6 Ways I Survive Haircuts

So here I am, waiting for a haircut. And you may not know this, but letting someone cut my hair is a god damn miracle, because for many years (read decades), I wouldn’t let anyone except Jess cut my hair.

But a few years ago, I started investigating if I could make a real haircut work, and it took some time and some tweaking, but I can proudly say that I get my hair cut regularly, and, AND I survive it.

So here’s a few quick things I do to keep myself sane, and then I’m off to get trimmed.

Wish me luck!

1. Plan the day: So I think the number one most important thing for me is to keep my haircut day clear. No other appointments, no other stress, basically keeping myself as un-stimulated as possible, to make up for the inevitable overload. So I keep my day low-key. Watch a favorite show, eat my safe foods, cuddle with the cats. I want to keep myself as fresh as possible for my appointment.

2. Schedule Smart: My stylist knows me really well now, and when I make appointments, she schedules me when her schedule is mostly free. So I’m not in a room with 6 others people and clippers and blow dryers blaring. It’s just her, me, and maybe a couple other people. Going to smaller salon also helps with this, because they’re not trying to get people in and out as quick as possible, like a chain does.

3. Get to know a stylist: I am so lucky. I found my stylist because my wife went to her, and they got talking and Jess learned that my stylist (L) had an autistic sister in law, and she offered to see if we could make it work. Now I realize that not all stylist can know someone with autism, but finding someone who can listen and work with you makes a whole lot of different. L knows that I don’t like small talk, so we only talk about the cut. She turns the chair away from the mirror for me. She asks good questions about what I want. I know I lucked out, and it usually takes some stylist shopping, but it makes a huge difference.

4. Sensory sensory sensory: The absolute worst part of the haircut process for me is the many ways that I can get sensory overload. There are things that I do now to keep things as doing as possible. Here is a short but hopefully complete list. Washing my hair in room temperature water, and having strategic towels to keep water out of my eyes and ears. When touching is necessary, firm pressure at all times. No snip snip of shears, long deliberate cuts that don’t sound hellish. No blow dryers ever. Extra thorough efforts to get hair off my neck, so I can make it home to shower. I’m sure there are more, but these are my important ones

5. Be prepared: I still make sure that I’m prepared for a haircut appointment like I am for anything else. So for me, that means stim toys, ear plugs, and miscellaneous things like wipes, snacks, and something to read. You never know when someone will be running late and you’ll have to wait, or when you’ll be more overwhelmed than you predicted. Lastly, if you can go with a buddy, absolutely do. Having someone safe and familiar around is calming, and if necessary they can help you communicate and advocate for you if necessary.

6. The Cheat: This is cheating slightly I think, because most salons don’t have a shop dog, but I am greatly helped by this tiny bundle of love!

So it’s haircut time, with any luck I’ll make it through, and my hair will finally be out of my face. Wish me luck!

6 Word Stories pt.21

Surgery was successful! Do you know what this means? I’ll shut up about hospitals and doctors and incisions for a whole month!! Which is when my next surgery is…Anyway, I was able to predict most of the autism related surgery issues, like smelly funny from antibacterial soap, and the itchiness of the bandages, but the one thing I’ve struggled with most is that I’m exhausted and drugged, but my brain is bored. And bored autistic brain is the worst.

  • Betadine gives me Oompa Loompa skin
  • Which is worse, infection or showering?
  • I discovered a new favorite food!
  • You can’t write with no words
  • Too tired to read, what now?
  • Making good slime is so rewarding
  • Why are some relationships so complicated?

That’s all for today folks, I’m off to take another nap.

6 Word Stories pt. 15

Happy belated Thanksgiving! I hope you all had happy social interactions and sensory friendly food. Since all of our family is back east (and because Jess works on Thanksgiving), it’s just the two of us. I love doing dinner this way, because we make all the foods that we love, and I don’t have to worry about not having food I like, and Jess doesn’t have to worry about accidentally getting gluten-ed. We had a great time over the long weekend, lots of good food, reading good books, and playing board games. We also took a nice walk around town for Small Business Saturday. Supporting local businesses by buying chocolate is definitely my sort of thing! I also got a lot of writing done, which is good, because while I’m not doing a word count for NaNoWriMo, I’m still making an effort to write as much as possible.

  • Hoping new toothbrush will help hygiene.
  • Binder helps dysphoria- is sensory hell.
  • Starting holiday shopping is so exciting!
  • Waited all year for Thanksgiving food.
  • Why leave when there’s online shopping?
  • Never thought writing would be therapeutic.
  • The library is my happy place.

