A Post from Sensory Overload

People moving around the flats above, below and to either side of me. Shrieking children playing outside. Someone next door hit a light switch. Dull thumping from the other side, they listen to a lot of music, I’d like to ban subwoofers. Road noise from the main road 3 streets away. I should be working. I opted to work from home today because I didn’t sleep well and I thought it’d be quieter here. Seriously contemplating buying ear defenders for days like this.

All the noises overlap. There’s no space between them to rest and prepare myself for the next bang, clank, giggle, howl or cough. The walls are paper thin, and the world is made for people who can filter out noise without even thinking about it. How am I supposed to fit the pieces together to solve programming problems with everyone making so much noise?

If it was like white noise, I could cope. If it was constant, consistent, I could filter it out. But every noise is different, they’re irregular, they don’t form any kind of pattern. Like filtering an e-mail inbox, you need a pattern so that you can exclude the spam. My head’s filled with the world’s auditory spam.

I’m irritable, because I can’t block the noises out. I can’t think, so I can’t work. I like working, I like solving puzzles, I like seeing the finished thing doing exactly what it was meant to do. Seeing it broken, doing the wrong things, and not being able to fit the pieces together to make it work because of all of the little noises is frustrating. I want to lash out, hit things, hit myself. I don’t, because hurting myself won’t make it any easier to deal with.

When I’m like this, there’s this spot on my back where if anything touches me and I’m not expecting it, I’ll twitch or groan our lash out. It’s just below and in from the shoulder blade. Exactly where someone’s face would be if they hugged me from behind. I want hugs, but I don’t want to be touched.

I read a thing about how the world disables people who are different. Where, if they were the majority instead of the minority, it wouldn’t be a disability. Noise sensitivity is like this. It’s not that I’m disabled. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s probably even an advantage. Not filtering out noises means that you’re the first to notice when something’s creeping up on you. In society, though, because very few people have such a sensitivity, life is geared towards being able to make all those little noises with no thought about who they might affect. It’s not just until the danger’s over, it’s constant, and some days it’s harder than others to block out noise.

Flats are built with such thin walls that I can hear the guy next door coughing, because most people can filter out that information and ignore it. Unless the neighbours are actively shouting, or the music is loud enough to shake tables or at an inappropriate time of night, nobody seems to notice it. I can hear everything, every step someone makes on the walkway outside, every bounce of the kid’s ball down in the car park. I can hear every dog whine from upstairs, every scrape of furniture being moved, every door slam, the click of a light pull, someone opening a window.

I should be working, but instead I’m concentrating as hard as I can on not having a complete meltdown of my ability to function. I’m writing it out so that I can quietly and safely express my frustration with the fact that the rest of the world seems to have no consideration for how their noise affects others.

I think I’m going to go shop for ear defenders.

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