Sensory boundaries?

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Raffles
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Sensory boundaries?

Unread post by Raffles »

I have come to realize that I have more sensory issues than the average person. I am not sure if the demands I'm making are extreme, and I don't want to get mad about something I shouldn't be mad about.

There are two main boundary issues in my family.

First is that I have misophonia. I know that's not a real diagnosis or anything, but it really explains my hatred of certain sounds. My dad makes this sound a lot, and my aunt does when she's around. I can't focus on anything except for how angry I feel when this sound is going on. I used to communicate this, but my accommodation suggestions were denied. If I could magically get over it I would, but nothing seems to help. I don't know how to communicate these problems to people without making them defensive, and I don't even know if I should. I don't know how to make it better, because no one is more upset about this than I am. It's the sort of thing that's really negatively impacted my relationship with my family and makes me wary of doing anything where it might come up with friends.

The second is that I really don't like having my back touched. It's not any sort of trigger or from any trauma. It's just that I don't like the way it feels. I especially don't like pointed touch, so when someone pokes me with a finger on my spine. It makes me feel really uncomfortable. The first time I told my parents, they got upset because they thought I was pushing them away. The truth is that I don't want anyone touching my back, and I don't see the need for a family exception. Today, my mom poked my back and when I reminded her that I don't like it, she said, "I know, I just couldn't resist." At first I felt hurt, but now it's made me think. Does having boundaries make me a bigger target? Or is this too weird/difficult of a request to make?

The tldr here is that I have some (in my opinion, basic) boundaries: don't touch my back and don't lip smack/open-mouth chew. I've tried to communicate these to people, but it doesn't work. On one hand, not having my boundaries respected makes me feel angry and worthless. On the other hand, I want to be considerate of other people and adjust my expectations if they're too much. I'm beginning to think that I'm the problem, but I don't know how to fix me.
Michaela
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Re: Sensory boundaries?

Unread post by Michaela »

Hi Raffles,

This sounds pretty distressing and understandably so. Not having our boundaries respected when we make them really clear to others is a pretty awful thing to experience. You are fully justified in having limits on how you do and do not like to have your body touched because it is your body. It is definitely not an unreasonable request to make and should be respected without question.

That also seems like it is very frustrating to be around sounds that cause you so much discomfort. It can be a little bit more tricky to navigate a situation like this, but it is not unwarranted to have some sensory needs that need accommodations. The tricky part can be finding a solution that works for everyone involved.

Can I ask a little bit more about how you have communicated both of these boundaries before? Also, for the sensory noise, in particular, is there anything that has helped to make that sound less triggering to you? For example, music playing/other stimuli or do you have to normally move to a different room or create physical distance so you no longer hear it?
Raffles
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Re: Sensory boundaries?

Unread post by Raffles »

This started in middle school around 10 years ago now. I came up with suggestions like eating at a different time or place, or using headphones/ear plugs to dull it out. Those requests were denied. Basically I needed to grow up and get over it like everyone else. It’s a little better now that my mom also doesn’t like the sound now. Sometimes when it’s really bad, she asks him to try to chew quieter. The problem is that he is so unaware that it’s hard to get him to understand the problem. I think even if he were, he’d view it as my problem
and not his. I’ve sort of gotten to a point where I know I just have to accept it, I’m just not sure how to make it easier. I don’t like feeling so angry I can barely eat at every meal, or anxious about when he’s going to eat lunch so I can escape the room before it starts.

Either way, I’ve learned that making boundaries is more trouble than it seems to be worth. It makes me seem ungrateful and unloving and can potentially put a larger target on my back. The few times I’ve opened up about my sound problems, people will intentionally make the sound just to see my reaction. I’m endlessly jealous of the people how have boundaries that work and are respected, I wish that could be me some day. Not sure it’s really in the cars though judging how things have gone for me.
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Re: Sensory boundaries?

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Raffles,

Ugh, I'm sorry that people's responses to you stating a boundary is to immediately make the sound. That really isn't a you problem, none of the boundaries you've listed are. An annoying fact of life is that lots of people see boundaries as something to push, or as things they can disregard if they thing they're silly; it's a side of effect of living in a culture that still doesn't value consent as much as it should. That being said, there are still plenty of people out there who DO respect people's boundaries, so you may find more of them as you move through life.

With something like misophonia, there is a little bit of a balance between the boundaries you need and the realities of being around other people (since people can only quiet their chewing so much). It sounds like you've already suggested some compromises and had them shot down, but it may be worth checking out resource on misophonia to see if there are other things you could implement.
Raffles
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Re: Sensory boundaries?

Unread post by Raffles »

Part of my frustration is that I know that they can control it to some extent but chose not to. My dad can chew with his mouth closed when he's eating mindfully, but he usually eats while reading or scrolling through his phone. My aunt proved that she can chew with her mouth closed to when she realized it was too loud to hear something on the tv over her crunching. It just seems like they don't care enough about me to modify their behavior. I know that my mother hates knuckle cracking, so I stopped. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I don't really get why I'm not worthy of that same consideration.

As a side note, it's hard for me to feel like there's a good outcome here for me. I have some poor coping mechanisms that are the only way I can distract myself from the sounds. I know it's something that I need to fix, but I really don't think I can as long as I'm exposed to situations/sounds that overwhelm my coping abilities.
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Re: Sensory boundaries?

Unread post by Sam W »

I feel you on that worry that the situations and sounds you're exposed to may overwhelm your ability to cope. Do you think it's worth seeking out some misophonia resources not only on coping but maybe things like support groups or forums? That would give you a pool of people with similar experiences who may have advice on how to navigate some of the stuff you're dealing with.
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