I had to go to the grocery store today, to pick up some things for dinner tonight along with my meds. By the time I got back home, I was shaking and in sensory overload. I spent about an hour curled up in my dark room, part of that sleeping, and when I got up, I felt better.
Talking to Mom later, while dinner was cooking, she mentioned what I have since found out is referred to as “medical students syndrome” – a problem encountered by medical students when they are studying certain diseases, they start to associate any problems they might have with that disease, and worry that they have it – because I didn’t used to have this extent of problems going to the grocery store. (Note that it doesn’t affect just medical students, but they’re the most-affected group.) It’s apparently a type of hypochondria. My father is also worried about me demonstrating this. (Quite honestly, I’m sick and tired of being accused of that. As a child, I had psychosomatic complaints, not hypochondria.) I think I need to write this out, and I’d like other opinions.
(Okay, experiencing crying jag here – a red flag, as my previous psychologist put it, that we’ve walked into a sensitive issue. Which being thought a hypochondriac is.)
The thing is, it could also be what I wrote about in my Coping Mechanisms post. It could be a lowered sensory threshold, whether because of the stress of the last several months, or some lingering issue caused by my incompatibility with Effexor. Or it could be that I am becoming more sensitive as I age.
There were lots of people there, the lights were bright (thank goodness for my sunglasses), and it was noisy. I despise the sound of empty grocery carts, and full ones are only slightly quieter. I went to get the bread and crumpets first, and had a hard time finding the crumpets (because the employee I finally asked was standing in front of them, so I couldn’t see them). Went up and down the (short) bread aisle about three times, checking to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, before I asked.
Then came my meds – easy. Also managed to pick up Robaxacet for my tense muscles – here’s hoping it will help.
Then the cheese, butter and yoghurt. Most of that was easy, but I had a really hard time finding the ricotta cheese. I was chewing on my right index finger (one of my stims that I used when I was a young child, and did by instinct today) by the second time I went past the cottage cheese and dips looking for it. Finally I called Mom to ask where it was, and after a momentary misunderstanding (she thought I was looking for the cottage cheese at first), she told me it was around the deli counter. (Back the other side of the pharmacy.) So went there, and found it.
The rest of the getting of the groceries was fairly easy, no other problems with that.
Standing in line, however…. Not because I was standing in line. That I didn’t mind too much – I wasn’t in any particular hurry, so no need to be impatient. Because there were people everywhere, and talking, and the occasional alarm going off (someone walking through the things without having had a purchase alarm-thing properly deactivated), and I hated that.
The cashier was chatty, but quiet-voiced, and didn’t expect too much in the way of replies, which was okay.
Got home and mentioned to Mom to please remind me to take my earplugs and something to stim with other than my finger with me next time I went to the grocery store, and that I was going down to rest for an hour before making dinner. (Which unfortunately meant that dinner was a bit late, but it gave time for our cheesecake slices to finish defrosting, and both Mom and Dad approved of this variation of my vegetarian lasagne. (No eggplant, no zucchini, just cheese and veggies I like.)) (I make dinner on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday nights.)
When I got back up, went up to the kitchen and made dinner. Put it in the toaster oven for an hour, finished cleaning up, and went into the living room to play on my computer and sit with Mom.
Can’t remember which of us brought up the grocery store, but she pointed out I haven’t been this sensitive before. (Note that I have forgone mentioning – or I have mentioned, but she doesn’t remember – that I hate the sounds of the grocery store for the last several months, at least, and I’ve despised the grocery cart sounds as far back as I can remember. Also, I was very familiar with the grocery store I used to go to back in Toronto, since it was the one I’d been going to since Mom started taking me with her when she went grocery shopping. And that I’ve made a point – whether Mom realises it or not – of trying to avoid going shopping. Sorry, Mom, but I am having trouble.) That’s when she brought up the concern about Medical Students Syndrome, worrying that reading about others’ sensitivities was making me think that my sensitivities are as bad as those of certain other people.
Okay, that is a possibility. It’s not a possibility I’m happy with, especially since it echoes incorrect beliefs from my childhood, but I can’t eliminate it right off the bat. There are other possibilities and factors, though….
- I’m more consciously aware of my sensitivities due to my growing awareness of SPD and the part it plays in ASD.
- I have done what I surmised in my Coping Mechanisms post, and torn down the coping mechanisms that weren’t working or were unhealthy, and as a result, the above point applies.
- The stress of the last several months (the medication mess-up and the results of that, the job and the environments that put me in, and the unclear expectations that I’m still not sure how to ask about) has lowered my sensory threshold, so things that normally would not bother me are. (My planned 5-day “weekend” was not as relaxing and low-sensory input as I was hoping it would be; in fact, I ended up with a tension headache, possibly sensory induced, for the Monday night all through Tuesday.)
- The stress of the last several weeks (insomnia, necessary but unpleasant talks with Dad and Mom, etc.) has lowered my sensory threshold, etc. etc.
- Winter makes me more sensitive to some things (one of my friends finds that their eyes are only really sensitive to the light in winter).
- I’m growing more sensitive (in hearing and vision) as I age.
Possible other factors include:
- My lack of strong familiarity with the store in question (I’ve been there over the last two years, but not to the extent I was at the grocery store in Toronto).
- The insomnia this week, which didn’t include Wednesday night, but did include last night – only slept for about two hours.
- The muscle tensions that have settled between my shoulder blades because of the chair I was first attempting to use with my desk two weeks ago (I’m hoping the Robaxacet will help with that). They’re worse than usual.
Anyway, I’d like some help from my fellow adult ASDers out there. What have you found as you explored and expanded your knowledge of ASD? Have you also been accused of hypochondria, but it wasn’t what was actually going on? (Sorry, Mom, Dad, but “accused” is what it feels like.) Have you experienced something that you’ve done semi-often (which was unpleasant, but that you could deal with) suddenly becoming a sensory nightmare? I really need some help here, because I need to know what’s really going on with me, and anything you guys come up with could help narrow things down.