Question of the day. And a bit about the sensory anxiety thing.

Hi people! 🙂

What was the last thing you got excited about?

My answer:

An iPhone app I discovered recently. It seems to be primarily geared at people who need noise cancelling in noisy environments, or people who just very generally need some sound background for meditation or relaxation or focus, and I played around with it mostly just out of curiosity because I’ve heard good things about it and thought, why not, I could do with a pleasant relaxation app. Only it turned out that it is possible that it could do much more for me, potentially. I’ll have to check it out in a true crisis situation but it’s promising. What I mean is that, when you purchase the app, you get access to a lot of different soundscapes or sound generators, which clearly aren’t just looped sounds, you can also calibrate the app so that it best suits your hearing range and your needs, and you can play around with these sounds and pretty much create your own mixes of friendly sounds in there.

Now if you know me you probably suspect where I’m heading with this. I gave it a long try, and was really pleasantly impressed with its capabilities and also with the pretty wide range of sounds, and I thought that, potentially, it could be a good tool in my tool box for dealing with sensory anxiety…

Okay, but most of you still don’t have a clue or almost no clue what this sensory anxiety is…

So, very spontaneously for me, I’ve just decided that I’m going to tell you a bit more in this post about sensory anxiety and how I experience it. It still most likely won’t be an exhaustive description and I am not aiming for it to be too long as its part of the question of the day post, though we’ll see, but I feel like I’m ready to try to write about it a bit more, so that you know what I’m talking about when saying sensory anxiety, and just in case someone may ever read this post who is struggling with the same thing so that they know they’re not alone. It’s just such a tough topic to describe, a totally sick thing and quite risky and emotionally weighty, but I have Misha so let’s hope I can do this). For those of you who are very new here and have never seen any of my posts where I mentioned this, very basically, sensory anxiety is how I call collectively a few different things I deal with on a regular basis, which include a fear of silence which can have a different degree depending on a situation (I do love silence but at the same time it can be awfully scary in the wrong circumstances), and anxiety and general discomfort triggered by specific sounds, groups of sounds, harmonies or even words, or sometimes specific sounds in specific situations, as well as these triggery and scary sounds then literally getting stuck in my brain after I hear them and popping up in an intrusive way. It’s like a brainworm, and I know I’m only hearing it in my brain, but I have very little control over it, and it feels very real and overwhelming.

From what I’ve observed talking to other people, also people who have perfect pitch and such and so know more about sound than I do, and analysing these things for myself over the years, there doesn’t seem to be any specific objective pattern recognisable for another person, between the things that are scary for me. But for me there are quite a few very clear ones, which are impossible to describe in words. These sounds most definitely have things in common.

When I hear such a triggering sound in my surroundings, my typical reaction is freeze. As a little kid I used to shriek, and sometimes when it feels particularly scary I feel a sort of fainting feeling and have collapsed a few times when I was hearing something scary while I was standing.

Sensory anxiety is by no means any professional term or anything, I’ve no idea if things like these have any particular professional term. 😀 It’s just how I call it so that I have a way to refer to it, in English. People have told me it’s anything from sensory deprivation, hypersensitive/immature nervous system, a form of blindism (blindisms are typically repetitive movements in children who are blind and this is their way of compensating for the lack of sight, providing themselves some additional stimulation, most commonly they are things like eye poking or rubbing, spinning around or just head spinning, rocking, hand flapping, kinda like stimming in neurodiverse people but a bit different genesis, anyway the person who told me that claims that there may be other types of things classified as blindisms, which seems to make some sense because why would it be only movement used as compensation, but I’ve never heard about that from anyone else nor found any resources about it), a kind of sensory overload like there is in autism, prodromal stage of psychosis (that was my last therapist’s theory, the one who was so crazy about my blindness, I wonder when I’ll finally go on to full-blown psychosis, I’m no psychiatrist but 23 years feels like a super lengthy time for psychosis to still be developing 😀 it’ll have to be something totally unusually monstrous once it’ll become full-blown!), some other kind of hallucinations, sensory processing disorder,, weird electrical activity in the brain triggered by auditory stimuli, just a part of generalised anxiety, to I don’t remember what else. A lot of these things make sense but I don’t have a clear answer. I have met some young blind children with similar stuff or people who had something more or less similar as little children but they’ve all grown out of it. My Mum says that maybe I still will too, and I hope so, but from what I’ve seen and heard it’s usually around early school age or even earlier when people get rid of it. It’s also possible that there are a few different things at play here rather than just one.

