopping for a new keyboard, maybe even re-adjusting to a normal keyboard rather than this huge split one. I’ll probably have to start wearing headphones or earplugs more. I may need to wear my prescription sunglasses around, when before I only wore them to drive.

What do you do to deal with sensory overload or particularly acute senses? Also, I’ll be doing my own googling, but do you happen to know of any extremely quiet keyboards?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Getting more intense

  1. I’ve found that my sensory system gets out of whack when I’m either overwhelmed mentally or getting sick – my brainpower gets used up on those things and doesn’t go towards maintaining all of my sensory filters, so everything gets more intense and harder to deal with. I know you don’t necessarily care about “why”, but perhaps looking at some changes in your body and/or life might help mitigate the sensory changes. Good luck 🙂

    • Actually, that’s a good point. Figuring out why might help me to figure out changes that would help. Whatever is going on seems to be a long term thing, but that’s pretty much all I know.

  2. Just me

    Firstly, I’m sorry you are having so much trouble with sensory overload. It is clearly having a negative impact on many areas of your life and I can only imagine how hard that must be. I hope you can find some things that help you!
    Second, I don’t know if this will be useful to your specific situation, but it may be something to consider: Environmental Enrichment as an Effective Treatment for Autism – http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bne-127-4-487.pdf
    Basically kids were given exposure to multiple sensorimotor stimuli throughout the day (not to the point that they were highly aversive) for 6 months, and at the end of the study “autistic symptoms” had improved (which I think just suggests the kids were calmer and feeling better and so not having to rely as heavily on their usual ways of coping, like repetitive behaviors, sensory seeking behaviors, withdrawing, tantrumming, etc.). I suspect there is an element of desensitization to sensory stimuli happening too. The temptation with sensory overload can be to try and minimize aversive sensory input to the greatest extent possible, but this can have the unintended effect of sensitizing the person to the sensory input, making it even more aversive when it is encountered, which will further and further limit the person’s life over time. So the solution is to gradually increase exposure to the stimuli (I realize that must sound horrible, but you do it in manageable increments so that it is initially just irritating versus horrible) while doing things that calm and soothe you so that over time you can come to tolerate the stimuli more. This is the type of thing an occupational therapist might work on.
    Lastly, I think it’s important to consider whether things like medication, difficulty sleeping, chronic illness and increased stress in your life could be reducing your brain’s ability to tolerate what have always been stressful situations for you. If you can make adjustments in these areas, maybe the sensory issues will improve too. Maybe it’s worth exploring a different antidepressant–they all work a little differently and each individual responds a little differently, and no one really quite knows why, so you’ve got to experiment a bit to find the one that works for you.
    If this is all stuff you’ve heard before and I’m just being redundant, or if these are things you can tell won’t work or don’t apply to you, I apologize. Just wanted to make these suggestions in case you hadn’t considered them with the hope that you could benefit from them.
    Best of luck.

  3. We live in a world of high intensities all around. It’s part of our culture. I seem to have worse days/weeks than others. I had to find what would calm me down or that helped reduce the oversensitivity. For instance, focusing on breathing and tuning everything else out. Or (i’m sure the shrinks would have a field day with this) but I tell myself this is all a dream and I’ll wake up and it will all be fine. I vote, fine what works, even if it changes every week.

  4. Tim (father)/ (Son)Alex

    Not sure what can help, but just as a point to make, My son is same way with hearing, and he has asperger’s but my sister had William syndrome and had same sensitivity to hearing, both have incredible memories, and knowledge of there own situation, both have many talents. Focus on strengths as it is, what it is. You can use your life to help many and maybe use those special skills help yourself in life. Just need to find your comfortable environment. And explain your need not to be touched lightly, and maybe people will understand. You may need to just wear ear plugs in some environments, my son can hear conversations from great distance. and when he listens to music he needs head set to block out all other sounds. Things will be better as you age and learn to deal.