Well, here’s been my week in 42 words! I hope you all have a nice week- maybe getting a chance to go to you happy place. If you don’t have one, I suggest trying the library. It’s quiet and there’s books!

What I Talk About When I Talk About Hygiene

Let me be real here. Hygiene is not a topic that I like to talk about. I’m embarrassed; it’s one of the least talked about social skills, yet the one you’ll be judged most for not complying with. I have spent my entire life battling with hygiene, mostly because the barriers to success are twofold. One, what is considered hygienic is highly dependent on the society, and two, the majority of activities that are categorized as hygiene are very sensory heavy.

My current cleaning challenges are not new. Since I was very young, I’ve had an aversion to things that had, what I called, ‘slimy’ textures. There’s even proof! Home video exists of an adorably toddler me, fighting with my mom about sunscreen. It wasn’t a tantrum, no, in true me fashion, I slowly back away, grunting and flapping. Interestingly, that’s still my reaction to lotion.

The minute I was old enough to not require supervised bathing, I began looking for solutions limit my exposure to it. Baths made me feel slimy, and showering got my face wet, no matter how hard I tried to avoid it. I did learn quickly that if I turned on the shower and then sat in the bathroom reading for 20 minutes or so, no one really questioned whether I actually got IN the shower or not. On top of that, my biracial hair, while not as porous as my father’s, only needed to be washed every few weeks. Which was good, because when it was long, most of the way down my back, it took at least 24 hours to dry. If I was lucky. Since then I’ve perfected the ideal balance of waiting just long enough to shower. My hair is also very short, so it can remain unwashed almost indefinitely.

In high school I solved another hygiene problem- I hate wearing clean clothes. The smell of detergent, even scentless, is unpleasant, and while most people love putting on crisp clean clothes, I vastly prefer putting on something that I’ve worn for days. Or weeks. Turns out, everyone in their teens is going through their smelly puberty phase, no matter how much body spray they put on to cover it, and if you wear jeans and a hoodie every day, no one can really tell how often you’re changing them. Teenagers can be very self-centered. Thank goodness.

Becoming an adult brings new hygiene expectations, and I struggled to meet them. Working with kids meant that it was acceptable to wear comfortable clothes, but being socially acceptably hygienic was a puzzle. What was the maximum length of time between showers that I could get away with? Would my fuzzy curls give away the fact that they weren’t being washed? And worst of all, would the kids give me away by informing me at the top of their lungs that I was smelly?

 Autistic Burnout and mental health issues plagued my twenties. Which was bad for my career, but good for my hygiene preferences. When you never leave the house, showering, teeth brushing, and changing your clothes suddenly become unnecessary. Granted, having a very understanding spouse it in this situation is important too. While my wife definitely encouraged me, constantly, it seemed, she was very understanding of my reasons for not conforming to social cleaning standards. Plus, she was amazing at taking stubborn tags out of clothes. We also made deals, if I showered, I had to put on clean clothes (even socks!) and if we were leaving the house, deodorant was necessary. Even I couldn’t deny that it was reasonable.

An autism diagnosis changes a lot of thing. A lot. So many things start to make sense, and for me, hygiene was a big one. Framing my many issues as sensory problems suddenly made them more understandable. I don’t like water on my face because of how it makes my skin feel. I despise brushing my teeth not only because the toothpaste tastes terrible, but also because it makes the surface of my teeth feel different. Changing clothes had to do with things smelling different, and also with the texture of the cloth changing. Seeing it all this was made me feel less guilty about not caring about societal expectations.

Occupational Therapy did not begin pleasantly. There were so many things that I wanted to work on, and all my OT wanted to talk about was hygiene. We had sticker charts, we made routines and schedules, we even devised a reward system for when I made my hygiene goals. Most of these flopped. Luckily, my occupational therapist, who knows me so well at this point that its infuriating, realized that forcing these changes on me without delving into what the base issues were was useless. This is still a work in progress. Clearly.

I spend a lot of time explaining the way that I think. How autism affects who I am as a person, and how I live my life. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m putting my struggles out there, specifically because it’s not something I can really explain. Yes, I know that the issues are sensory based, but there’s no reason why enacting small changes should be so hard for me. These issues have existed my whole life. I’ve spent my whole life trying to minimize my contact with cleanliness. Even this doesn’t explain my problems. Two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes two steps back. Sometimes three. I fear that I will be fighting this thing for the rest of my life. I fear that no amount of stickers, or rewards, or distractions will decrease the stress I experience on my scheduled teeth brushing day. I fear that it’s not worth it. Is it worth it?