Can you turn the sound down please?

Hello everyone – hope you are all having a good day. I’ve done another little drawing which I thought I would share with you all. I am very sensory defensive when it comes to sound. I am constantly asking my parents to turn the sound/volume down on the TV 😂 It’s always too loud for me 🔈

I’ve also been struggling this week with a busy open plan office at work which is noisy and bustling and generally wears me out! 😱 I also jump at anything even slightly loud (even people sneezing 🤧) I’ve been using my noise cancelling headphones but does anyone else have any other good tips for dealing with loud noises?

Also: I’ve reached 1,000 followers on Instagram! Thanks so much to everyone out there who follows along – my main aim when setting up my blog and Instagram was that if I could help out one person out there by providing sensory advice / tips / support / etc to them then I would be happy!

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Sensory Hangover

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This post explains what an earth a sensory hangover is. Before you read this: it has nothing to do with drinking / alcohol consumption! 🚫

A sensory hangover is a term I’ve started to use (in my head!) to describe the state in which I am left in after being in an overwhelming place, environment, scenario, etc. The sensory hangover begins on instant return to my house – I can get emotional and feel totally overwhelmed and stressed out.

An example: I was invited to my friends 21st birthday party. It was at her house and it was a surprise birthday party. I hate surprises. I felt awful and sick and spaced out for the first part of the evening while my friend wasn’t even at the party but I managed to hang out with two other girls I knew. Then when my friend came in the room I had to ready myself for everyone shouting ‘SURPRISE!’ super loud, with much clapping, hugging, kissing and music accompanying it all. It was all too much and I made my excuses and left relatively early in the evening. I then got home and cried. A lot. My parents were understanding but I just couldn’t hold my emotions in and I felt completely weird for the rest of the evening and most of the next day. It took a real chunk of my energy out of me and I was left unable to process everything and all messy inside my head.

Now I try to be way more conscious of where I go, for how long, and what will be there that could affect me. I say no more often now (although I have the FOMO: fear of missing out) I know it’s for the better and I am way way happier not going and having a chilled night in. Sound is a huge issue for me and can really quickly bring on a sensory hangover – I feel physically drained and unable to process or compute what people are saying in noisy situations that I just prefer to remove myself from them entirely. 🏃

The sensory hangover can then move on a bit and I have episodes of intense OCD where I will feel the urge to clean obsessively (whether it’s myself or my bedroom or another room in the house). This keeps me busy/distracted/occupied which I find helpful – I really enjoy tidying my room and putting things away every few days.

So…to put it simply: a sensory hangover describes the physically tired, mentally drained and totally spaced out feeling I have after an overwhelming social interaction. 💥(The feeling of a sensory hangover will come over me immediately after an overwhelming thing and can last from a few minutes to even a day in length which = not cool)

Have you ever experienced a sensory ( / autistic-type / call it whatever suits you!) hangover?

An Instagram Q&A…

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Every so often I like to do a Q&A session on my Instagram Story. If you’d like to get involved do follow me @21andsensory. Here’s some questions from this week that I was asked:

Do you ever feel weird / different / insecure because of your Sensory Processing Disorder?

Great question. If I’m honest I do 100% feel weird because it’s like my senses are always on high alert and everything is too loud, bright, colourful, strong smelling, scratchy, etc! I do feel very different especially because of my age I think people expect me to be out 24/7, socialising, drinking, partying, that sort of thing. But…that’s why I made my blog and my Instagram / Twitter / Podcast! I really wanted to find others out there struggling with the same things daily and just talk all things sensory related and share tips and tricks. I’ve chatted to so many amazing people it makes me feel part of a community of other lovely people who understand exactly what it’s like.

What’s the first signs you notice when you’re beginning to be sensory overloaded?

Hmm. For me it tends to be my mood plummets and I have a ‘fight or flight’ response which means I’ll start to cry and escape the environment quickly. I’m quite good at removing myself (for example) from a loud situation if I’m starting to feel super overwhelmed or on the verge of a meltdown. Also I can get super hot or super cold and feel totally zoned out which is never very nice!

