Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) means that I am either hypersensitive (over sensitive) or hyposensitive (under sensitive) to the different senses, it is a condition in its own right, but is also very common in autistic people, people with ADHD, Tourette’s, and are otherwise neurodivergent. Over the next few months I am going to do individual blogs about how having SPD affects each of my senses. This is a blog about having SPD in general, an overall account of having SPD.
I’m going to be using a lot of metaphors in this blog, as it for me is the best, and only, way I know how to describe things. So just a forewarning of that, if you don’t understand something, or would like some clarification, then feel free to leave me a comment asking and I’ll happily try to explain.
For me the world hurts, I mean really bloody hurts.
Wearing clothes so often feels like I am being attacked by or am wearing holly leaves, labels in clothes are like holly leaves are trying to tear my skin apart.
So often I get home and I have to take my clothes off, except my boxers, this is when things are particularly bad, when like this every time I move the air against my skin hurts and I want to no longer be in my body. Many times a hug, a handshake are not possible. For to partake in them would burn the part of my body that has come into contact with someone else, even through clothes.
So often I’ll touch something and then screech, flap and rapidly rub my fingers against anything to get the feel of what I touched off me. When I touch something I cannot cope with it is like I have been burnt, I feel a hot pain in that area of my skin. It feels horrible.
The outside world booms and sounds echo constantly all clashing into one another, everything is above full volume and cannot be turned down, however hard I try.
Sounds become one and I cannot differentiate them. Even two or more conversations going on around me cause me to be unable to join in with one, as the sounds merge (Auditory Processing Disorder also adds to this) but even if I didn’t have auditory processing disorder, sounds are so loud that I cannot think, I cannot concentrate and I cannot communicate.
I feel like all the sounds are directly in my ears, and they never leave. I can hear fridges humming and clocks ticking as if they are perched in the entrance to my ear, a constant sound that won’t let my mind fully concentrate. Yet to others these are background noise that they can filter out, I am not so lucky.
My eyes burn, a steering pain within them. Light of any source, whether natural or unnatural makes my eyes burn and my head pound with pain. I so often get a sudden and sharp pain from the front of my head, going through my head in a line and coming out the back of my head. This happens when suddenly a new light source is there, light suddenly gets brighter. For others they think I am in a dark room, for me it may be just about comfortable.
I wear tinted lenses at all times, for the time being it is just regular sunglasses, whilst I wait for my Irlen tinted lenses to come back after my assessment for them.
What others may call a cloudy day, for me is a very bright day, for what others call a bright day, is for me excruciating.
But it is not just the brightness of lights, flashing lights can cause sensory issues too, I often feel physically ill if I have watched a film with lots of flashing and special effects, even if it wasn’t that bright. Even things such as bright paint, or certain patterns in bright paint can make me feel ill to look at.
When someone smells something they do not like, usually for a few seconds, maybe up to a minute, they react, they may say yuck and feel a bit sick from a smell. For me as soon as I smell something I cannot deal with I immediately feel ill, my face starts to ache and a pain radiates from my nose, to my face and then my head and neck. This pain stays for several hours, my face feels like it is expanding and as if it will burst. These smells can be anything, so often things that others like, such as toiletries, perfume, flowers. They are everyday things that are impossible to completely escape.
When people call you a fussy eater, they usually mean you’re annoying on purpose and you should just learn to like things.
I’m so often called a fussy eater, yet I don’t count myself as a fussy eater at all. Yes I eat a small variety of things and am not adventurous with trying new food and yes there are foods I do not eat, but I’m not just a fussy bugger who is trying to annoy you.
Taste and texture in regards to SPD tend to go together for me, although there are times, when something I’ve eaten the taste has been ok, but not the texture, or vice versa. Yet this is rare, as I think even if just one of the two is affecting me, it causes the other to be affected, or ignored. There are foods that I cannot eat because when I put them on my tongue I want to rip my tongue out of my mouth, as it feels like I’ve poured boiling liquid that sizzles onto my tongue. There are things I taste that immediately make my mouth burn, I want to scratch away at my skin inside my mouth.
What also comes with this is a very strong sense of taste for some things. I don’t drink alcohol, have only ever tried sips and the taste is one of those tastes that make my mouth burn. I’ve tried the shandy that can be brought, which has 0.5% alcohol and apparently most people cannot taste the alcohol, I can taste it very strongly. This is the same with spicey food, I am very sensitive to it. I remember once, myself and Evan (my partner) had a friend over and Evan made a vegan korma. Our friend likes curries to be spicey, so she had some chillies to put on it. So she is there adding lots of chillies to her korma, and I’m sat there saying the korma is nice, but very spicey!
SPD doesn’t just affect what you might think of as the obvious senses. It affects how my body regulates my temperature, so to others it’s a freezing day and to me I am a nice comfortable temperature, when for others it is a nice sunny day, to me it is burning hot and I want the sun to go away. It affects I I sense signals in my body for certain things, so from what I’ve gathered most people feel gradually more and more tired as the evening goes on and then will go to bed. I however, feel wide awake for hours, and then suddenly feel extremely sleepy and tired, there isn’t really an in between that I can sense. It is the same with others things as well.
Although I am mostly over sensitive to most things, water from a shower is one where I am under sensitive. I have it about double the temperature my partner does. To me it is a good temperature, others say it is boiling hot and apparently I come out of the shower with red skin from the heat, but to have it any lower and the shower is cold.
There are many times where all of the above is worse, where I go into sensory overload, where my body has had so much sensory input that it is in constant agony and I need to spend at least a few hours, probably a day or two in the dark, with maybe a sensory light on being able to mostly control my sensory inputs. Sensory overloads are very regular things for me, at least once a week.
There are things I do to reduce these sensory inputs, but there is only so much they can do. They probably mean that instead of either being in constant sensory overload or having sensory overload episodes several times a week, they are on average weekly.
So I wear tinted lenses, noise cancelling ear plugs or headphones, I have a mask designed for cyclists to avoid breathing in fumes, I have things with me that calm me down, these can include stim toys, or my Squease
These things are usually helping me a little bit, so don’t take them off me or pressurise me to take them off.
So yes, the world does indeed bloody hurt.