I’ve also met one guy (also blind) who once showed me some of his favourite music, and at some point he told me that he’s going to send me a few other tracks, and that they are going to be very “energetic”. The way he said it felt very meaningful for some reason. I didn’t say anythiing to that so he continued that by energetic he doesn’t mean dynamic, or happy, in fact a few of them are going to be the opposite, but that there are very interesting harmonies in them, and that it makes them feel very strange to him, both in a very good and in a bad way. And when he has this sort of feeling when listening to music he calls it “energetic”. And… whoa!!! the effect was spectacular for me! My brain did become so “energised” that I couldn’t sleep all night. 😀 His “energetic” music, just seems to work on me. And, weirdly, I do feel like the word energetic describes the thing in an incredibly accurate, and somehow eerie, way. This “energetic” music is only one kind of music or type of sound that my brain is allergic to, but that felt very interesting to meet someone thinking so similarly, even though he didn’t seem to react with anxiety to the “energetic” music and it seemed to be mostly a very positive thing for him. I can also agree with him that these “energetic” sounds can sometimes be very enjoyable because of how interesting they sound, but for me the line between something “energetic” being interesting and scary is very thin and it has often happened that I was quite enjoying listening to something and at some point it became too much to handle. There is some weird way in which it can attract you, though. And there have been, very few, but still, such incidents where some music I reacted very strongly and negatively to and froze immediately when hearing it, with time has grown on me and I’ve started to like it, even a whole lot. A prime example of this is the Norwegian singer Fay Wildhagen and her newest full-length album, Borders, with which I fell in love so deeply in the end that I shared almost all of the tracks from it on my blog, and I really like Fay now. But that is very rare. I didn’t even mention my sensory anxiety to that blind guy, nor even that I get the “energetic” thing, because as I said it’s a difficult topic for me, and I only knew him for a day or so.

Usually, I can become more or less desensitised to a specific sound over time, but there are sounds which have been haunting me since forever, and sometimes it happens that I become scared of something again if I’m exposed to it. For example, there’s that song by Mattofix, I’m not sure I spell the name of the band right but I don’t care, I’m not going to check it out, the song is called Big City Life. I was scared of it for weeks when it was a hit, and couldn’t recover properly because it was a hit so it was everywhere as hits tend to be. Over the months or perhaps years, I felt like it was over, but then when I heard it again much later when I was generally stressed, it all came back! The worst thing is that Olek loves this song despite it’s over 10-year-old, and I once mentioned to him that I don’t like it. That’s what I usually say to people when something triggers me, because, well, what other thing could I say? “Huh, this tune makes me feel so “energised!”? 😀 😀 😀 But he of course thinks I only don’t like it, in a normal way, it just doesn’t appeal to me, it’s just my cup of tea, you get it. So I always dread riding anywhere with him in his car because he will ALWAYS, ALWAYS play this!

So far I haven’t been able to find a strategy that can totally eliminate it, except for some really really effective distraction but that’s rarely achievable to such a degree, and I am not expecting this app to do the trick, but there are things that can often decrease it more or less, one of them being surrounding myself with friendly and calming sounds. Typical relaxing music is something I like but something that sometimes works, and at other times does not, because it can have weird harmonies which don’t necessarily sit right with me when I’m already set off, so I go for things that are familiar usually, or that have very low risk of being potentially scary, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be objectively calm though it’s good if it is (Enya is the best!!!), but really when I’m like extremely bad anything can feel scary, packed with adrenaline, evil and aggressive, with the aggression geared directly at me, even Misha meowing. 😀 That’s really extreme though and happened only once to me – with Misha and when it’s this bad, it just has to go away on its own or only sleep helps temporarily if I can put myself to sleep. – And meds help to some degree too.

