The Unbearable Weight of Socks

Last night I asked Dan and my Mum if they like wearing socks. Both of them replied in the affirmative and I tried to explain why I asked – because wearing socks makes me feel wrong.

Of course I wear them. I’ve taught myself to ignore the pinched and restricted feeling of wearing something around my feet and ankles that feel like they don’t belong there. To be honest, it’s similar with shoes. I know I have to wear them to protect my feet, especially outside the house, but that doesn’t mean I like it. But in a huge contradiction, I also love interesting and stylish shoes!

I take them off as soon as I get home.

I move my feet a lot. In fact, I probably move them most of the time. I flex my toes, wriggle them, I bounce or shake my leg, and I ‘cricket’ my feet at least once a day by rubbing them together. It doesn’t help that I have long and wide feet and wide ankles, I always have. So the right shoes and socks are imperative. Even writing this post, I’m wriggling my toes unconsciously (until I mentioned it, of course).

When I first started reading up on being autistic (and ADHD), I realised that I do a lot of stimming. Stimming is self-stimulating behaviour or movement, sounds, or sensory stimulus – some may be recognisable as autistic, and others less so or just more masked and ‘acceptable’. It helps to regulate our nervous systems and anxiety.

I started to watch myself and notice my own body movements and behaviours. I asked Dan if he had noticed any repetitive things I do. It was him that recognised that I do the ‘cricketing’, often when I first go to bed as a self-soothing movement. And I also recognised that my Dad does it too, and perhaps I picked it up from him as a self-soothing thing.

Other stims I do tend to be internal. I have tinnitus and have done from a young age. If you’ve been reading here for a long while, you might remember that I wrote about ‘tuning’ my tinnitus to music – making the high pitched and low pitched hums into music or lyrics that I recognise. But I’ve been thinking about that recently and realised that I sing to myself almost all the time. It could be a form of internal echolalia, when repetitive noises and phrases are said out loud.

I repeat the same songs over and over (sometimes switching like a playlist), often for a couple of days, until I switch over to something else. It’s not really like having an ear-worm, but more of a conscious thing that either feels like it helps with my anxiety or just feels good – sometimes I dance to the ‘music’ when I’m on my own! And if I’m singing to myself, I’ll move my feet or toes to the ‘music’.

It can be maddening though. Sometimes it seems like it’s a distraction for my busy brain. Lately I’ve also noticed that I do like to sway or sometimes rock from side to side. Usually when I’m standing up, but occasionally when I’m sitting down. It really does feel good, like I’m hugging myself.

Let’s go back to socks, though. Up until recently, I rarely wore socks because I almost exclusively wore dresses and tights. You might wonder what the difference between wearing socks and tights are, and honestly, I agree with you! It’s more that I found a brand of tights that I really love because they’re soft, stretch sideways as well as lengthways, and generally don’t feel too uncomfortable for my feet (Snag Tights). It’s mostly just a case of acclimatisation.

What changed was I started wearing comfortable jumpsuits, dungarees, and wide-leg jeans much more over the past two years. So I had to go back to wearing my nemesis – socks. The summer isn’t so bad because for a lot of the time, I can go barefoot or wear sandals that let my toes fly free. I spend most of the summer barefoot, to be honest, and by the time autumn rolls around, I reluctantly bring out the softest socks and tights I own. It seems like bamboo socks can be very soft and comfortable, but you can also buy socks that don’t have seams and come in bigger sizes.

Earlier this year, I came across a discussion on autistic Twitter about socks and sensory issues with covering feet, going barefoot and so on. Half of the discussion was about how people enjoyed the feeling of wearing socks, especially soft ones, and the other half was complaining about how hellish it is to wear socks and shoes, and the adaptations and brands they prefer.

It’s a lot like the common autistic sensory bug-bear of clothes labels. Clothes labels don’t bother me but they used to when I was young. So perhaps socks are receiving all the weight of sensory discomfort that clothes labels might otherwise have for me. Who knows? Or maybe the things that feel most uncomfortable can change with time.

Of course the thing about learning you’re autistic means you go back and see things a lot more clearly, and gain more understanding of yourself. Things that you don’t realise were a ‘thing’ become clearer. For me, who didn’t think I had sensory issues, it’s been a revelation to understand that actually I do, but some are more subtle and internal.

Being deaf, I don’t really have issues with things being too loud but there are situations and limits. And I always have the option of turning off my hearing aids, where many autistic people don’t.

My sense of smell is very sensitive but again, I like nice smells and fragrances – and enjoy perfumes, unless they’re too heady, and there’s no telling which ones will give me a headache until I encounter them. Strong or even subtle unpleasant smells are incredibly distracting and I have been known to heave or feel nauseous. Trips to petting farms or zoos as a child were…interesting.

Having ADHD too, though, means I’m also sensory seeking and I like bear hugs and hugging cushions, flavourful food, different textures (food with nuts, tortilla chips, gyoza and dumplings etc), and visual stimulus like patterns, glittery things, and fairy lights. You can be either hyper or hypo-sensitive if you’re autistic too.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt though is that every autistic and ADHD person is different. We have different sensory profiles and stims, different access and accommodation needs, and obviously different interests and passions.

I still don’t like wearing socks.

This post is part of NanoPoblano, a Cheer Peppers production! If you’d like to see what other people are writing and sharing, please click the image below.

4 thoughts on “The Unbearable Weight of Socks

  1. I would live in bare feet if I could. I’m basically a hobbit at heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I also like their eating schedule 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow I don’t like socks either. I think mostly because they are almost always too tight, and I cannot stand the seams. And shoes….don’t get me started. Right now there are only 3 footwear I can get my feet into. Crocs (my hands down fave), Sandals, and Sketchers. That’s it! I have decided at my age comfort outweighs everything. I never associated my foot/sock issues with possible autism. I too, rock. Always have. In tumultuous times it’s worse. I don’t even always realize I am doing it. It is very soothing, like a hug as you said. I appreciate your candor. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same, the seams bother me too. Yes I’m in my late 30s and even though I love pretty things I’d much rather be comfortable! Rocking feels so nice. Very soothing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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