This video was shot on August 9, 2021 and released to Patreon Subscribers, Facebook Supporters, and YouTube channel members on August 12, 2021, as a thanks for the support you give my blog. The video’s public release is set for September 8, 2021.
If you did not watch last week’s video about sensory seeking. Ooh. I should stop sensory seeking right now. Please do go back and watch that video. This is a part two that goes along with sensory seeking and why that is important for Autistic People to sensory seek and I shared some of my experience with that as well.
This week, we’re going to be talking about sensory avoiding and why, if there is a sense that is causing you pain or sensation that’s causing you pain, avoiding it is a perfectly natural response for an Autistic Person, and often a good choice. So let’s dive in..
As we dive in today, in case anyone is new, or has never heard this before, what is sensory aversion or sensory avoidance? What is avoidance?
Well, you’re avoiding sensory experience. You may be not going to places that are too loud or overwhelming. You may be avoiding crowded spaces and events. You may not go into grocery stores or buildings that trigger sensory overwhelm in you, and you may avoid stimulus that, you know cause problems.
Such as, for me, fluorescent lighting, certain smells, certain temperatures, things that I know will cause me sensory distress, I tend to avoid and not deal with.
Last week I spoke about why sensory seeking is a good thing for Autistic People, and how engaging in mindful sensory seeking has been very helpful to me, as an Autistic Person.
The other thing that’s been helpful to me, since learning I was Autistic, about four and a half, almost five years ago now, is learning that some sensory things are better if I go ahead and avoid them, and there is no shame in this. In fact, it is essential to my health.
For example, bright, fluorescent lighting, something that you can avoid with sunglasses though, I could have some exposure to bright fluorescent lighting, if I have enough exposure, working in an office every day where I have to sit under it for five hours or more, I will eventually develop chronic migraines again, and seizures will come back.
I’m two years seizure free now since learning to avoid fluorescent lighting. Yay!
This is a sensory avoidance technique. Not exposing myself to fluorescent lighting has been transformative to my health, because I had migraines and other neurological events and issues happening for 29 years of my life, until I found out I was Autistic and realized that there are some sensory experiences that I need to check out of, avoid, or minimize, and experience less of.
As a young person in school, I first started to experience the migraine headaches from the fluorescent lighting in the classroom, and I would go to the nurse’s office and tell the nurse that “I had a headache and I didn’t feel well, and I wanted to go home.” I wanted to go somewhere where I could be comfortable.
I couldn’t really articulate what was going on with me yet. I didn’t know I was Autistic. I didn’t know I had sensory processing, and the nurses assumed that I was just trying to avoid the classroom because I didn’t like school, so the nurse told me that I had to “suck it up and get used to it. Because I didn’t have a fever, I needed to stay in class.”
The nurse took me as trying to avoid the classroom, but I was actually trying to avoid sensory pain and discomfort.
Because of that, unintentional I hope, gaslighting from that it’s school official, I went 29 years of my life, not avoiding something that was causing me pain and going head on into it, and suffering, and being in pain, because I wasn’t avoiding something that was hard on my senses.
That is some of the harm that can come from not knowing you are NeuroDivergent and not knowing you have a brain that works differently.
As humans, we tend to all assume that everyone experiences the world the same way we do from the same lens that we have in which is not true. Neurotypicals assume that everyone is NeuroTypical.
NeuroTypicals don’t know that lighting can be physically painful for people, so it’s likely the nurse didn’t understand that I was in pain from some environmental situation happening in the classroom and because I didn’t understand that the nurse, and the other children in the classroom, and the teacher, did not feel the same pain I felt from the lighting in the classroom, because I didn’t know that I wasn’t NeuroTypical. I assumed I was like everyone else, and I assumed I was NeuroTypical.
I just assumed that everyone else was better at handling the pain that they felt, and I was a wimp for complaining about it, and should just suck it up and keep it to myself.
Which is unfortunate, because that hiding of my pain, and hiding my distress, and learning to mask my NeuroDivergence, from a young age, in first grade, was the start of a slippery slope.
Instead of asking for help and getting tools and accommodations that could’ve protected my senses.
Maybe we could have changed some lighting in the classroom and change some light bulbs or given me some sunglasses or done things differently, to enable me to succeed in the classroom.
Instead I was painted as the problem, the square peg forced into the round hole. I needed to fit into the system, instead of helping me find tools and adjusting the system to fit my needs.
Learning that I am NeuroDivergent, and how much sensory processing differences impact my life, has been transformative.
Developing a healthy amount of sensory avoidance – avoidance has actually been good for me.
However, it is easy to get to a point where, I live in an RV, it is a roaming sensory bubble, and now that I know what complete sensory comfort looks like, sometimes I struggle to get myself out of my RV and go into the real world, where I know I am likely to be very uncomfortable because, still, though I can design my environment perfectly, the modern world doesn’t take NeuroDivergent sensory systems into account, in most environments and public and private spaces I enter.
That can lead to a bit of unhealthy avoidance and not wanting to enter public spaces. That’s also a bit of self preservation, because I know I can only handle so much of that environment before it becomes too much.
That’s why I’ve been learning to use tools like headphones and sunglasses and hats.
Even sensory seeking can be a tool when going in public, going somewhere. If I am uncomfortable, bringing some, comforting, sensory seeking with me, to help me avoid the unpleasant sensory sensations. I bring a little bit of pleasantness, that I have some control over.
These are tools I have, now that I know I’m NeuroDivergent, that I can take with me so that I can hopefully not do so much avoiding, to where I don’t go out in public anymore, and I stopped leaving the house… because right now I have to go to the bank and I’ve been avoiding it all week.
It’s going to, literally, once I get into the bank, it’s going to be something that’s probably gonna take less than 15 minutes, and I am avoiding going.
I also need to go mail something and going to the post office. Oh my gosh. Ah, I avoiding and avoiding and avoiding doing that task. I need to go out and just do it.
So the avoiding can be a bit destructive as well, but a lot of my avoiding is self care, and self preservation. It’s not all bad, because I see the sensory version talked about, I was like, oh, this is a bad thing, but the fact is for a lot of us, sensory avoidance is a necessary thing, that we need to stop looking at through only a pathological lens, because it has a function.
Just like sensory seeking has a function. Neither are bad things. They’re just part of a NeuroDivergent Sensory Human experience.
All right, humans, thank you so much for hanging out with me in this two part video series about NeuroDivergent sensory processing, and sensory seeking, and sensory avoiding – two sides of the same, very important and essential, necessary coin in NeuroDivergent life.
Thank you so much. I put out new videos each and every Wednesday, though the Patreon subscribers, probably did get these videos about a month earlier, so did the YouTube video subscribers, and Facebook subscribers who do the little monetary subscription.
It’s just a little thanks to those of you who help me to put out these content: transcriptioning software, web hosting, all of the things that make this blog high quality, and accessible to more people would not be possible without the readers and viewers like you.
Equally important, as I’ve said in previous videos over and over again. The V- the viewers who are commenting, who are subscribing, who are sharing, who are asking questions and engaging and educating one another, with kindness, I’m really grateful for each and every one of you being here in this community, it has really become a community.
Which is something I never could have imagined when I started this little blog about five years ago now. So I’m grateful for each and every one of you in this space, I wouldn’t be here doing this without you. So thank you all. I will talk to you next Wednesday, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week bye humans.
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