And so I thought that creating such friendly environment for myself with this app could be very helpful in such a crisis situation, assuming that I’d mix the sounds feeling relatively normal so that I wouldn’t have to do it at the moment when I need them, and so that’s what I did. It could be even more helpful in situations where I would be actually hearing something disturbing and not really able to extricate myself out of a situation, but would at the same time happen to have my phone and headphones with me. I could isolate myself pretty effectively unless the sound would be particularly loud. Sadly things rarely work like this that you always have what you need at the right moment, I rarely go out with headphones or even go around the house with them, but it’s good to have such an option, and I did have such situation last month with Sofi where she was watching some YouTube video in my room with really scary music, and I just happened to have my new headphones at hand and they worked well as they have a noise cancelling functionality in them.

I like the idea of immersing myself in a friendly sound environment like this which I can almost fully control, and cut myself off from silence/scary sounds/my brain throwing the scary sounds at me, at least to a degree.

There is only one problem and potentially could make it all a bad idea. When I experience this sensory anxiety thing I also feel very hypervigilant, and have the need to control what’s going on around me, in my immediate surroundings. When I’m struggling with this I may feel like someone is standing behind me, or maybe not even truly feel but just have a suspicion and be anxious that there might be someone standing behind me. Some of my stronger sensory anxiety triggers that have been with me throughout my life have become like almost fully personified, I think mainly because they are often featured in my sleep paralysis dreams, and while I always know full well that it’s all in my brain, no matter how I’m feeling, when I get flooded with intrusive scary sounds from the inside, or triggery sounds from the outside, aside from that weird, uncomfortable feeling and the rush of adrenaline, I feel like something scary is going to happen next, I can’t explain it, not even fully to myself, and it’s not rational at all. And then often when I feel the slightest movement around me, feel the slightest creek, or even nothing at all, I feel like someone might be there. Even if it’s an actual and well-meaning human being, it can still be scary when I don’t know full well that they are actually here. And it’s not even about someone’s presence, it’s just very general, when I’m unaware of my surroundings in such situations, it can just generally feel creepy and like I’m totally out of control and like absolutely anything can happen. It’s really difficult to describe, well, this whole thing is really difficult to describe.

Oh shit, I already feel kind of jittery just from writing about it all. Let’s bring some great music oon. And good that I have Misha here.

So, to sum this weird post up, I think I’ll just have to wait for the triggery stuff, and then I’ll try it out. I’m really excited and curious what the results will be though I’m also a bit scared that it won’t work. It does have the potential to work very well though, so let’s be hopeful!

How about you? 🙂

Question of the day.

What is the most useless piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

My answer:

I probably can’t remember what was THE MOST useless one, but my Mum, who can generally be a good advisor, sometimes has given me quite crappy advice, and she seems to be especially crappy advisor when it comes to thinking. Or we just think in very different ways and are not able to imagine the way the other one does. Or my thinking is too strongly impacted by the anxiety and all that shit. Anyway, her best advice for me was: “You just have to stop thinking sometimes. Just switch your brain off for a while”. I asked her if she can seriously switch her brain off on demand, or does it happen randomly. In any case, if that happened to me, I don’t think I’d be particularly happy. My brain can be an uncooperative bitch, and obviously I hate anxiety and overthinking or when my thoughts are racing or other things that my brain is either hyperactive or not efficient enough at doing, but still, I do like my brain, I guess I have a real love-hate relationship with it, and I believe that, since I already have it, it would be a bit nonsense if I wanted to switch it off. I’d be afraid that if I did, I wouldn’t be able to switch it on again, and I don’t want to be a brainless Zombie, that’s way worse than having anxiety, even a lot of it. Yes, I know that some people who meditate can get into such a state that they practically don’t think, and some say it is relaxing and healthy for the mind and soul and all that, but I don’t like the idea at all, and some things about some of such meditative techniques don’t go in line with my beliefs. I did use to try doing some lighter meditation, as well as Christian meditation, but it was always extremely hard for me to focus on. I think I can’t say I have low attention span because I can do quite a few things at once as long as it doesn’t involve being able to coordinate your movements well, but I do have a hard time focusing on thinking about just one thing for an extended period of time, it’s boring and quite exhausting in a way. I just think about a lot of things at the same time always. Another thing my Mum used to say frequently that pissed me off incredibly was: “Don’t think about it”. Yeah, don’t think about the white bear. 😀 I think it is possible to just stop thinking about something if you try hard, but, well, at least for me, it takes a lot of effort, so usually I prefer to distract myself with something productive or do something relaxing rather than force the damn thing out of my brain for all means, doesn’t really pay off, or not for long. But I guess that works for my Mum somehow, because it seems like she frequently deals with negative things by just “erasing” them. Not if they are serious things that require some action, but, to give you an example, you may or may not remember Sasha, the other Russian blue kitty who used to live with us for some weeks. Mum decided to get him very spontaneously, without really thinking it through, what that would mean, for us and for him and for Misha, and we were all elated, everything was arranged literally at last minute, and it was quite a massively selfish act of us to do that and very much on a whim. Then it turned out there were various complications, they didn’t get along with Misha whatsoever, were both awfully stressed out and got sick from it, and Mum got quite depressed about it, I mean it seriously looked as if she was depressed, she would lie with Sasha on the sofa hardly able to do anything and was very dejected and overwhelmed by the whole situation, so very much unlike her. So we had to find a new home for Sasha, when things got really bad. We did, and he seems to have a great family, and we were happy for him that he will have a better life after all, but we were also really sad quite naturally and missed him, and a bit sorry for ourselves. The way my Mum coped with this situation was she didn’t speak about Sasha at all, and didn’t want to hear anything about him, or otherwise she snapped at people, so there was a bit of a taboo in our house for a while. It seemed like she wanted to ignore that he ever lived with us and forget about the whole thing, erase it from her brain and not think about it. And she really seems quite successful at it. I know that people often do it in an unhealthy way, that they try to stop thinking about things and make them disappear this way rather than do something about them, but, as far as I can tell, it is not unhealthy in her case. It is certainly not the way my brain works, though, so for me, that was absolutely useless advice. In the Sasha situation, neither me nor Zofijka wanted that to happen that we would forget about him completely, because despite the sadness, we were also very fond of him and we did want to talk about him and remember him so we did with each other. And while we all can still be sad when something reminds us of him, I think all of us coped and adjusted to the situation to a similar extend, despite applying different measures.

