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On Sensory Matters

Apparently, one early indicator that a person may be living with autism is that, from an early age, they chew on their clothes or other inedible objects. This is something that I would do. I would chew on the string that tightens the hood on some hoodies. I would chew on the corner of some of my coats and when I was very little, I would chew the eyes and nose of my favourite toy. If I am being honest; I never thought that was too odd until I realised that no one I have met, did it as well.

I dislike wearing socks especially if I can feel the seam of the toes or if they have a hole in them. I hate my feet being touched. It is not a simple dislike it has always been a pure, unadulterated hatred. When I was younger if you touched my feet then you may end up being kicked in the face. It is only relatively recently that I have started to accept people touching my feet. I still cringe and a cold shudder runs up and down my spine like a stick on a xylophone. Yes, that was a rather odd simile. But, I am sticking with it. My wife often suggests that I remove skin from the soles of my feet but the thought and action of it, is something that I cannot stand. Hell to me would be a long lasting, aggressive pedicure.

For a man who sweats far too much – this could be a symptom of a pervasive and long-lasting anxiety or because I am fatter than previously, I do not know – I hate the feeling of sweat on my skin. It feels like large balls of sweat are rolling down the side of my head like Sisyphus’ boulder at the end of the day. If I feel sweat on my skin, it can remove me completely from the moment. This can affect a range of physical activities, some which really depend on being in the moment.

Because I like things to stay the same; I will wear the same coat over and over, I say to myself that it is because I know where all my stuff is. It is not like I can take items out of one coat and put them into another, is it? The coat becomes “my coat” and it the one I will always wear. No matter if it is a winter coat and the weather is melting the pavement. No matter if it is a long three-quarter length coat and I am wearing shorts, trackies or anything else that does not go with a formal coat. I don’t notice that it looks incongruous or that the weather is wrong. That is, until it is too late, and I am sweating like Gary Glitter in Soft Play centre. Another simile, of indeterminate quality.

I forget to eat. This, I think is a mixture of forgetfulness and not feeling hungry until I am very, very hungry. I have seen other people who live with autism online say that they say the same about thirst. They do not realise they are thirsty until they are spitting feathers. A metaphor. They do not eat and won’t feel it until they are about to pass out. It is a regular occurrence that my wife will ask if I have eaten and will be answered with a blank stare or to be told that I have had a Twix. Or something else not nutritionally sufficient.

I find it hard to remove my mind from certain situations when I should be focused on a sensation o on a feeling. I think when I should feel. I find it very difficult to take my mind out of my equation and to focus on what is happening. Whether this is an issue relating to this apparent autism or whether it relates to my mindset I do not know. I should be able to turn off my mind and enjoy something. For whatever reason I cannot and this, while not causing any specific issues, it means that I am removed from what I am doing. I would love to be able to focus on a sensation and let go of the narrative in my mind.

This disconnect between what I am experiencing and what I am thinking about does mean that I live removed from the moment. I am here but I do not believe I am present. I have investigated ways of helping change this and the best method I have found, or have been told about, is Mindfulness. Focusing on the present, what can I see and what can I feel? There is something called a Body Scan – which seems to mean that you focus on different parts of your body. This should mean that I may, one day, be able to turn of my mind and focus on a feeling. I think this would benefit me when I am playing with my child, when I am doing literally anything. To feel connected to myself and to the world would be quite nice.

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