Sensory stimulus stress (aistiärsykestressi) is a word that you hear from me often if we are any closer. I have been planning typing this for some time now, so people would hopefully understand me better.
I have no idea how I should type this post, so I will just go to how I feel like typing this, so I will start from my events of 19th, continue to 20th and jump to today before trying to explain what is sensory stimulus stress without examples.
I guess that before I do that, I should explain the beginning of the title.
I am an autist (I have diagnosed Asperger’s syndrome) and a highly sensitive person (HSP) and while over (and under) sensitive senses are associated mainly with autism, they are also part of high sensitivity and I cannot separate what causes which trait for me. They have some overlap and some conflicts that are interesting to me.
UPDATE: Asperger’s Syndrome is being removed from the diagnostics manuals leaving only Autism Spectrum Disorder.
There isn’t much to say of that day, I had a dental operation under local anesthesia. In the evening I was somewhat ill and had to disable some lights and even then fridge light hurt my eyes. Interestingly after vomiting my senses were like they usually are.
Regardless of being ill on the previous night, I found myself from my politics hobby and agreed to be someone from Young Pirates at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences term starting sports party MetroSport.
I started by quickly visiting our office to fetch Pirate vests by taking a bus and hopping onto metro. From there I continued unfamiliar route using Moovit to reach tram and then to bus stop where I would reach the bus taking me to Vantaa and the event.
Being a sports event it naturally happened at sports hall where I had to start by wearing ear fillers and sun glasses as it was so loud, because of the amount of people and different music from multiple sources and there were bright lights.
I spent a few hours there with another Pirate activist before leaving for open doors of Helsinki Pirates which later turned out to be a mistake.
We walked to train station from where I took a train and later a metro to the office again. At first there were only a few of us activists before other people started appearing and then we possibly had a record on the amount of new people who were interested about the party.
I had had too much of draining events, so at some point I left quietly explaining to activist outside how I was leaving as I had had too much of sensory stimuluss stress and I possibly started crying at that point, I am not sure.
I am sure that I was crying when I encountered another activist going to the open doors at metro station where I said the same things.
I don’t know how much it would be OK for me to say, so I am saying barely anything about the people involved. I don’t know if anyone of them understood what I meant, but at home I thought more about finally typing this and wrote it down onto a piece of paper.
Last night I slept a little worse than usually and I have been tired and my senses more sensitive than usually, but not as sensitive as if I was ill.
My mother was visiting me and that made me be affected by the world more than usually.
First I took a bus to the nearest open metro station and went to Central Railway Station to fetch her, we visited library and returned to my apartment. Later we ate at nearby salad bar and I escorted her to tram stop where she continued elsewhere with my grandmother.
Returning home I had again had too much, this time I didn’t cry, but I think panic attack was close as I was using a full bus which I reached through full shopping centre that was having some sort of a shopping party.
I survived by focusing on my breathing and listening to music with wireless earbud/microphone as it wasn’t so long bus trip. And then it’s typing this blog with some distractions.
Now I have typed some sort of a introduction to this post and some events on three days, I think it’s the time to say why, which I think might be the most difficult part of this post.
I think I should disclaim that I am not a mental health professional or researcher or neurologist or anything (I do have vocational qualification on business information technology though) and this is based on my lived experience (even if I only heard of highly sensitive people this year and was told that I am one by my therapist) and what I have understood from talking with professionals, reading books, watching documentaries etc.
When I previously talked with my therapist on the subject, I explained that it’s like there is a battery that is drained by sensory stimulus stress and breaking down crying is one sign of it being critically low and requiring recharge. Typing this I guess that panic attack might be short-circuiting the battery?
And now I finally get to the point (if I wasn’t in the point all the time?), what is that sensory stimulus stress? It’s everything that is sensed, regardless of whether it’s positive, neutral or negative. I think positive might drain the battery slower than negative would, but it will drain regardless.
If you have any knowledge about autism, you probably know that people on the spectrum need time to recover from social interactions. Do you know why? Yes, sensory stimulus stress is behind it too, hearing other people, hearing own talking, background noise, looking anywhere, colours. Especially maintaining eye contact is a good way of draining.
If I return to the first day/night that I talked about, I was ill, so my senses were a lot more sensitive than usually so even the fridge light hurt my eyes while often I might not be mindful about it being there.
On the second day, there were the people, the buses, the trams, PA systems, escalators, metros, music (that I listened during transport to drain more slowly), lights and everything. As with illness, stress also causes faster draining and stress is easy to get by going into a new situation at new place with new people and being hungry makes highly sensitive people horrible.
