The Cave (at College)

Two on-the-spectrum adults wrote to report experiences where they had reacted badly (been over-stimulated) by rooms with all-white walls. I responded:

Interesting. When I first went to college (at age 17, totally undiagnosed, totally unprepared, and I didn't last long....), I at least had managed to write my way into getting one of the very few single dorm rooms. (If I'd been forced to share, I can see myself winding up with a psychiatric diagnosis really fast.) It was a small room, all white, and it felt to me like a cave. It was my refuge. Whether it was due to inertia or instinct I don't know, but I kept everything I had brought with me in the "closet" (a niche with no door). The result was that the "cave" remained all white, with no clothing or "decorations" breaking up the whiteness or adding stimulation. When I was in my "cave," I was able to "disappear in a sea of white." It was a relief to disappear. Immediately outside the door of the cave (and even more so outside the door of the dorm) were hordes of moving forms, sounds, smells, demands, confusions. Inside the cave, I effervesced into the walls and wasn't a body (source of confusing, often painful sensations) any more. For a while.

One reason I didn't last long at college was that I had a hard time keeping track of when I was supposed to emerge from my cave for class and meals. And sometimes even when I was aware of the time and the obligation, I just couldn't make myself go out.

It occurs to me that one big difference between my experience of white walls and those described by S and K is that I had control over the lighting (and there was no fluorescent).