I’ve been having trouble composing this particular blog post because so much of what I experience with my ASD is difficult to put into words. I wasn’t even given the diagnosis until my late teens! For all my life I was just seen as overly sensitive, picky, particular, difficult, shy,… all things I chose to falsely accept since the adults in my life said so.
They were so very wrong. I do hold some bitterness at times when I’m struggling and realise if this was identified earlier in life, I may not still suffer from unpleasant sensations, emotions and be so limited in certain ways.
What I have is considered on the mild end of the autism spectrum. It is also something many people on the more severe end of the spectrum experience along with many other symptoms. No one case of ASD is like any other, but what I have is known as Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Dysfunction.
I suffer from things such as Tactile Defensiveness. Today that mainly translates to an inability to wear fitted clothing, have certain fabrics against my skin, and being touched lightly on my skin. It is pure torture to have my arm stroked, wear jeans that are my actual size and I can only sleep on jersey knit or flannel sheets. Some of it has improved. There was a longer list of “tactile torture” when I was younger. The not wearing certain stiff or scratchy clothes did lead to bullying at times throughout my childhood and teens. Now I just wear what I’m comfortable in and use it as a way to create my own unique style rather than have it limit me so much. Although, I can remember being dressed for a wedding, my date showing up late and at age 20, throwing a tantrum and frantically trying to tear my dress from my body!
A lot of commotion, bright lights and noise are very overwhelming and upsetting to my system. Anytime I come home from being out, I need to calm myself and decompress. Even a ticking clock can drive me batty. The overstimulation is terribly difficult as an adult who is otherwise fairly resilient. It can complicate social interaction.
I could go into every symptom in detail, but these are my main difficulties with ASD. It has caused me anxiety as far back as my memories go. I constantly have to plan ahead, prepare and accept that the world around me is not always going to be a comfortable one. I will feel awkward. I will experiece anxiety. Others may judge me. I won’t always make sense to other people, but it’s just how I was programmed. It must be for a reason.
I’ve unsuccessfully searched for an Occupational Therapist who will treat an adult. I feel I could lessen the unpleasantness if I could learn some coping skills and desensitize myself, but I need professional guidance for that which doesn’t seem to be available. Suggestions welcome!
For all children and adults living with an ASD, I think you’re strong, heroic and inspiring! Life is complicated with even a relatively mild ASD. It’s a good reminder to treat others gently. You often don’t know what they are dealing with deep inside, even if they are a friend or relative. Have patience. Show understanding.