On the third day, today, there were other people (naturally, I live in the capital of Finland), bus, escalators, metro, musician between central railway station and the metro station, PA systems, talking with mother, grocery store noises, being at my apartment with mother having tea and talking, during lunch there was also some machine keeping noise etc.
I think this is the place for the do you hear sounds that other people don’t hear joke. Yes, I do, as my family is half-deaf and we have family joke on how I should share some of my hearing even if how good and how sensitive hearing is are two separate things.
I think this post is finished with the exception of one thing which I am not sure if I wish to type. However I feel that my typing finally started flowing well after hours of trying to get this into words and I think it would be unfair from me to say that everything is draining, so I think I should type some of the methods that I discussed with my previous therapist to ease the situation.
I must again disclaim that this might only apply to me and not to you (when did I make the reader another aspie or HSP?), and I should probably say that my senses are mostly oversensitive except that my sense of touch defies logic and can either make me feel “hug deprived” and wishing that someone would touch me or send me into panic attack from someone accidentally touching me from behind…
- General: Pushing the wall with strength for around 15 to 30 seconds.
- Hearing: Music that you like from earbuds or similar, preferably something that reminds you of some very good experience.
- Seeing: pastel/pale colours.
- I would like to add that bright colours are especially bad and I hate stripes and balls and dots and prefer my clothing to be single colour while I might wear clothes that I would dislike seeing.
- I think we talked something about black being a neutral colour that isn’t draining while it might not help easing sensory stimulus stress either. I recommend using dark themes on phones and everything that has the option for it.
- Smell: leaving the situation or avoiding, but it might also help to get a pleasant smelling lip balm that could be stealthily smelled while applying it.
- Sense: massaging with a (stress) ball.
- I would very often like a hug or to be touched, but when I am
asked if anyone can do anything to help me, I will lie and say
nothing as I am often ashamed of having undersensitive sense of
touch (if I can say that, as I said before, it defies logic and
all rules that I try to put on it to explain how it works). I
think it’s this Finnish culture.
- I think sense of touch might be some kind of a inbuild
recovery method andchoring me to this moment or giving me
strength to continue from overwhelming.
- And I naturally forgot something important, overwhelming
is how The Highly Sensitive Person calls the situation
with too much sensory stimulus stress ane need for
recharging. Before encountering high sensitivity, I
used words “soft limit” where warning signals started
appearing about coming panic attack or having had too
much sensory stimulus stress and needing rest and if I
borrow the term from ICT, why I wouldn’t call panic
attacks as hard limit?
- Finns, this overwhelming is the same thing as
- and now I probably said more than I wondered if I wanted to say above. I wonder how horrible will this post look at on the blog while this looks this funny in Vim which I am using to type this…
- Finns, this overwhelming is the same thing as ylivirittyneisyys.
- And I naturally forgot something important, overwhelming is how The Highly Sensitive Person calls the situation with too much sensory stimulus stress ane need for recharging. Before encountering high sensitivity, I used words “soft limit” where warning signals started appearing about coming panic attack or having had too much sensory stimulus stress and needing rest and if I borrow the term from ICT, why I wouldn’t call panic attacks as hard limit?
- I think sense of touch might be some kind of a inbuild recovery method andchoring me to this moment or giving me strength to continue from overwhelming.
- I would very often like a hug or to be touched, but when I am asked if anyone can do anything to help me, I will lie and say nothing as I am often ashamed of having undersensitive sense of touch (if I can say that, as I said before, it defies logic and all rules that I try to put on it to explain how it works). I think it’s this Finnish culture.
- Motion: calm/slow moves
- If I recall correctly, there was some reason why the previous therapist wanted to put motion as a sense, but I cannot remember what the actual reason was. I think I haven’t ever had an issue with motion other than having the motorical clumsiness that I think is part of diagnostic criteria from autism.
Addition: the TL;DR of the above list could probably be put into one word. Stim!
And now I think I am actually finished with a few hours spend typing this and just moving onto the 209th line in Vim. In the end I only want to say that remember that you aren’t alone, 20% of the population are estimated to be highly sensitive people and while I don’t know the percent for people on autism spectrum, there is at least one of us in mostly every IRC channel that you can find.
I think I should also link to Wikipedia: Sensory processing sensitivity and HSPerson.com and why not to their self/tests in case you are like me and haven’t encountered it before or haven’t thought that it has anything to do with you.
I trust that you have heard something of autism or that you are able to find information about it easily while High Sensitivity is very unknown.
Oh, the Highly Sensitive Person book didn’t comment much on on autism or that one person might be both, so I want to link you to their blog About High Sensitivity, Autism, and Neurodiversity.
And now I am finally going to end typing this at 230 lines, I hope that this post was any help or at least not negative or including misinformation or anything, but if that would happen to be the case, please do tell me by opening an issue!