Sensory Issues = Short Temper

I was perusing facebook and I found a gem of an infographic from @mombrain.therapist. So of course I hopped on to instagram, followed her immediately, and found a bunch of other great infographic gems, one on pandemic parenting, another on comparing yourself to other moms, all cute and cartoony with really great information. You should go look. But this particular pic was it for me. It helped me so much.

Visual clutter, bad smells, and bright lights are my biggest hotpoints.

Now technically, I knew a lot of this information already as an autistic person. But for some reason I had not connected it to my patience as a parent (or as a wife really.)

I just knew it was why I was feeling so wrong and why I needed to hide in hyperfocus tv bingeing or some other kind of distraction. Which always makes me even more irritable because there is no progress or problem solving when you’re hiding out in hyperfocus mode. It’s like running in place.

I hate running in place. Treadmills? Don’t get me started. Like, I think Dickensian orphans would be horrified that people use treadmills for exercise now. What’s next? Voluntary debtor’s prison? … There might be a university and student loan comparison, there…. but offtopic.

So, how do I deal with this? I’ve tried the usual fixes. I did the candles, I did the audio book, I upped the ante to some of my favorite music, but with the inability to have my cleaning time without my family… not to mention all the walks that my buddy has me going on (And that whole gluten rash debacle) I’m just stuck. And I was really pissed about it.

Was… that’s the key word. Why am I no longer angry? Was it meditation? Therapy? Good old fashioned gratitude?

No!

I took a Klonopin!

I am not making fun of meditation, therapy, or good old fashioned gratitude, those are definitely a part of my bag of tricks. But the reality is, this isn’t just a foul mood. It’s not a lack of perspective. It’s a sensory reaction. It’s physical. And sometimes physical problems needs physical answers. So I took a klonopin with my daily cocktail. And it helped a lot.

Truly, if I could add klonopin to my daily meds, I would. But I don’t want to develop any kind of resistance to it, because it can be a lifesaver when you are dealing with something just that much extra. Like a global pandemic, near house fire (oh yeah, that happened. I’ll tell you more later) and so much visual clutter that I’m tripping over it.

This is a sidenote, but to explain just how insane my environment is right now… My son… has decided to collect all the floor vents in one place, leaving these rabbit-warren-like holes in my hardwood floor, that I’m pretty sure he’s thrown some toys down. I definitely stepped in one. And for some reason… he pushed my chair into one so that it looked like a sinkhole had developed in my dining room? I am not kidding. I almost wish I had taken a picture but it was just too much.

And in a wonderland like twist, last night while we were sleeping, he woke up and found my cache of slinkies that I bought for him. So there are dozens of slinkies hidden amongst the laundry and clutter. And every once in a while, one will just spring out at you.

I also had started a few projects that I didn’t finish, my fault there, so there are bins of my books and storage and one of my statue models from art school just hanging out in the living room. But really… my kid has been loving that, so I’m not as angry on that one.

I won’t mention how he keeps fondling the butt on this statue. I think it’s the texture… yeah… we will go with that.
The infamous wedding typewriter. Bubba has been loving that too.

So, yeah.

Uh… Now, I just found a melted green crayon in my fresh load of whites.

What was I saying about meditation again?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day in quarantine came with some interesting wants. Instead of breakfast in bed or anything like that, my husband took my son on a walk while I vacuumed and it was wonderful!!!

I haven’t been able to properly vacuum in weeks because my buddy has painful sensory aversion to it. So even just the sight of the vacuum freaks him out. And yeah, I could put him in his headphones and sequester him to one part of the house, but it just unsettles him too much. And in a time where everything is so unsettled, we’re doing our best just to survive.

So whatever you need to do to survive on this Mother’s Day, I hope that it has some sweet thing that you are needing, whether that’s a phone call to a loved one, some alone time, or a vacuumed rug.

The struggle is real

In my quick little “hello” that stays on my main page. You will see the part about “psyching myself up to do the dishes.”

This is not a joke.

Dishes are literally one of the hardest things I do. This comes down to three things- hyperosmia, ADHD, and Executive Dysfunction.

If you remember from previous blog posts, hyperosmia is a sensitive sense of smell. And dishes are one of the worst. Usually it is because it is a very complex smell of food particles, old pipes and garbage disposal. So, to even contemplate doing the dishes, I have to first make sure that there is no draining water from the washing machine or dishwasher itself, because that will cause water to back up the badly managed pipes and the smell will literally slap me in the face.

No, I meant literally, not figuratively. That’s how hyperosmia works. It can be a very physical reaction to scent. Something that is also more ASD related is my very sensitive sense memory. So, just contemplating doing the dishes causes me to get a whiff of those kinetic memories.

I know, I know. It’s just the dishes! Stop being a wuss!

That’s what I said to myself for all those years. It was also what my shittiest therapist said. I’m still a little annoyed at him for this one.

He claimed to “blow my mind” with the particular “revelation” I am about to tell you. (And first of all, if someone says, “I just blew your mind” They didn’t. So don’t be that douce-bag. Let someone tell you that you blew their mind.)

