Thursday, February 21, 2013

Trouble At Home

My original intentions were to blog about my experience curling last Saturday. After the events of yesterday though it seems like that happened a lifetime ago.

If you've followed my blog for this month you will remember that back on my birthday I bought a place of my own. When I looked at the place it was a quiet, tranquil place. It is a townhouse but the walls seemed thick and not a noise could be heard. Before I went to Canada I spent four nights here and loved the tranquility of being in my quiet haven from the world. Then yesterday happened.

It started at 5AM. I was awoken to the noise of humming or singing. It was the oddest thing I had ever heard. To make matters worse, with jet lag, which I might mention always seems to affect me more than others, I had 3 hours of sleep so I tried to go back to no avail. What was this noise?

The noise continued on, and on, and finally I knew what it was; it wasn't singing at all but rather the voice of a local newsman who has an extremely deep voice. I then could distinguish the ads, and when they went to reporters, and in it all it was just this constant barrage of low levels sounds as that's all I could here.

I was not happy. Was I being over-sensitive? Are my senses just in too good of tune right now. I mean, the past two days were about sensory issues so is that what it is? And besides that, I really hoped that I left those issues in Vancouver.

Going back to sleep was impossible but I tried and tried and eventually I came to my basement to work on my blog and once again there was this low level noise. Now there was a television on to my right in my basement. What happened to these thick walls I thought I had? My blood began to boil as this constant noise was wearing on my sensory limits rather quickly.

After a while I heard a phone ring and then I heard the a lady's voice. I got learned all about her friend who needs an MRI and so on and so forth. I tried with all my might but I couldn't tune anything out. What this also means is that if I can hear her she can hear me and despite what my presentations and blog show I am the most private person on Earth. I don't want anything I say heard. Not that I'm saying anything odd or bad; just chatting with my friends on Xbox, but I simply don't want anything I said to be heard.

Noise is all around; there's no denying that. I've already thought of a question you might ask, "if this noise you mention here is bad how do you survive something like an airplane trip?" The answer to this is that, on an airplane, the noise is constant. The pitch of the engines may change, but there's a predictability to it and it can be heard rather well. The noise I've explained so far is very low in frequency and also in volume. It is unintelligible noise, but due to the frequency it is felt.

Then last night, as the noise to my right disappeared and I thought I had finally reclaimed a portion of this haven I thought my home was a loud "BOOM" came to my left. Now the person on my left had something on and it was loud with deep percussion noises. I do not do percussion noises well. Instantly, I was in a near panic at these noises.

What does all this feel like? This is a multi-layered answer. The first is that the only way I can describe it is that it creates this sensation of sheer panic that races through each limb and branches out into the fingers and toes It truly is a full body experience. Also, rationally, in my brain, I know there is no danger but the nerves throughout my body disagree. It's as if there's a battle going on within my body and I can't simply end it. This sensation of panic rises and rises and at the same time there is a high level of self-loathing. I kept, and keep, asking myself, "Why can't I just not feel this way? Why?"

It's in moments like this that I feel the most isolated. I have no right to complain to these people because, chances are, their volume probably isn't that high. The sound of the IndyCar on iRacing is probably louder than whatever they were watching. Yet my reactions are the same regardless and I wish, oh how I wish I could give this feeling justice; to know that 99.9% of people can go through what I heard and have no issues and yet for me to have it create a sensory nightmare.

The #1 feeling I feel is shame. The majority of my brain right now is telling me I should be able to tough it out and get over it and there's this little tiny voice in a dimly lit corner that is trying to remind myself that, "Um, Aaron, yeah... you know... there's this thing called Asperger Syndrome and, well, you have it... Remember?"

The majority of my brain responds, "What does that matter? I can public speak to thousands at a time, flag races flawlessly, write without effort, and manage traveling as if it's nothing. Why would some little noise create an issue?"

At this moment I think I feel about as down as I've ever felt. I don't think I'm allowed to move for five years and a home isn't like a product from an electronics store in that, there's no 30 day return policy. I feel as if I'm trapped. I see no way out. What I thought was going to be an amazing experience has turned out to be the start of a nightmare.


  1. Oh Aaron, I'm so sorry. All I can say is give it some time. ALL of us are too sensitive to new noises in new places.

    See how you feel in a month or two.

    We are all rooting for you, and want to revisit this topic soon, hoping for better results.

    And THANK YOU for some insight as to what is going on inside my molly's head and body. I so appreciate your blog and your unraveling of this mystery for me.

    e & molly kate

  2. I wonder if noise dampening foam put up against walls might help? A few years ago I built a house in the country quite a distance from any neighbor thinking it would be all blissful serenity. A neighbor's property stretched behind my yard. What I didn't realize is that this neighbor was a farmer who owned a big tractor, and big tractors are very loud. The field had been fallow the year I paid off the land. I never considered that they might plant it. The morning I heard the tractor, I ran outside and looked up at the sky, thinking a jet plane was about to crash. That's how loud it was. I wound up divorcing my husband and selling the house, though I can't really blame that on the tractor. No matter where you are, there's bound to be some disenchantment sooner or later, but there are things you can usually do to remedy the situation. Stay positive and look at what can be done. Good luck.

  3. Ear plugs help me a whole bunch.

  4. Anytime moving from a "single" dwelling home to a condo with surrounding individuals on either side or above you - it takes a while to adjust. And, you could have "sensitive" hearing. I had a neighbor one time who knew I had just finished dinner by my garbage disposal running. She called and said - I know you just finished your dinner... talk about jolting. I have lived in apartments most of my adult life and now I have been in my condo since 1994. You have to be more aware when to run the washer/dryer, when to run your dishwasher, etc. One time in an apartment I had young kids who lived above me decide to bounce their basketball on the floor above my bedroom at 11pm. I, have to admit, I was not "adult" about it and at 5am the next morning proceeded to slam every door I have including kitchen cabinet doors. I did not hear the basket ball again. I like the suggestion of noise dampening foam and ear plugs until you get more use to your new surroundings. At some point you will meet your neighbors and can even ask how "her friends MRI" went - she may not have any idea you heard that conversation. Hang in there! Auntie M

  5. Don't feel shame! You haven't done anything wrong. Because of your Asperger's, you're ultra sensitive, that's all. I think the previous suggestion of asking your neighbour how her friend's MRI scan went is an excellent idea! It's about making people aware about you without making a big thing about it and not making you feel uncomfortable.

    My 12 year old son has Asperger's and I refuse to justify his behaviour and little ways to anyone. He is who he is, and I wouldn't change him for the world.

    Knowing someone like you (and my son) broadens one's horizons and makes us better people. Be proud of all you have achieved and be aware of all you will achieve in the future. Well done :-)

  6. Aaron I am so sorry it isn't what you hoped it would be. I feel this way in apartments or condo's too, the noise can really be bothersome. Give yourself time and maybe get a white(some call it gray) noise machine.I can't sleep in hotels because the noise bother's me so I turn on the bathroom fan when I travel. I like the idea someone posted about using baffling material on the walls, that would help. If all else fails you can sell it or rent it out.
    I am so sorry.

  7. White noise machine.