Although I’m feeling much better than I was this time last week, I’m still quite emotionally fragile – and may stay that way for a while.
So I thought it might be a good time to reflect on the importance of touch for me.
When I am struggling – and particularly when I am having a meltdown or shutdown – having some kind of external physical sensation is vital.
The reasons and what I need differ depending on whether the problem is mainly anxiety-driven or sensory-driven, but my theory is that it’s mainly to do with my processing issues in both cases.
With sensory overload, I can start to feel unpleasant physical sensations that don’t seem to have any real reason – my brain appears to manufacture the sensation. So replacing these ‘fake’ sensations with a real sensation is helpful as it gives my brain something to actively process, but without the overwhelming effort that processing sound and visual inputs can sometimes take.
With anxiety-driven reactions, as with sensory overload, I can stop being able to process things I hear and see. The difference here is that my brain spirals out of control (which I tend to refer to as being like a kaleidoscope that I need to focus). It’s extremely frightening so I need both reassurance and help focusing. And if I can’t process sound / vision, touch is one of the few things left that can get through to me. Any type of physical sensation can help me focus, but it’s the human touch that provides the reassurance; helping me to feel safe again so I can start to think again.
And actually, despite the title of this post, the physical interventions that I need to help with my autistic reactions isn’t a hug at all (I don’t really like hugging people unless I’m extremely comfortable with them). It’s firm pressure on my lower arm or someone rubbing my back, depending on what’s driving the reaction.
But, as I wrote at the start, I’m feeling emotionally fragile at the moment. Sad and lonely. So, yes, I need a hug (not going to get one, but still…). Nothing to do with being autistic. Everything to do with being human.