How about you? 🙂

About creativity.

Hi people! 🙂

I don’t have a question of the day for you today, but I decided to answer another question asked by Carol Anne of

Therapy Bits

and of course you can too, either under her or my post or in your own.

A recent question of hers that I’ve chosen to answer is this:

do you think you are creative?

Yes, I think I am, and a lot of people have told me I am, so there must be something in it I suppose. At some times less than at others, and perhaps not always in a very conventional and obvious way, but I think I definitely am. I think the way I think is very creative to begin with, because of my synaesthesia and other such things. I like to play around with language and with words and the more creatively, the better. I am very imaginative, and it has helped me through many hard things and is one of my most effective coping skills. I make up tons of strange games to play with Sofi. I used to use a lot of my creativity in creative writing for years, now I do much less for it, simply because at this point I just find journalling and the like more enjoyable, but there was a point in my life where I would write a story almost every day. Sometimes I get that intense flow of very creative ideas and that’s really cool. Also my creativity is always stronger when I for example had little to no sleep. On one hand your attention span and memory and such things are much worse when you don’t sleep well, but in my experience, at the same time, it opens up some creative and more intuitive parts of your brain, suddenly you are able to figure out things you couldn’t when well rested, or have a solution for something you couldn’t solve previously, which is usually quite out of the box an dmaybe even a bit odd at a first glance. Besides, I think night time always increases creativity and out of the box thinking for me, whether I’ve had enough sleep or not. Sometimes I stay up at night voluntarily when I am able to just to be able to do something creative. My crushes spark my creativity in a big way, which I can feel especially these days when there’s no dominant crush around. I really like the creative part of my brain, so I still desperately hope that I’ll come across some new faza/crush in the very near feature?

How is it for you? In what ways are you creative, if you thinks you are, how does it manifest? What sparks your creativity? 🙂

 

Working On Us – Mental Health Prompt.

