Why shops can cause sensory overload…🛒

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Hi everyone I’m back again with a lil’ illustration…’Why shops can cause sensory overload’ 👀 I (secretly) struggle quite a lot in shops and supermarkets (when I say secretly I mean I’ve perfected the art of ‘masking’ my struggles!). There’s always SO much sensory input to deal with in shops and I wanted to try and mention a few of the things that can be overwhelming. Bigger supermarkets especially can be quite disorientating when so much is being thrown at me sensory-wise.

Every sense is sort of attacked all at once?! This means it can be very difficult to find the things you need as you have to visually wade through colourful shelves, deal with all sorts of noise, queues and crowds, smelly food counters…the list goes on!

I know there’s lots of good tips and tricks to helping with these busy environments such as using ear defenders or headphones, wearing a sunflower lanyard (UK initiative – to subtly let staff know you might need some extra help / consideration), using distractions like stim toys, etc…but do you have any other tips for surviving shops? Comment down below!

What design stuff I carry everyday: notebooks, stationary and tech!

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I thought I’d do a post on the everyday bits and pieces I carry around and the journal and notebook I use. I currently have a Vinyl cover weekly/monthly diary A6 size from MUJI – the Left page shows one week while the right page has a grid pattern for taking notes which I love, I usually set up to-do lists on the right side and plan out my days on the left side. I love doing little doodles on the grid side.

I also have a black A5 Moleskine journal with cream blank paper as my notebook / sketchbook. This is where I do all my @21andsensory illustrations in before I then recreate them in Procreate on my iPad Pro (10.5 inch) with my Apple Pencil. I love this little set-up. For my daily design work I use my MacBook Pro (Late 2013 – 13 inch) with the Adobe Creative Cloud suite (Adobe CC).

I have a slight obsession with fine liner pens – my current favs are the muji gel ink ballpoint pen (0.38pt) which you can buy refills for and the Uniball eye ub-157. I also have a ridiculous collection of STABILO black and coloured fineliners too in a range of point sizes.

My clear glasses (London Retro River – Crystal) are from Glasses Direct and they are a new addition to my glasses collection (I have another tortoise shell pair from Glasses direct and a pair I wear daily from Specsavers.)

My little apple earphones are what I use most days, as people stop by my desk at work alot and I can quickly take them out and hear people calling my name (I have a little mirror set up on my desk so I can see people coming so they don’t tap me on the shoulder!) I use my Sony WH-1000XM3 noise cancelling headphones sometimes although they pinch my glasses!

What do you carry along with you daily? Share in the comments down below!

Sensory Mapping at the Royal Academy of Arts 🎨

Two weeks ago I went to the Royal College of Arts in London to help the very lovely Becky from @sensoryspectacle. I documented my sensory experience within the RCA in order to help Becky later create a sensory map for visitors.

I also recorded my journey into and around London on my Instagram story highlights (which I uploaded to YouTube in the above video) if you’d like to see how a sensory-being got on in the city 👀

Badges from Etsy! 🛍

I recently had a ‘lil look on @etsy as I wanted to get some cool badges I could wear on my hoodies and jackets that might represent me and maybe also highlight to other people about my sensory needs. Also I wanted to support some independent shops / artists and I always hear such good things about Etsy shops. So I somehow stumbled across these two lovely shops:

@Okaydoodle does the CUTEST badges 😍 I’m obsessed with the little speech bubble designs 💬 they are bold and simple and I really like the size of them – they don’t feel heavy and look great on a denim jacket!

@Doodlepeople make the beautiful badges that start with ‘Hello I am’ and come with so many different options! There really is something for everyone and I was so so impressed to find a badge relating to sensory issues 😍 and the suspected autistic one as well is lovely as you don’t feel like you have to have a diagnosis (or if your on a waiting list for an assessment) it just works really well.

Honestly recommend checking out both these shops (click on their links below!) postage was super fast for both shops and I really would recommend them! Have a little look at the badges in the slideshow below…

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I visited a zoo…🐘

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At the weekend I got to visit a zoo (with my fav person) and I really enjoyed seeing so many different animals that I thought I’d share some photos I took. I haven’t been to a zoo in years.

