Our neighbors across the street have a Moluccan cockatoo named Bird. Bird is about 30 years old, and they’ve had him most of that time. He is their baby. His mistress ( aka owner) works from home, he has has several enclosures inside and out, and also gets to interact with two very tolerant Great Danes (in a long line of Danes Bird has known, as Bird naturally outlives the short-lived pooches by many Dane-lifetimes). He seems well-entertained.
Being a Moluccan, Bird is loud and talkative. A common shout we hear from across the street is “Bird, SHUT UP!” Occasionally, maybe when he gets bored, Bird makes a specific sound so grating and awful that it makes their two great danes yowl in what sounds like pain. Imagine a combo of nails on a chalkboard, combined with a train screeching to a halt. But louder.
Ring a Ding-a-ling
I remember clearly how this sound affected me when we first moved here, when I was still pretty ill from biotoxin illness. It was VERY startling and upsetting, and it gave me heart palpitations. Add in the fairly frequent off road vehicles that speed up and down our road, motorbikes and quads, and I was often extremely aggravated from the sounds. Add in the military and firefighting helicopters that zip overhead periodically…. overall this is a fairly quiet country location, but these sudden sounds drove me nuts. Bonkers. Batty. Many a time I’ve screamed out loud when the bbbbBBBRRRAAAAAMMMMMMMMuuuuuuhhhhhh of another four-wheeler goes by. It felt like being hit in the head. And I felt like hitting someone in the head because of it.
A Sound History
I’ve been sensitive to sound since I was little, although not nearly as bad as in later years. So is my Mom. My childhood household was probably one of the quieter in existence, because even when my sister and I were toddlers, we were admonished for making noise and required to play quietly. I still recall my Mom’s irritated look when someone surprised us with a noisemaking toy, one of those push-along toys that makes a corn-popper sound. That thing didn’t stay around long.
As I got older, I tried to do things other kids do, but found so many times where I was the weird one. My friends all knew I wore earplugs at movies, if they could get me to one. Watching a movie at home with friends, they knew I’d be repeatedly asking for the volume to be turned down. And if someone had a kid over and was letting them play with, say pots and pans, I’d leave.
A Resounding Clue
What I didn’t realize is that this was an illness symptom, one my mom is also shared. After learning about biotoxin illness and joining groups online where I met many more sufferers, I found how common sensory overload was among this population.
Not everyone has it, but when you do, you have to learn to manage it. I had sound, light, smell, and touch sensitivity. I always had to find clothes that didn’t itch, and so many itched. I couldn’t sit with bare legs on a lot of types of fabrics. Everyone knew not to make loud sounds around me, and that I would definitely be turning down the radio, TV, etc. I wore hats a lot and usually didn’t go outside when the skies were white, which amplifies light and negates the effectiveness of hats. And don’t get me started on scents! The degree to which this can shape one’s life is remarkable.
But what’s even more remarkable to me is that now, after healing fundamentally from biotoxin illness, I’m not anywhere near as sound sensitive. Or scent, or touch sensitive, and I’m not at all light sensitive anymore when I stay out of mold and certain problematic outdoor toxins. Years ago, I had never fathomed these things to be related to an illness. Now that I’m fundamentally recovered, I get to experience life through a slightly more normal lens. As I was reading this to my husband, he said “Did you notice the low-flying helicopter that just went overhead?” The sound had barely registered in my mind! That’s progress of a kind I never imagined possible.