Ok, so I am explaining to him my issues with the smell and the sense memory, and the executive dysfunction (more on that later) and he stops me.

“Have you noticed that all the things that you have described, laundry, dishes, garbage- they are all things that you don’t like doing?” he says. Then he smiled at me like he was the fucking Wizard of Oz, finally giving me my brain.

I was dumbfounded, it’s true, but not because of his “revelation.” But because he fucking didn’t know how ADHD worked.

So I said, “Because that’s how ADHD works….”

He looked confused for a moment. And then my mind truly was blown. I knew more about ADHD than this fucking professional.

For a quick lesson to anyone reading that doesn’t know as much about ADHD (and that’s ok for the average blog reader. If you’re a therapist, I might suggest brushing up before your next session with someone who has ADHD.) Anyway, when you have ADHD you also have low dopamine levels. So you are drawn to things with instant gratification to increase your insufficient dopamine levels. Say like, if you dig video games. You will play hours, and hours, and hours, of video games just to feel like you have the right amount of dopamine. (From my understanding, that’s why things like stimulants work for people like us.) I know, I know, say “dopamine” again.

Dopamine. It’s that important.

Anyway, my point is, the therapist took a legitimate physical problem I have and turned it into a character flaw…

ADHD is not a character flaw.

So, withstanding this ridiculous man, how do I deal with things like dishes with a sensitive ADHD mind? First, I try to not let it pile up. Try and do them as I dirty them. But that’s not always easy. Like when you come down with a once in lifetime pandemic virus and you have to quarantine yourself from your family. (Just an example, of course.)

In that case, things did get piled up. My husband, who’s routine did not involve dishes, and was already being pushed to a breaking point with his own quarantine changes, couldn’t pick up the slack. For part of the time, we honestly just switched to paper plates. (I know they aren’t environmentally friendly. But sometimes you have to put your mental health above everything else.) I understood why he couldn’t do the dishes. His focus needed to be on his job and our son. And honestly, I know a large part of his focus was distracted on whether or not to take me to the hospital a couple of times.

Again, so how do I deal with this?

When it gets piled up like that I do a few things. First I address the scent as much as possible. I light my favorite candle. Pour a little alcohol or baking soda, or something with a very strong scent, down the garbage disposal and run it for a few minutes with hot water. I also have some garbage disposal foaming cleaners if I really need to feel like I have eradicated the irritants. But they kind of make me feel weird. It’s hard to explain, but it’s really gross because often the foam will bring up “old particles.” Uhg, I can’t say more without giving myself some kind of gag reflex.

Then I glove up. Rubber dish gloves are a god sent. I have a minor problem in that my son keeps stealing my gloves but I usually have a pair that have not been absconded with- so I glove up! This gives me a very basic separation from the sensory issues that come with doing the dishes. (I apron up, too. I am an ample bosomed woman, and I don’t like having my own wet t-shirt contest when I am having sensory issues already. Wet clingy shirts may be “sexy” but they make my skin crawl.)

Then I organize. It’s easier to handle the dishes if they are in like piles. (I do the same thing with laundry by the way.) This is just to bring order to something that makes me feel chaotic. That order can overtake the anxiety and lessen the severity of feelings. It’s also just a good distraction.

Then I do the dishes. Sometimes it takes several loads and that can make it a little more difficult, so honestly, I do a load and then hand-wash the rest just to reduce any sensory issues like bad smells for when I eventually come back to put the rest through the dishwasher for sanitizing.

What about the ADHD brain and executive dysfunction?

First, I make sure that I took my meds. Meds won’t fix everything but they will take the edge off of your issues to give you the chance to deal with it yourself.

Then I do my best to appease my dopamine thirst while still doing what I need to do. So I will usually put an interesting audiobook or podcast on my headphones while I do whatever is unpleasant, dishes, laundry, sweeping, chores in general, really.

And then for the executive dysfunction, a common problem for people with ADHD or ASD, I give myself direct instructions. I say to myself, “Collect all the plates and put them here… Do it now.” Then maybe followed by, “Use the scrub brush to get rid of any big particles of food. Do it now.” Do it now, is actually very important. It’s a cognitive impetus, a shove in the right direction. It may feel stupid, but I assure you it’s necessary.

A lot of times when I am dealing with dysfunction I will straight up narrate my actions, out loud. It’s ridiculous. But sometimes you have to embrace the ridiculous to get shit done. At least, when you’re like us.

And you know what is more ridiculous than that? Listening to a medical professional imply that you are lazy for having a condition that you know more about than he does. That’s ridiculous.

So, yeah. Really, what I am getting at… is I have to do the dishes. Sigh.

Ok.

Do it now.

Sensory Issues or… GhOsTs?!

I think my son’s room is haunted.

We’ve gone so far as to name the ghost Steven, in hopes that familiarity will breed contempt, and it will fucking go already.

Now, typically, I don’t really believe in the common idea of ghosts. Like, yeah, I believe in some kind of entity separate from the body, whether that is a soul or energy I don’t know…

But something in my son’s room… is creeping me out.

