Hi people! 🙂
What was the last thing you got excited about?
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? 🙂