I read a comment by Emily (thoughty autie) on a post on Journeys with Autism recently that I completely identified with:
[…] if something brushes my arm, I have to rub the skin in the direction of shoulder to wrist; otherwise I still feel the thing that brushed me.
I have a number of issues with over-sensitivity to touch – this is not uncommon for people with ASD and I’ve mentioned it briefly in earlier posts. It’s because of these issues that I prefer not to be touched at all, although I do make the odd exception for something like a hug.
Any contact on my throat is a big no-no – that part of my body is far too sensitive. I can’t even wear a tight collar on a shirt because it would touch that area. The sensation of touch can persist for several minutes and I have to rub the affected area to relieve the feeling. It’s difficult to describe how uncomfortable it feels – the overstimulation is almost like a cross between a burning rash and applied pressure, as if something keeps pressing on my throat while my skin is crawling underneath. It makes me very tense and can push me into meltdown. Even thinking about it is enough to make me tense up and sends shivers down my back.
The “wrong” kinds of touch also trigger an over-reaction. These fall into categories: too light, too scratchy, too focused. A light brush against my skin sets it tingling where it was touched as if the contact was continuing, and I have to rub it – usually in the direction of the hairs – to make it stop. Anything that scratches I find uncomfortable, itchy or even painful – if somebody touches me with rough hands, if I come into contact with scratchy material (starched cotton, most wool), if I’m actually scratched by a thorn or something. In some cases I have a histamine reaction causing reddening or welts to appear – similar to an allergic response, although I don’t have any allergies that I’m aware of. And finally there is touch that is too focused, such as being pinched, prodded or poked. This causes anything from an acute pain to a dull throb at the spot that was poked – and again it can persists for several minutes. Rubbing the spot helps to a degree but I mostly just have to endure it until the sensation fades of its own accord. I even react this way to my own touch – although, being aware of what sets me off, I can usually avoid triggering an over-reaction. When I do set myself off it’s usually accidental, caused by my impaired coordination.
What I can stand – even enjoy in some circumstances – is touch over an area with moderate pressure. A hug is the perfect example of this although anything roughly hand-sized upwards is OK. I don’t like to be rubbed or stroked – caresses often put me on edge which is rather the opposite of the intended effect. I’ll often endure it because I’ve found that responding with “Don’t do that” gets misinterpreted but it’s not a pleasurable sensation.
I’ve also found that my sensitivity changes from day to day, often linked to where I currently lie on the stress scale. There are some days when almost any touch at all is too much to handle and I flinch and snap in response – as I mentioned above it can even trigger a meltdown. Other days I’m almost “normal” in my reactions – it depends on how well I can handle the tactile stimulation; whether or not it overloads me.
3 thoughts on “Touching Issues”
I'm not "glad" that you have these sensitivities, but it's nice to know I'm not the only one who needs to "rub the touch away." I have never met anyone else who had such a need, but then again I don't really go around asking people, either.My sensitivities (to touch and other things) are also dependent on stress in addition to being the cause of it. If I'm walking down the street, feeling fine, when an emergency vehicle comes along with its siren blaring, or if someone is stuck in traffic nearby with the windows down and the radio up (and if I don't have my Sonic Defenders in for some reason), then all the sounds and sensations afterward will feel stronger. It's like my sensitivity increases with each trigger I encounter. And the increase is not limited to the sensation that caused it (sound for sound, light for light, etc.) Any stress caused by loud sounds will also increase my sensitivity to touch.
It helps to know you're not alone when dealing with these issues – that there's somebody else out there who can understand what it's like.
I had a full blown meltdown this morning.
I kicked the wall. I punched it. I slapped the bed. I screamed. I cried. I jumped up and down. I threw anything & everything I could see, grab and lift.
I feel mean, guilty and like I am a horrible person. I want to go jump off a bridge. I want to pull my brain out of my ears. I won’t do it.
My soon to be husband thinks that my rejection of touch is due to me insulting his person, or some type of social rejection I have chosen to bestow upon him for whatever unknown reason.
I do not like crawling, raw, stinging, scratching, burning sensations. I do however, love him. I have been living with him for sixteen years. We have raised our children together, one who is grown and has blessed us with two beautiful granddaughters.
My fiance’ is my whole world. He gave me the family I never had. He is my best and only friend. He manages to understand me in ways that no one else on earth can. I would do anything for him.
We are finally getting married. I am stressed out beyond belief.
We have had issues with my overly-heightened sense of touch before. This is nothing new for either of us. I have explained this to him on many occasions. This is the one last thing that I do not know what to tell him, how to show him, to make him understand.
He for whatever reason feels it 100% absolutely necessary to assault my person with light touch every morning, and when I am half asleep at night.