My theory is that it is something sensory related. Perhaps there is a wire that is pulsing with just a little too much energy. Perhaps it’s the swing that hangs from the ceiling. Something about it is tweaking my vestibular input. It also happens to be the coldest room in the house. Whether that’s ghosts or because the house is facing a certain way? I think there is an answer to everything.

I think it bugs my son too. He’s non verbal so he hasn’t told us so. He’s had a few night terrors in his room, though. (Night terrors are not uncommon with Autistic people. I’ve had them when I’m on particular medications. Remind me to tell you about that another time.) He’s more sensitive, like I am, though. My husband thinks I am a nutter butter. An adorable nutter butter, but a nutter butter.

All I know is that when I try to sleep in there, whether it is to keep my son company or because he has taken my spot in my own bed and I don’t want to move him… I always feel like I am about to be attacked.

I’m not seeing any shapes in the shadows. Which was a difficult problem for me as a child. You see, I’ve always been able to see shapes in negative spaces. Not ghosts, just shapes. It’s actually one of the things that makes me a good artist. But shapes can come together to form a man, or worse, a monster, and when you’re a highly imaginative child and see something perched on the ceiling beams in your living room, you will scream for your parents. (Seriously, just very imaginative. It wasn’t psychosis or anything. Though I could see why someone might make that assumption.)

This makes me wonder how many hauntings are the result of undiagnosed disorders. Because anxiety can make you feel a “malevolent presence.” Usually, it’s just life, but you still feel it all the same. I know there are the big scary illnesses that can result in seeing things that aren’t there. Some more severe forms of my own bipolar can lead to hallucinations, mine is the more ragey, manic, buy too much stuff at Target, kind of bipolar. But what about things like anxiety or other neurotypes, like autism?

We are extremely sensitive to the world around us…

So, is Steve a person who died in this home? It’s old enough that it could have a few deaths… Or is Steve just a part of my nervous system prematurely hitting a warning button?

Honestly, I think my answer will be to redecorate my son’s room. That’s my answer to almost everything. And possibly look for any hot spots of electricity? I’ve seen it done before on fun shows like Ghost Hunters. If I find one, maybe I can bring in an electrician to re-route whatever is bothering me? I already need to bring in a professional to fix my vintage stove that is trying to murder me. (It has legitimately electrocuted me several times. I just don’t like inviting strangers into my home to fix it. Don’t worry, I’ll force myself to call an electrician before it kills me.)

Murderous oven. I thought it was so adorable when we moved in. Possessed.

So I looked up if there were any real life phenomena that could explain that haunting feeling. And of course there was an article for that. This 2016 article attributed it to three things, suggestibility, electromagnetic fields/sounds, and… toxic fungus.

So suggestibility and electromagnetic fields and sounds I can totally understand. But now I have to look for toxic mold?? Oy!

Yep. Sometime in the near future that kid is getting a whole room makeover, a sterilizing, and possibly an exorcism. On a totally unrelated note, does anyone know where to find a good shaman? How about sage? Hazmat suit?


Just a quick note on the picture. You might think, “Duh, Holly, it creeps you out because you have a RED LIGHTBULB in your son’s room.” Red lightbulbs are the easiest on the eyes when you have photophobia. So we have color changing bulbs in every room that can be changed to amber or red. Sometimes we do a slight pink color to give more light without the pain. It’s fun on holidays because you can have it periodically change, easiest Christmas decorations ever.

And to another person that is like, “Your son is totally gonna end up strangling himself with that hanging lamp.” Way ahead of you. He started using it like it was a chandelier and he was a swashbuckling pirate… so we installed a more sturdy swing and stored the lamp to be used at a much later, more mature date. He now has a plastic standing lamp that he occasionally uses as a light saber… but what can I say? He’s a special kid.

Happy ASMR day!

I did not know there was a national holiday for ASMR, but I am in! I’m celebrating by showing you my favorite ASMR video yet. It’s a GIBI video that she released at Christmas of last year. Little did she know that 2020 was going to be a stressful year…

This is my favorite ASMR video of all time.
I listen to it multiple times a day, like some face attention mantra.

Hold on, let me fangirl a moment, I was listening to one of Gibi’s ASMR vids while doing some writing (it helps me focus and calm my ADHD. That, and my Adderall.) And I realized that one of the things that makes her so great is that she uses what is most likely her “normal” voice, only softer. It makes it so much more genuine than some of the other ASMR affirmation videos.

I think you know what I am talking about. In the theater I used to call it “poetry voice.” (A brilliant poet friend of mine might have actually coined that one, or I heard her say it and then adopted it as my own. Can’t remember.) Anyway, to me, “poetry voice” is this affected, kind of false voice. It’s sing-songy, occasionally over dramatic, and sometimes, way too precious. When I hear anyone use it, well it just makes my skin crawl. (And not in the good ASMR way.)

Look, I know that I am extremely discerning when it comes to ASMR. And that may have a lot to do with my sensory issues. But I see my loss as your gain. If I love it, and you also have sensory issues or misophonia, I’ve done the skin crawling work for you.

I have yet to find someone as good at this particular skill than Gibi. A very, very close second would be Gentle Whispering ASMR or Frivolous Fox ASMR.

Do you know any others I should listen to?