I remember when I first found the courage to ask Mum if I absolutely HAD to kiss and hug every relative I was never able to recall that was visiting for the weekend.
I really wasn’t comfortable with being touched, hugged and especially kissed as a child.
And even as an adult, affection between my husband and I is something we both need to be ‘in the zone’ for with just hugs.
Hugs with those I love fills my soul, my girls little hearts against mine make my whole being light up, but at the end of a long day, particularly a hard day..
Sensory overload and exhaustion means I’m hypersensitive and extremely tactile defensive.
In fact, touch when I’m anxious or tired or overwhelmed or overloaded can cause me to jump.
It can cause pain.
Sensory processing differences in autistic people can mean we can feel nauseous over basic smells, textures, sounds and touch along with taste, but again, too much touch from others can cause overload and even shutdown.
And don’t even get me started on the energy that people carry with them. Now that’s a heaviness that we contend with from others that can’t be seen or felt by everyone.
In our family, there’s no guilt or inadequacy, disappointment or expectation for affection when someone isn’t in the zone.
As an autistic family, sharing energy, sharing space, being hypersensitive is explanation enough to be able to say “No hugs right now, thanks”.
We teach our girls to ask others before touching their bodies.
We never assume it’s okay to just hug or touch.
And when the time is right, and we’re in the zone, we just melt into each other.
I’ll often fall asleep with a little person on my lap with their head against my chest.
A beautiful moment.
I once watched a Mother speak openly in a group setting about how she resented her perceived inadequacy as a nurturer to her children in her inability to engage in too much affection without feeling repulsed.
I knew in that moment, and after spending many years in a shared space with her that she was autistic.
She wasn’t unable to engage in affection.
She was an autistic person overloaded by touch; impacted by a sensory processing difference she had no control over as part of a disability.
She was a wonderful Mother.
Affection isn’t only about touch.
Love is spoken through action as well as affection.
But what a difference it makes when we know and understand ourselves; our identity.
But we know. We connect intuitively, we ask permission and we respect each others’ “No”.
And we only engage in longer-than-usual-unnatural-hugs for family photos, but make sure we capture the aftermath in family photos too.
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