I fake it well. I fake it well enough that it’s probably subclinical and I didn’t see the need to add it to the list of Things That Make My Brain Special. Still. I never knew anyone else who was that bothered by the wrong noise.
“Wrong” can mean that musician is out of tune or just not skilled. “Wrong” can mean too much, overwhelming, make it stop NOW. “Wrong” is I’d rather have my earbuds in and something I like playing than endure this crap for another second. My ears are sensitive. It makes me good at tuning (A… your other A), but working in a crowded environment is a dodgy proposition.
You might think it’s weird to be able to function as a telemarketer while listening to music — a) I turn the music off when I take a call and b) your weird is my survival. Sounds can get so jumbled. I had my ears tested; acuity is not a problem. Sorting is. If you jump in on top of existing input, I may not be able to understand you. I often have to lean in to hear exactly what’s been said. It means you can’t shout at me from several rooms over or one floor down unless the house is relatively quiet. It means that even on a good day, you’re going to have to keep the TV to a dull roar, and if you’re leaving the room to do something else, I’m going to ask if I can turn the dull roar off. If the machines around me are making the wrong noises, I’ll smack at them and snarl.
But if I need to withdraw, I’ll pull music around me like a cloak. I’ll ride the soundwave. I have been known to completely bliss out on the right playlist. And if the balance is right, my functioning goes through the roof. It’s better for me than caffeine and doesn’t linger in my system. I pull documentation/facilitate communication/brain hurricane. Words burst out of me and my mother wonders how I learned to type so fast. Because I have to, Mama. Because I can’t not.
It spills into other aspects of my life:
— I hold the suction in my mouth because the worst part of dentistry is how it tastes. I’ve learned how to handle needles in my gum and after that I feel nothing —
— I can make pain into just an unusual sensation. What is pain? Why does this feeling read as pain and that one not? But if it’s a sudden sharp shock I’ll howl —
— No, it’s okay, I like the weight of the lead apron there, it’s just enough and not too warm or too cold —
— I can’t watch the trains go by, please, please make them go away; I need to run away, I need to put a building between me and the tracks —
— I found a new toothpaste, Doc; it tastes like food, not chemistry. —
— Did I ever tell you that I taste in color? Yes, here, these gnocchi are a little too green, but the sauce is a gorgeous maroon —
— Oh, yes, keep scritching, it’s better than sex and I can get the high without breaking my own heart —
— These pants are butter-soft and so thin, but the wrong green for anything; this shot cotton, green/red = russet brown, is still soft and doesn’t clash with the lavender, and both will play well with gold satin —
— Even in this cubicle, the light is too much; can’t they turn off those hideous fluorescent things? I would love a little lava lamp in shades of ROY —
— I love what you do for my screen, f.lux, even if it’s sometimes not enough —
— I’m submitting this paper with a tan background because the white one makes my eyes hurt —
— There are too many people in this building —
— There are too many people in this crowd —
— I can’t hear myself think anymore —
— Things are going boom like the shore is being shelled —
— make it stop —
— turn it up —
— turn me off!
And that is how I sense. So maybe it would be worth my while to get a doctor to be willing to say yes, I need the earbuds in order to concentrate, and if you can find me a corner where the overhead lights don’t penetrate, I’ll light my own workspace. You don’t have to pay for a special lamp. I can bring one from home. I’ll download this screen dimmer (I promise it’s not malware) or slip a shade behind my glasses like I’ve just been to the eye doctor. If I’m shivering I might reach for a blanket. Is that okay? Because if it’s not, you’re going to miss out on so much that I can give.