It’s 9 a.m. I have my tea, my weighted blanket and my morning’s readings. I am calm. Regulated. Even quite peaceful. Then it starts. I always hope it’s just a truck passing by, but I’m not so lucky today. One of my neighbors has started mowing their lawn. A noise that is detrimental to my well-being. Before the panic can ensue, causing my body to become completely unregulated, I get up quickly and turn on the loud oven fan to try to drown the noise out. I grab my noise-canceling headphones. I settle back in, relieved I acted before the noise got to me. But I can still hear it. I can feel it. So I put on some brainwave music through my noise-canceling headphones to try to calm my nerves. And breathe.
Loud sounds, especially those with a high pitch or a heavy vibration, cause me to feel out of my mind. Well, technically, out of my body. Putting all of my on-edge nerves over the edge. And the danger is that many of these sounds can send my body into an immediate fight-or-flight response.
While some of my more extreme fight-or-flight responses have lessened since working with my occupational therapist, sound is still difficult for me. Perhaps it’s the sensory processing disorder (SPD) and the inner-ear connection to my vestibular sense. Where my fear response lies. Perhaps it’s the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or, what I’ve recently learned, complex PTSD (CPTSD). Whatever the case, nothing is worse for my body than these sounds.
I work from home because the day-to-day interactions and environment of an office setting are too much for me, but being home, I find I have to dodge neighborhood sensory triggers throughout the day. And the nicer it is outside, the more triggers there seem to be.
If I attempt to go outside during the day, I have to wear earplugs and/or headphones. Many times, I simply have to stay inside for the noises are too overwhelming. Forget opening the windows; that lets too much outside noise in. And I can’t even go for a walk with my husband at night without hearing someone blowing debris off their driveway. Edging their grass. Vacuuming their car. Making me unable to speak or to comprehend what my husband is saying. Making my body begin to twitch. My fingers involuntarily cross. Signs I’m on the brink of an episode.
It makes me wonder: When did we allow all of this noise into our lives? Why are those of us with sensory needs not considered? Why are our needs so often overlooked? Unaccounted for. Ignored. There are millions of us who have sensory regulation needs that are crucial for our mental and physical health and well-being. So what can be done?
We need noise-friendly neighborhoods. Places with quiet times. Where high-pitch sounds are only allowed during certain times of the day, so we can plan around them. Where silent lawn equipment is required and table saws are banned. Where motorcycles, trucks and any car with a loud motor are not allowed to pass through our streets. Where we can go outside any time of the day and feel peaceful. Safe in our surroundings. Sensory-regulated and loving life. Oh, what a wonderful neighborhood that would be.