What happens to you when you’re in sensory overload?

Equally a good question but always a weird / hard thing to explain. It’s almost like I’m shutting down like  I’m shutting down like a computer I think. I feel totally overwhelmed , incredibly emotional, tearful, zoned out and generally odd. I bite my nails really badly and this ramps up even more during times like this. I can go quite non-verbal and not explain to anyone what’s really happening . I tend to find the nearest toilet that I can lock myself in and escape the environment or situation that started the overload. I retreat to my room and lie under my weighted blanket / duvet. I did then experience a sort of  ‘sensory hangover’ where I just need to be in a quiet place on my own for a bit to recuperate and feel better.

How does stress affect your ability to handle different sensory stimuli?

Stress makes everything sensory-wise like 100% worse. I find I can tip into sensory overload / meltdown much quicker when I am stressed and even a sudden noise or annoying smell can really grate on my nerves 😱 so I try and stick to routine and work the same hours each day and take regular breaks, etc. I also have a to-do list that keeps me on track daily in my life and work! I always try and avoid stressful situations where possible and say no to things like events I don’t feel I can handle.

How do you handle the overwhelm when you feel like you have made someone uncomfortable?

I try not to overthink things. The worst thing you can do is re-run over what you’ve said and over analyse things and it can lead to so much stress and unnecessary angst. I struggle with this as it’s so easy to lay awake at night and overthink things but just remember: the other person isn’t thinking about the conversation you had with them hours ago, they’ve moved on with their day and lives and I think it’s important to remember that a bit.

Not understanding typical boundaries in social or work context ie: talking religion at work?

This can be difficult because the boundaries are never very clear and I understand that. Try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think ‘could this spark a debate or upset somebody?’ before you go ahead and talk about it? For example I don’t talk about politics with anyone because I don’t understand it all! 😂 and I know people can be quite sensitive to that topic.

Do you ever punish yourself by not allowing yourself to stim?

No I don’t think so. If anything I’m the opposite and forget that swimming can help me which is why I have a post-it-note on my sensory / fidget  box that says *HELPFUL CRAP USE ME* 😂 😂 😂 I forget in times of overwhelm what helps me! Also just to add: you should never punish yourself for anything. Whether it’s stimming

I hope this was an interesting / helpful Q&A ☺️

Things that spark joy

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Hello everyone 👋🏻 I made a new year’s resolution to draw more for my 21andsensory blog/social media. And here I am attempting to get into it more. I realise this drawing is 100% making use of @mariekondo tidying method of ‘does it spark joy?’ but I think this can phrase can apply to life and not just tidying our living spaces. So I’ve drawn some of my favourite things (and things I think most people enjoy!). It’s important to hold onto the little things that make you happy, even if it’s a nice hot drink or settling down to read a book. What sparks joy in your life?

Featured items:

  • Pantone 7461 mug – would recommend as it’s a lovely shade ☕️
  • Tangle it’s blue and glittery and is just the most amazing fidget, it’s relatively quiet to play with and works well in coat / hoodie pockets! 😍
  • Antsy Labs the original makers of the fidget cube – it’s a nice grey and black version that I have but they do some super funky colours too 👏🏻
  • Chewigem raindrop – such an amazing colour – looks like petrol as it’s all rainbowy. Also very glittery. It’s my go-to chew! ✨
  • Radox bath salts – these are my favourite! 🛀 they aren’t too strong smelling and are ideal if you have achey muscles too 😊
  • The Body Shop satsuma bath/shower gel is incredible – it’s such a nice clean smell that’s not too overpowering/overwhelming 🚿🍊
  • Sensory Direct weighted blanket ❤️ 100% recommend any products from here especially their weighted blankets! See my full review here

Side note: I’m more than happy for you lovely people out there to share my drawings to your own social media, etc but pretty please credit me! @21andsensory

Medications and being sensory

I’ve been wanting to write a post on my feelings on medications for a while. Have they helped me? What have I found difficult about them?

Medication is weird. Each time I try a new one it’s like a huge big change and I battle with the pros and cons each time.

