Friday, February 11, 2011

A Sensory Sequel

It happened again. As with the story on October 6, I bit my tongue while eating Milk Duds. Usually the moral of stories is at the end, but let me just say one should never try and talk and eat Milk Duds at the same time.

Anyway, two nights ago I bit my tongue hard enough it made a hideous crunching sound. I will spare you the comparison I normally make, but I will say it did hurt, but not as much as I would have thought. What it did do was make my tongue swell and at all times there was a sensation of pressure as my tongue pushed up against my teeth.

What does all this mean? Yesterday I got up, got dressed, and on my way to the office I started to feel itchy. I quickly noted I felt each minute square inch of my clothing. Typically I am able to tune out the sensation of fabric on my skin, excluding jeans (I rarely wear jeans), but yesterday I was feeling it and it was awful.

I wrote my blog post yesterday morning while scratching away, but I didn't piece together what was going on. Later that day Matt and I had a lunch and learn at a doctor's office and while on the way there I made the connection that this horrible feeling I was enduring was akin to the October 2nd blog post.

We made it to the office and my ability to tolerate the sensation throughout my body was starting to weaken. It started out as a minor annoyance but it was quickly turning into a major event. With each step I took I could feel the fabric up against my skin. I checked my arms expecting to see hives like I have never experienced, but none were there.

What did this feel like? I can make two comparisons that probably won't give the total experience justice. The first is that of having a multitude of flies walking about on the surface of your skin. The second example I can think of is the feeling after a haircut and too much hair has gotten onto your clothing. This does feel like hair on clothing, but magnified 10,000 times.

The lunch went great and I think this one doctor learned more than he was expecting to about the autism spectrum, and I was able to tie in the sensory aspect that I was dealing with at the time, but when it was over and we got back to the office I was mentally drained from the constant onslaught of my own bodies reaction to the clothing I was wearing.

Was I wearing anything abnormal? No, in fact I was wearing one of my favorite shirts and have never had this reaction before. Also, the pants I were wearing I have three pair of and have never had any issues. So that brings up the question, what happened?

The only conclusion I can draw is that the constant feeling of my tongue does something that limits my ability to take in other stimuli. In October it was sound, but yesterday it was the sense of touch that was affected. Am I right? I don't know for certain, but it was the only thing I know of that was on the onset of each event.

I have never experienced anything like this but am glad that I have because I am now able to write about and will be able to talk about it. I have had sensory issues with sound, but only limited experiences with touch. I could write for an hour on this topic and find other ways to describe it, but unless you have experienced it my words would be futile to give you the concept of what it is like to itch everywhere and to be powerless to stop it.

I can't wait for this feeling to go away. I normally can take a lot of input in my system, but perhaps the swollen tongue creates a metaphorical flood that breaks the levee that allows too much input to come flooding in. I will say I am thankful I have the control to not let this sensation get the best of me; it is painful and very aggravating, but I am able to control my emotions regarding this. Some others may not be able to control the anger from this and let me say that if those individuals feel this, but lets say it is even more amplified in them than it is in me. If this were the case I am sure I have only a glimpse of what that would be like.

These sensations are not a choice. I have tried all day to find the "off" switch. I was unable to find it but keeping my mind active helped minimize the agony. I don't really know how to end this post except to say I hope I have given you a look at what a person on the spectrum may experience. I do know one thing; eating Milk Duds is something I will do with caution in the future.


  1. I feel cloth on my skin like what you describe all the time, I liken it to ants crawling on me. It turns in to agonizing pain (being jabbed by hot needles) when I am over-stressed. For me, it's just an increase in any kind of stress, not just pain.

    Perhaps pain is simply more stressful a sensation to you than other sensations, and so it causes enough stress to overwhelm your senses? Or perhaps pain is unfamiliar enough that unlike other stresses, you respond more to it?

  2. I like slinky-feeling fabric better. Regular fabric is sometimes too stiff and restricts movement. I hope your tongue remains intact.

  3. My daughter spent her first 4 years naked. Now she wears a sweater over her school shirt on boiling summer days. Every summer I say, "Aren't you HOT?" and she always says no. But it wasn't until this year (like 10 years of this) she says it's because her shirt sticks to the sweater...and if she doesn't wear it the shirt touches her skin. Ohhhhhh. I get it now...she just never mentioned that part before.