I bought some new underclothes recently. I haven’t gotten new underwear in years and new undershirts in even longer, to the point that my supply of those clothing items was dwindling to dangerously low levels as I was forced to toss things out as they disentegrated past the point of wearability. I put this purchase off for a long time, not because of money or any of the usual reasons people don’t buy socks or underwear or undershirts or bedsheets or whatever (I mean, c’mon, those are some of the most boring things to spend money on, most of the time). I put it off because I have issues with the textures of clothing and I knew that even replacing the items I owned with the same cut, style, and brand would be a problem. This is also the same reason I’ve been using the same deodorent for the past decade and live in constant fear of it being discontinued like my last brand/scent were. I just can’t filter out the sensory input in the way that most people can.
I don’t really talk about this much because it has always been a struggle to explain this kind of experience. Most people understand texture issues if you can link it to food, talking about things you or they don’t like to eat not because the flavor is unpleasant but because of the way it feels in your mouth. I mean, I can’t stand shrimp and most seafood because of the texture. I think it tastes great but I can’t stand eating it because the way my mouth feels when I do makes me want to throw up. Clothing made from certain materials is similar. I have sensitive skin and a lot of body hair, so certain fabric textures create an unpleasant feeling when they shift around as I wear them. I bet most people could think of what their clothing feels like against their skin if they thought about it, the same way that you don’t need to think about breathing until you’re reminded that it’s a thing you need to do (sorry). But most people don’t because they’re good at filtering unimportant sensory input.
My brain, at the very least, is not good at that. Whether it’s because I was so frequently traumatized as a child that I developed hypervigilance and can’t filter out sensations in case they might indicate something dangerous or if its because I am somewhere on the autism spectrum (a potential diagnosis I’ve never pursued because I just don’t have the energy for going through the reportedly exhausting adult diagnosis process) doesn’t really matter. It takes effort to ignore sensations until I become used to them and it takes a lot longer than most people for me to become used to sensory input.
Probably the best example I can come up with is that it’s a lot like sitting in the same chair for a very long time. Even if the chair starts out comfortable, if you have to stay in the chair for multiple hours, you will eventually start squirming or adjusting your position so you can relieve the pressure on specific parts of your body. Given enough time, you can’t find a comfortable spot anymore, no matter how much you shift around, and it slowly becomes all you can think about until, finally, you can get out of the chair. It’s also like needing to go to the bathroom really badly and being forced to wait until the point where it starts to get painful.
The main difference between my examples and my experiences is that it never really gets “painful.” I don’t currently feel pain, but I do feel discomfort since I’m exhausted from doing my best to ignore the sensation of this new undershirt on my body. It doesn’t feel unpleasant and I still appreciate the texture of this one hundred percent cotton shirt (the only fabric I can stand for long periods of time is cotton), but I can’t ignore the way it feels as I move around anymore. It has gone past being pleasant or unpleasant and just become too tiring. The same is true of my underwear. It feels very pleasant and nice when I put it on, but it has become overwhelmingly noticeable by the time the day ends. Eventually, this issue will fade away. It’s only a problem right now because my old cotton undershirts were worn so thin that the texture of the fabric had changed. Same for the underwear. It feels unpleasant right now because it’s a foreign sensation, unlike what my mind currently associates with cotton, and that will eventually change once I’ve put up with enough uncomfortable days.
Other fabrics feel similarly to the way that nails on a chalkboard sounds. They never feel pleasant or enjoyable in the way that cotton does for the first bit after I put on my new very cozy undershirts, and I’ve been unable to stand them long enough to get used to the way they feel. Like the way that you get used to a bad smell and stop noticing it, you know? Most of the time, it’s just easier to leave the bad smell behind than to wait around long enough to get used to it and even good smells can get annoying after a long enough time (like a house that smells like bacon for a day or more after you made it).
I’m going to go take a shower now, to give myself a sensory cleanse, and get into my comfortably textured pajamas that have not been replaced recently, and have a relaxing evening of not thinking about how it feels to have something tugging at the hair on my back with every little shift of my arms and fingers. Really looking forward to that.