Beckie over at

Beckie’s Mental Mess

has a weekly series on her blog called Working On Us – Mental Health Prompt, and now is week #3 of it, and I thought I’d join in! Here’s the prompt for this week and my answers. If you haven’t participated yet, I encourage you to check out her blog and to do so. 🙂

 

Here are a few coping statements, do you agree or disagree?  Even if your answer is yes or no, please explain:

  1. This situation of sitting on a fully packed train either makes you feel uncomfortable or unpleasant, but I can accept it? – Yes, I can accept it if it’s just the crowd. It will make me feel a bit uncomfortable and anxious and I simply don’t like crowds too but as long as I don’t feel overwhelmed by other stimuli, am generally doing well and don’t have to interact with those people I will deal with it.
  2. Can I ride out the wave of anxiety, or do I feel like I need professional help now? -I suppose I could benefit from the right professional help, as some things can be very difficult for me to deal with and figure out on my own, I’d been in therapy for many years but had to change therapists a year ago and stopped working with a therapist with whom I worked for many years and whom I really trusted. Since then I had two therapists and didn’t have the best experience with either, I’ve also had some experience before I started to work with that therapist whom I trusted so much and it also wasn’t particularly positive. So I feel a bit conflicted here. Part of me wants to reach out and figure out things and get professional help, but part of me is scared of trying once again and feels very sceptical, and there are other things that complicate it slightly. So I’m trying my best to deal with it on my own, with the help of my family, friends and some medication which I take on an as needed basis most of the time.
        1. Do you practice coping skills? If so, what works best for you? – I do. The coping skill that is most important for me is being around my Russian blue cat Misha, cuddling with him and spending time with him, he really helps me. Listening to music always works for me. Distracting myself with a good book. Good quality sleep if I can get it. Comfort food. Writing is the easiest way for me to express myself, so it helps too. Talking to my Mum or reaching out to friends, I think I’m gradually getting better at it, reaching out for support used to be incredibly difficult for me and still oftentimes is, I’ve always felt pretty uncomfortable reaching out to people or telling them about my problems because everyone already has plenty ofthings going on for themselves so I didn’t want to bother them, and I used to strongly disagree that talking about your problems makes things better and easier as many people say and thought that it can actually make things worse, now I can see it does help sometimes although it’s still a challenge for me to talk to people. Doing something funny that makes me laugh helps too, or listening to sounds that soothe me.

Question of the day.

How do you comfort yourself when you have anxiety?

My answer:

First of all, in the recent few years my main comfort in everyday situations when I feel mild to moderate anxiety and the most effective one is Misha. When my anxiety gets higher, Misha is of course of significant help as well, though might not always be enough on his own. Nevertheless, Misha provides me with such an excellent support that it’s a bit unbelievable to me, that such a little being can help you so much just being close to you. Other than that, it often depends on a kind of anxiety, and its intensity. Music usually helps me a lot, and distraction, so usually books or doing stuff online or going for walks with Mum or playing with Zofijka, the last only when anxiety is rather mild. Sometimes food comforts me, but when nxiety is really bad it usually doesn’t and food is the last thing I want to think about. I often feel shaky and chilly while anxious so warmth helps too, whether it is laying in bed with Misha and a hotwater bottle or drinking something hot or wrapping up warm or a hot bath or sometimes hot food, hot like spicy or hot like warm. If I am able to at the moment I try to reach out to my friends. And of course there are medications as well, though since my anxiety medication is quite strong and I take it as needed rather than continuously and preventively, I most often try as much as possible for it to be the ultimatum to which I turn to when all else fails rather than something I seek comfort in immediately when anxiety strikes. Other than that it really depends on the kind of anxiety, whether it’s social anxiety, any of my fabulously freaky phobias, the very strange and hard to describe, and even harder to overcome “sensory” anxiety, as I tend to call it, or freaking out about anything and everything. But Misha is the best for everything and always helps! 😂

What are your comforting strategies? 🙂

Question of the day (26th September).

What do you turn to for relief when things are tough?

My answer:

Depends, but most often I try to write to let things out, either in my diary or on the blog, or some short stories or other more creative writing. Music also helps me greatly. I often cuddle with Misha, if he’s in the mood as well. I distract doing stuff online. I read. When the “tough thing” is anxiety, I take my extra meds, or sometimes I drink whisky. Sometimes I turn to some yummy food. Sometimes I go for a walk with my Mum to the forest or somewhere where there aren’t many people walking. Horse riding gives me a lot of relief though it’s not available whenever I want and I haven’t done it in a while. I sleep. When I’m not too overwhelmed I learn my languages in any way, even just listen to them and it kinda comforts me. Sometimes I cut or self harm in any other way. I pray, or try to, it isn’t always easy when you feel mentally unwell or have a lot going on in your mind. I play with Zofijka at times. I dream… and so on and so forth. I guess the strategy depends on the circumstances.

How about you? 🙂