It just happened. We were looking at pictures of the Nebraska State Fair in anticipation of visiting soon when Grant screeched with glee, right in my ear. I don’t know how to describe how disturbing it is for me when loud, sharp noises upset my internal equilibrium. I went from being at complete peace to feeling inner turmoil in an instant. An INSTANT.
This, my friends, is not a an emotional problem. It is not a relational problem. I am not screwed up and neither is my son. It is not a spiritual problem, though I believe everything is spiritual in one way or another. No, this mood-altering screech was a direct hit to my nervous system. It is physical. I am extremely sensitive to sound.
I don’t think I really noticed it before I had kids. Perhaps something happened in childbirth that impacted my nerves in ways that left me more sensitive to sensory stimulation than I was before. (Check out my series on Childbirth and Postpartum Depression by clicking here) I’ve done a lot of personal research on the matter and I absolutely believe that sensory sensitivity is a thing. A real thing. The sounds of chaotic play, startling “bangs” and screeching children can throw me into instantaneous sobs. INSTANTLY.
I avoid our local Wal-Mart* as much as I can unless I feel lazy or desperate. I’ve heard of many reasons why different people avoid it but I have one: It makes me crazy.
I am well aquainted with my tendency to become irritable as I shop there but the other day I courageously stepped into the door with both kids and a short mission. I wondered how long I had before I would start to feel overwhelmed. It took all of five minutes. Aware of how bright lights also bother me, I took note of the fact I was squinting as I pushed the cart down the asile of dishes I ducked into a moment before. So I put on my sunglasses.
Instant relief. INSTANT.
The muscles around my eyes relaxed and nothing felt as urgent. I wore the glasses for a few minutes before I felt really awkward and tucked them back in my purse while I rushed through collecting our remaining necessities. As we checked out I looked around and saw narry a smile. I wondered how many of the employees who work there day after day are also sensitive to the harsh light bouncing off of the blue walls, white fixtures and shiny floors? How many people leave this store believing they hate it, not really knowing why?
How Do I Know & What Do I Do?
Friends, many of us are sensitive to sensory stimulation and just think we’re irritable people. Many of your children are and don’t know how to tell you. So let ME tell you.
If you prefer to work with the lights dimmed…
If you think more clearly when music with a strong beat is playing…
If you cut out the tags in your clothes or find comfort in twirling your hair…
You may be sensitive.
If your infant relaxes when listening to loud heart-beat sounds (as described in this article: click here)…
If your daughter likes to wear tight clothing that presses securely on her skin…
If your son refuses to eat foods with strange textures…
Your child may be sensitive.
There is much more to say on this matter, including the power of sensitivity. I will likely be writing about it for years to come. But for now, know this. If you or your child is sensitive to sight, sound, taste, touch or smell, do three things:
- Be Aware. Watch for it. Take note of moments when you feel or your child feels irritable or overwhelmed and consider how your environment may be making you uncomfortable. Plan ahead for next time.
- Increase Your Buffer. Intentionally stay in your super-comfort zone at times so that other times you can take courageous steps into an overstimulating environment.
- Rest. And above all, get sleep! Sleep makes a world of difference.
Are you sensitive? Do you think of yourself as an irritable person at times, perhaps especially after having kids? What steps do you want to take to help yourself or your child?
Maybe we could all just wear sunglasses in Walmart so no one feels awkward!
*I do not intend to ever bash anyone or anything and that is not the purpose of this article. If you know someone who has a voice with Wal-Mart, please forward them this post so they are aware of this issue that negatively effects their company, completely unrelated to their business practices. Thank you.
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