Mental health medications:

I’ve tried them all. Well it feels that way. Since the age of 15/16 I’ve tried all sorts. Some with weird side-effects and some that have proven to be helpful enough that I’ve stayed on them for years. I have been/I’m still on a few. I’ve tried anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety medication, etc. I’m currently on two medications for my mental health. I use a weekly pill box so I know what to take each day.

Annoying side effects I’ve come across:

  • Never feeling full and always feeling starving hungry
  • Muscle twitching. Not ideal when you’re sat in a meeting at work and your entire leg twitches throwing you forward in your seat a bit (true story #lovinglife)
  • I regularly forget to take the flipping medication (not a side effect just Emily’s rubbish memory)

Cholinergic Urticaria:

Think of it like a rash / hives. I take anti-histamines to control it, otherwise I flare-up and look like a tomato. Think Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (but red) and you’re not far off. If I’m honest I still flare-up and go bright red and develop a nice patchy rash in these places:

  • All over my face
  • Chest
  • Arms
  • Hands / knuckles
  • Legs / knees

Very random. Read more about my cholinergic urticaria in a previous post here: Cholinergic urticaria…and what on earth it is.

Other:

Night sweats. I take a ridiculously accurate amount – 3 quarters of one tablet that’s how sensitive I am to this one. If I take a full tablet I find I don’t pee. Like all day. At all. This is not good apparently. (It’s a tablet that primarily elderly people can take to improve incontinence issues but it is also used to treat excessive sweating. Interesting right?!)

My conclusion:

I think medications have helped me. In the long run. They never seem to kick in for what seem like months and then I feel more stable without realising and wonder if it’s the medication that’s built up in my system and is finally kicking in. Of course I’m no doctor or medical professional. Some people just don’t find medications work for them or have never tried them. And that’s okay too. It’s so hard to tell what’s helping and what isn’t so I totally get that. For me it’s something I think I’ve found beneficial and I have followed my own doctors advice on what he feels is best for me.

One thing I want to mention is that side effects do indeed suck, I 100% feel for all those out there who find their medication is helpful but are then are stuck with annoying and sometimes plain weird side effects.

Why not listen to my podcast surrounding the idea of medications and mental health here

And just a tiny bit of humour to finish:

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Illustrations in the slideshow by the epic illustrator: Ruby etc

 

Sensory Supermarket Trip 🛒

Hi everyone! This video documents my visit to a supermarket (in the UK) as a sensory-person! I explain throughout the video via captions how I am feeling and what is affecting me. Do you also struggle in supermarkets or shopping situations? If you have any good coping mechanisms feel free to share them in the comments below!

Sensory Festive Season 🎄

Ah yes the festive season is well and truly upon us. Welcome to the ‘random questions Emily gets asked at this time of year’.

Yes I went to my team dinner at work. Yes it was painful. Yes I went to our company Christmas party. Yes it was painful and LOUD. Yes I got dragged onto a dance floor against my own wishes. But I survived the environment. Yet I miss ONE cocktail night out and a co-worker comes up to me the next day and says ‘didn’t see you at the pub last night’ and catches me off guard. UGH.

I’m trying to navigate this sensory world and my limit is usually one social / festive gathering and I managed two out of three! So what would make my festive season that little bit better? Less questions.

1. I don’t drink alcohol. For some reason this throws everybody and I am questioned beyond belief. I don’t like the taste. That’s all there is to it! And yes, I’ll have a lemonade instead please.

2. I don’t eat much meat. This throws everybody. Again: I don’t like the taste (although chicken is okay sometimes). It’s easier to say I’m a vegetarian 🌱

3. I do find it difficult to dress up. I can wear a dress but I don’t like anything ridiculously tight or short. And high heels are a bit of a no-go due to tripping over my own feet normally in trainers everyday!

4. I’m dealing with sensory stuff in a new environment and holy moly all these questions do not help!

I can have fun without drinking, eating and dressing up. (Aka: cosy nights in watching Bake Off, Top Gear, Brooklyn 99 or a Louis Theroux documentary. Equally tucked up in bed with a book is just great too!)

Drawing by me. This post featured on my 21andsensory Instagram