Sunday, 7 September 2008

Sights sounds and smells

Following on from my previous post, the other sensory issue I have is with sound, and this one seems common among those with Asperger Syndrome (AS). For me this is less pervasive than my temperature issues, but when it hits it hits harder.

When there are a lot of sounds going on, especially unfamiliar ones, it's like they all have the same volume. I can't tune in, or tune out to any one sound. When there are five people, all talking to each other, or sometimes to you, you still hear five voices and deciding on who to focus on is hard, and distinguishing their voice from the others even harder. Most frustrating has to be when you are in a group of people in a pub/club and one obviously wants to talk just to you, and you want to listen to them, you strain to listen to them, you try and filter the background sounds out, you try and lip read….but it's all for nothing. Instead you sit there, nodding and pretending you can hear them while all the other sounds crash over you.

This makes it so hard to participate in group conversations that you start to not bother. It is so much effort and you never seem to get it right. Frustration and overload set in and you retreat into yourself. Again you become the "weird one", the "shy one" the one with nothing to say. It's not that I have nothing to say, it's just that I can't navigate this auditory environment. I can't pick and find my way, it's an assault course for which I have no answer. When you've finally thrown in the towel you just sit and stare into space while others converse around you. You then start to realise that you don't really want to talk to these people anyway, you're only trying to fit in and do what they do. That is the moment of no return.

Outside of social situations there are also problems in generally crowed situations. Like going to McDonalds for example. Sometimes it's quiet…more often you're stood in the queue and it's busy and full and people are talking and people are laughing and children are playing and staff are serving and it grows into this uncomfortable wall of noise…auditory punches setting about your head and body. Anxiety sets in and comfort zones are removed. It's like you're the focus of the room and people are directing their sounds directly at you, targeting you in some malicious way, they might as well be stood around you shouting and taunting. You buckle down and try and concentrate on your order and how you'll ask for it when you get to the front of the queue. I swear I'd never eat if I didn't have to.

No comments: