Thursday, 14 September 2017

The sensory overload we don't often talk about

There are many things in life that can cause sensory overloads for autistic people and a fair number of them get stereotyped in the media - being touched, loud noises, nasty smells, flashing lights.

But there are so many others that don't get talked about as much - patterned carpets, perfumes & aftershave, background hums.

The one I'm interested in today however is one I really struggle with as a working female.

I'm not sure if it's the female part or the employee part that adds to the strain on my mask with this particular trigger, it could be a combination of both quite easily.

I'm talking about other people's outfits.

Yes, the thing that if you tell someone it's distressing you it's likely to cause all sorts of problems!!

Telling someone that youre near meltdown because of some drilling outside or too much information coming visually from busy displays is reaching a point of social acceptability.

Telling someone their dress is giving you a migraine-level headache is not so acceptable!

And yet I find more and more that that is a huge source of discomfort to me regularly.

Stripes, spots, animal prints, clashing colours, 'unfinished' clothing . . . The list is essentially a guide to "current fashion"!!

If I encounter someone with what I consider to be vile colours on (mustard, lime green etc) I will feel queasy and off-balance for a short while. If I encounter someone with those colours in an pattern or random design it will be ten times as bad!

Trying to work or concentrate when people around you are dressed in outfits that visually make your stomach turn is incredibly hard, I've really struggled at times to cope when having to be in the same space as someone dressed in "non-matching" colours or clashing styles.

I try very hard not to judge people when it comes to fashion choices and in fact my best friend is one of those people who will wear whatever she feels like - grey tights, brown boots, green skirt and black top has been an outfit I've seen her in many times and I've chosen (out of my love and respect for her) to 'ride' the wave of mild distress I get (particularly when her hair is dyed red and she wears lots of multi-coloured jewellery!) when I see her. The outfits always look so good on her and yet the back of my brain itches at me the whole time telling me that "Brown and grey don't go together" and "boots and a vest top, is it winter below the waist and summer above?!"

And this is why it's such a hard and not-talked about concept. It's so easy to offend people when talking about clothes and outfit choices. Unless it's a uniform, that person has chosen to put those items together that day and so to mention them in any way that isn't a compliment is to insult their decision.

Which is why I try to stick to not saying anything!

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