(Short tragic story: last time I went when I was little I cried profusely during a free elephant feeding session during which an elephant touched my hand which freaked me out. Not cool…and my family remind me of this at every possible opportunity!).

Anyway…it was an interesting environment to visit. Lots of different indoor and outdoor areas and many loud children (not a complaint just an observation!) and lots to see and do. My favourite areas to visit were the incredible sea lion tunnel where we could walk underneath their huge tanks and see them swimming past – check out my @21andsensory Instagram post for the video I took of them.

Also I LOVED visiting the penguins at this particular zoo as we could see them swimming underwater and get up close to them on dry land too! Make sure you click through right to the end for a cute surprise…

Do you have a favourite zoo, park, museum, garden, etc that you like visiting? What’s your fav animal? Comment down below or post an emoji!

You’re a limited edition

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It’s so true. Every single one of us. We are all limited editions and nobody is the same. Sometimes this is a bad thing. Living in 2018 makes me feel like I want to conform, fit in and be considered ‘normal’. It means I am constantly comparing myself to others and wanting to be just like them (and yeah social media doesn’t help all this 🤦🏻‍♀️)…

But I’m trying super hard recently to embrace that I’m a limited edition.

Yes I’m very different and some people might think I’m a bit odd, weird or special. I’m trying to be more upfront and honest when I’m struggling and also I’m trying to explain my sensory difficulties a little bit more. And I’ve never done that before. I’ve never out-right said: ‘I have Sensory Processing Disorder and this is what it means for me…’ but the other day I said this in conversation (relatively briefly) andI wasn’t made to feel small or different.

And that felt great.

So anyway this was a bit of a ramble. But on more thing I wanted to mention was that recently I’ve been speaking to a few different people via my @21andsensory account on Instagram through direct messages.

It’s incredible how many people are struggling to understand themselves and make sense of their place in this weird old world. People I’ve spoken to just want to be ‘normal’ and fit in with their peers be it at school, college, uni, work, life in general, etc. We put this pressure on ourselves and mask our true feelings and needs. I have days where I am so desperate to be ‘normal’ and be able to cope in social situations and new environments that I come home and feel incredibly down and very lost.

But…on the good days I am proud of how I challenge myself and try to do new activities. I am able to cope on public transport without getting hella sweaty and cold with fear (thank god for contactless payments, it’s so much quicker and I used to have to hand over sweaty change ALL the time!). I am able to make conversation more fluently and find I am less stressed over eye-contact and I know when to talk.

On days like these I feel like a sort of super-hero (let’s go with spiderman🕸). I have spidey-senses that tingle. I can hear layers upon layers of noise, I can smell things from what seems like a mile-off, I can immediately identify the nearest toilet to escape to in busy locations, I can smell spices and seasoning and avoid eating anything too strong or spicy, I can find nice quiet places to eat and shop without constant blaring ‘background’ music (IT’S NOT ATMOSPHERIC IT’S BLOODY ANNOYING. Rant over ☺️)

So what I’m trying to get at is that there are/can be positives to being you and being a limited edition – you just have to hold out for those good days. I know that’s a rubbish line, especially if you are going through difficult times. There’s nothing worse then someone saying ‘things will be better soon’ or ‘you’ll get through this’ because all you want to know is WHEN? Like a time/date/month/year would be handy?

If I’m honest I’ve had to wait months to feel like I’ve had some ‘good days’. This made me quite sad because as a 24 year old I should be out living life to the max (not like too close to max though…I’m a sensory-being let’s not forget!). This past month I have noticed I have enjoyed things much more. I have felt less emotional and I feel like I am struggling less with being unable to express how I feel. I’ve had good days. I think this could be down to:

  1. The right concoction of medication helping me to feel much more stable emotionally and mood-wise.
  2. Having / finding things to look forward to. This is huge. Before I felt so empty and like there was nothing to strive for.
  3. Appreciating the little things more. Like going out for a tea/coffee or tidying my room in order to keep my mind tidy too. These things can bring me joy.

So to summarise: yup, every single person in this world is a limited edition, and despite social media depicting our best-selves, we are all trying to navigate this weird-old world and… I think it’s okay to make some mistakes along the way.