“Let there be light!” (Or, in literal translation, the order, “Make light!”)
So, yes, this post is about sensory stuff. Specifically, visual sensory stuff, and living with people who aren’t as sensitive to light as I am.
Everyone needs light. We’re a diurnal species, meaning that we’re active in the daylight. There are very good reasons for that, involving the anatomical makeup of our eyes – namely, we (as a species) aren’t very good at seeing in the dark, and vision is our species’ primary sense.
More than that, we need a certain amount of sunlight to stay healthy. It helps our bodies produce Vitamin D, which helps with the absorption of calcium, and assists in preventing depression (or helping to mitigate it), to name just two benefits of sunlight.
Dad was putting away the dessert dishes in the dishwasher this evening when I mentioned that I felt like a vampire in one of those old campy movies. He gave me a confused look, and I put my arm over my eyes and cried in a drastic-toned voice, “Ah! The sunlight!”
We had sunlight coming in the kitchen and dining room windows, from the back. It’s been a rather sunny day here in St. John’s. Unfortunately, that means that I’ve had to have my sunglasses on whenever I went outside, and quite frankly, I wish I’d had them on during dinner. It might have helped stave off some of the minor headache that was produced.
However, for me, it’s not just sunlight that’s a problem. It’s artificial lights as well.
And at the same time, my parents need light to see what they’re doing.
Giving an example (sort of the main example, actually): In the kitchen, we’ve got two main lights – a set of three bulbs over the sink, at one side of the kitchen, and a set of three bulbs over the other side of the kitchen. There’s maybe 2 metres or so (at most?) between the two tracks. There’s also the light over the stove, and the lights under the two corner cupboards (over the counter) that the sink is between, the latter two of which are bright.
Generally, if I have any lights on in the kitchen, even at night, it’s the lights over the sink. They’re the ones that you turn on with the switch at the top of the stairs going down to the basement and my room, and they don’t shine directly in my eyes when I move towards the stairs.
Usually, if Dad’s there under any low-light conditions (which can include cloudy days), he has both main lights on and, if he’s working at the counter, the corner lights on whichever side of the counter he’s working on.
I find that horrendously bright and somewhat overwhelming, sensory-speaking, though I’m not always conscious of that fact. Dad, on the other hand (and Mom), actually needs that light to see the details of what he’s doing.
It’s something that, as I said above, I haven’t always been conscious of. But it’s there, and it affects me whether I’m conscious of it or not. The house is set up (understandably enough, as it’s theirs!) to be comfortable for Mom and Dad, and that includes light levels – plus the number of lights that get turned on by each switch. Which means that – despite the fact that it isn’t meant – every day, I tend to be hit by enough sensory information to induce overloads on bad days, just from the amount of light in the house.
Aside from wearing my sunglasses all the time, there’s not much I can do about it. But it’s something to consider, and to pass on to other people, I feel. Something to bring attention to. It takes spoons to deal with that kind of sensory influx, and quite often, these are spoons that the allistic people in our lives don’t realize we’re spending.
Yes, I can cope. But on bad days, days when I’m spending a fair amount of energy anyways, it drains me.
Something to think about.
It’s one of the benefits of having my own house. I have installed indirect lighting everywhere. Somehow that’s a lot more soothing for me than direct lighting, like a ceiling lamp, regardless of actual brightness.