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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Things That Go Bump, Creak, and Other Noises in The Night

Another day in my place and the experience isn't getting any better. I'm torn on continually writing about it, but it has pushed me to my limit and I don't know of any other event that has gave me such a severe feeling for so long.

I do have to say that after bowling last night it was peaceful. These moments when I feel as if I'm alone are priceless. Then the middle of the night came.

One of the things I have always been is hyper-vigilant. If there is any noise that is unexpected, or any noise that could be taken as a threat or indicates an immediate change I take notice. This is something I've always been and I wish there was an off switch for it. It is rather tiring constantly being overly in-tune to my environment. Perhaps though this is the body's way to compensate for the lack of social awareness. Does this make sense? Because I am often blind to social situations my body over-compensates my trying to predict when things are going to go awry. And not only am I hyper-vigilant but add in the overly active imagination and it's a recipe for shot nerves.

Imagination? I've heard some speakers and writers state that people on the autism spectrum, "have no imagination" and that can be true, in a way, as for me I can't imagine things that aren't. However, my brain is more than willing to fill in the blanks of life. Fill in the blanks? I'll answer this question with the events of this morning.

It was about 4AM and I heard a bump, then several creaks in a row. I froze because while I didn't know what the noise was, exactly, my imagination, or maybe intuition is the better word, but I knew beyond any doubt that someone was coming up my stairs. My life, as I knew it, was about to change. Or worse.

I tried to hold my breath to no avail. I was shaking and I wondered if I should try and hide in my closet, or under the bed. Then I played out those scenarios and in both cases I would make too much noise. Time was absolutely frozen for me as I tried to make myself as small as possible on my bed awaiting the intruder to come around the door frame.

The next thought I had was wondering if I was in the midst of a dream. Often times my dreams are so real that it can be difficult to distinguish the two. No dream could mimic this mortal panic though as I awaited whatever was about to be.

There were a couple more creaks then silence. I thought surely the person was right on the other side of the door waiting for just the right moment to pounce. The silence continued, then a noise that I recognized but didn't process filled the void of the silence. It was the low level bass noise of a television in the adjoining townhouse.

I laid there confused for a moment awaiting the intruder not realizing yet what I had originally heard. When my hyper-vigilance is kicked in the processing of events is extremely delayed. Perhaps this too is a way my body compensates as well, but about 30 seconds later I finally exhaled and realized that a person didn't come up my stairs but it was the person in the other home going up the stairs.

 I didn't sleep much after the creaking event as the after effects of such panic isn't conducive to a peaceful sleep. That, and I could hear the television's low level bass noises. And from all that my level of anger towards myself rose and rose. For some reason I just can't accept that this is something my body can't handle. I've had people tell me that, "your situation would annoy anyone." Okay, yes, this may be true, but at the same time there is, in my mind, a clear difference between a minor annoyance and having the severe reactions I am having. This is leading me to become rather angry with myself.

The main thing I want you to take from this post though is the effects of the possible hyper-vigilance that goes along with the autism spectrum. When my senses sense any bit of danger all the alarms go off at once. There is no going from DEFCON 5 to 4 to 3 but my body prepares for the absolute worse instantly. This is made worse by the fact that, often times, things that cause an alarm can't be seen. I then have to fill the blank. This is why storms used to be so bad for me and I said the anticipation of the storm was worse than the storm itself. That is also why the movie Signs was, for me, the scariest movie-going experience I've ever had. If anything I hope the experience I am currently enduring leads me to more of these blog posts. Don't get me wrong, I hope the noise goes silent tonight, but should the bass, creaks, and noises not yet heard continue to be there I hope I can translate the way my body takes the noise and explain the reasons as to why my reactions were the way they are.


  1. I can relate to this situation. One thing I do is make mental decision trees that help me stay calm and execute a plan of action in such situations. The more information you gather, the more you can add to the decision tree. For example, the first box here would be "I hear footsteps on stairs". First branches would now be "Are they my stairs" and "Are they neighbor's stairs?" At the end of the neighbor's stairs branch would be "Ignore them". "My stairs" would lead to more branches. "Do they knock?" "Do they just stand there?" "Do they try to break down the door?" Break down the door would lead to "Call police." Knocking would lead to you asking who is it. Just standing there might be you inquiring through the door if they are lost. Granted, it can be difficult in the moment to make such a decision tree, but once you've experienced something that may occur again, you can do it to get better control of the situation in the future. You can even write it out and show it to a counselor to help determine if your expectations and actions are reasonable. Another thing that has been useful to me is to determine the chances of boxes I'm extremely worried about. Possibilities may be infinite but what are the odds of someone standing outside your door with a bomb? Some boxes we don't need to worry about if the chances are slim. The more decision trees I've made, the better prepared I feel. Some can be generalized to multiple situations. The practice of thinking things through when I'm not under immediate pressure to cope with a situation helps me come up with solutions in a calm and efficient manner.

  2. I have a recommendation for you- Befriend an occupational therapist at TouchPoint. Maybe he/she will be kind enough to administer the adolescent/adult sensory profile on you. If not, at least you should go meet her and get the assessment done. Then you will probably more in depth on why you are the way you sensory wise.