Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunglasses help with eyestrain

I've started attending services among a Unitarian Universalist community that meets at a local senior center. At the first two services I attended, I noticed that a couple of things seemed to be going on simultaneously: a) my eyes hurt or felt tired and b) the room is very bright. Not only was direct sunlight coming through the front windows but the interior lighting was on full-force overhead.

I know that light that would ordinarily not bother me can potentially cause me trouble when I am physically fatigued or when I am under emotional strain but this service was in the mid-morning and I'd had plenty of sleep and was feeling pretty good about life.

I've had problems for years with my eyes constantly feeling fatigued. I frequently rub my eyes and I've seen videos of me where I'm doing these weird long blinks. So when I learned about AS and about the sensory issues that can go with it, I started trying to pay attention to certain things -- potential causes and effects.

Last week during services, I put my sunglasses back on and this morning I left them on entirely. My eyes felt a lot better with the sunglasses on. So I plan to reserve as an option my wearing sunglasses indoors when light is too much for me.

People who accept me will accept this about me as well, and I continually remind myself that there ARE people in my life who accept me as I am -- that I am no longer back in grade school.

Some other sensory issues that I deal with include a fear response to a very specific sound. It is really very strange how strong my reaction can be and how pervasive these reactions.

My husband has suggested that I try to figure out the "why" and here are my observations so far. There may be a correlation between the presence of my fear response and unexpectedness of the sound. This will bear further observation.

My fear response also seems to be worse when the sound is louder and more intense. Somehow I just can't get "used" to this sound.

Like many with AS, I tend toward vigilant focus on nearly all out-of-the-ordinary sounds but the fear response I have to the one specific sound is a very different experience. I recently read an insightful book by Temple Grandin in which she said that the fear response (fight or flight) and the vigilant response with which an animal evaluates its surroundings come from two different areas of the brain. It was very interesting reading.

Taste/food texture is also an issue with me, one that my husband and I have been working on together for years and I think that I am so much better than when I was a child. There were certain foods that caused me to gag the moment I put them in my mouth and now, at least, I can manage a few bites before I have to set the food aside because the taste is unpleasant to me.

My husband recommends meditation, which I try to do a little each day -- even if it's just focused breathing wherever I happen to be. We have a room in our house that is devoted to spiritual practice but I don't necessarily use it every time. Maybe I should because then it would be part of an established daily routine. Besides, I love our meditation room but I also love the rest of the house.

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