( He lightly rubs my arms, legs, face, neck, sides )
I know this is an attempt on his part to either wake me, show his affection, show his love for me, initiate sex or some combination of those things. I know asking him, “Please stop.” will equate to hostility on his part because of whatever insult / rejection his mind will assume, never mind that it has zero basis in reality, and only exists in his mind.
Since I told him that I would marry him, he seems even more determined than usual to touch me. I have again attempted to communicate with him in an effort to make him understand that I have issues with this. It is not pleasant. It is not good. I’ve offered him alternate options for touch & times that it is less likely to bother me.
( Medium firm, not my face or neck, not when I’m in a half awake, half asleep state
touching my hair and hugs are okay.)
This morning I just let him do whatever. I stayed there and forced myself not to flinch, or throw his hand off of me. I did not go find some other task that I must urgently go do because I love him, I don’t want to hurt his emotions, I know he needs to touch me, and needs to be touched. I did not want to fight before my eyes were open, or I had my first cup of coffee. I did not want to fight at all.
It did not satisfy him. It just made him want to touch me more. With an even more light touch. It was very uncomfortable. I was angry that it was uncomfortable because I knew the fight that I did not want was on it’s way.
He usually needs X amount of touch, and after X is over with, I can go off and do other things, no hurt emotions, no imaginary insults, no rejections. It feels unpleasant, but I put up with it, because of the strife it causes when I do not. This time was not like that. He would not stop.
So I forced myself to endure some more. I really do not like fighting. I switched my focus and stared at the ceiling trying to analyse and commit to memory every cm of it’s bumpy texture in the dark. Somewhere floating in my mind there is an exact replica of the ceiling at that moment.
This took a while to achieve, but he still was not done. So I closed my eyes and listened to the neighborhood wake up. Cars starting, birds, an incessantly beeping truck, the television mumbling in the background, the neighbor’s yapping mutt, the plane roaring overhead. I told myself internally, “I can endure this, I’m froze like a block of ice, I’m a statue, I can do this for him, I can do this for us…[expletive]!”
I did not work.
I finally could not take the extreme discomfort from the touch any longer. It was too much.
I threw his hand off of me, shoved him across the bed, into the wall as hard as I could, and yelled as loud as I possibly can,
“DO NOT TOUCH ME LIGHTLY!! I HAVE TOLD YOU SO MANY [expletive] TIMES, DON’T [expletive] TOUCH ME LIKE THAT!! ”
His response was to scream at me at the top of his lungs,
“I DON’T [expletive] GET IT, WHY DON’T YOU ENJOY BEING WITH ME?!”
Which as usual, he was not the problem. He never was the problem. He will never be the problem. The problem was my entire body felt like a raw, chaffed, itchy, crawling, burning, misery of a hell. I do not enjoy light touch. Light touch is bad.
I have told him I enjoy being in his company more times than I can count.
I like spending time with him. It’s fun going places with him. I like laying in bed with him, even if we are doing nothing. I like reading with him, doing crosswords. During the day I walk all around the house busying myself with this or that in preparation for his arrival home. Our kids and I waited by the door to hear his truck so we could hug him as soon as the door opened until they hit first or second grade, when he asked us all nicely to please stop hugging him so much before he got two feet into the door. So we stopped.
He & I have had this exact same conversation so many times over sixteen years it is forever stuck on repeat in my mind. I have told him in every way that I possibly know how, that I am not attempting to insult / reject him, I’m attempting to avoid pain.
He’s of an higher than average intelligence. I don’t understand why I cannot effectively communicate my point of view in a way he can conceptualize what happens.
In the past I’ve used spoken, and written forms of communication ad nauseam in attempt after failed attempt to show him what it feels like.
So I drew him pictures. It worked for the kids, so why not me? Pictures of mutant overgrown Godzilla sized ants devouring corpses. Pictures of fire. I made them more graphic. I broke out the Photoshop. He still did not get it. No such luck. *Do not do this. It will make it much worse. This is bad.*
With my fear of new people & crowds took a while for me to explain it to him, but I refused to give up and once It finally got through to him, he changed his outlook on it.
I don’t get the Why Did You Get Fired This Time speech anymore. I don’t get the Why Do You Hate So And So question. The You Need To Go Outside More rant, it’s gone. I can at last be politely excused from having to endure the anxiety attack that traditional occupations, parties, huge family functions ( he’s one of eleven children, I’m one of six ) and other large events cause. I’m grateful for it too. Our wedding will have a limit of 12 people. I know them each and every one of them. It’s because he can understand me.
My overwhelming frustration at not being able to make him get it + rage at the situation of having made him upset, again, over something I don’t know how to fix + sensory issues + stress from wedding preparations + anxiety = Me shoving him, destroying our entire bedroom while screaming obscenities at the top of my voice & him deciding it just might be a good day to go to work early.