Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sensory Overload

It was Friday morning. I woke up, took a shower, got dressed, ate breakfast, and got ready to go to a Toastmasters meeting. I love going to these meetings. It is generally an uplifting environment... but then I deal with sensory overload when I get home. Many times I feel like I picked up everyone's thoughts and emotions empathically as well, adding to my own.

On a Friday night, I attended Art After Dark at Frames and Things to support some author friends as well as visit with them. Another person who was in the same car wore perfume and/or hairspray which assaulted my sensitive receptors. Sometimes, it may be other smells I am sensitive to. The music was louder than what I am comfortable with. I have never liked parties, nor have I liked going to concerts. I never liked the noise. This place is not much bigger than my apartment, doesn't fit a lot of people, and is enjoyable... until it isn't... when I begin to experience another layer of sensory overload.

A group of people I know decided we should go eat out at a local restaurant... where multiple conversations take place depending on where individuals are seated... and the smell of food I don't like permeates my sensitive receptors. I went once but declined to go again. "Why?" they ask. But they don't understand the meaning of sensory overload.

It was a simple trip to my local Walmart store. Thank goodness it is a much smaller store because this is a small town, so there are usually fewer people, and it is somewhat quiet. Until it isn't. Before I know it, over an hour had passed, and I head home... with sensory overload. Now, I order as much as I can online or pick it up at a Curbside service or ask someone to go to the store for me.

I talked to someone on the phone (a friend or family member) for an hour and more. What a great conversation!!! (Which is why it lasted so long.) But then I couldn't turn the conversation off after I hung up. My head began to hurt with all the words that continued to get louder inside my head... as I experienced sensory overload.

I go on Facebook to catch up with everyone I am friends with and see posts from all the pages I have liked. Within a short time, I feel overwhelmed. Too much information too fast. I get uncomfortable as sensations of agitation begin to increase, adding to the agitation of sensations of pain in my body.

I volunteer as a secretary for an organization which meets once a month. Usually, 17-23 people attend. When everyone first arrives, there are a lot of separate conversations. These conversations echo off the walls. Before the meeting even starts, I experience sensory overload. When the meeting starts, the voices get quiet, and I work at focusing on the one or two speakers I need to take notes for. After I get home, I rebel against doing this task. I struggle with my need to have an important role by attending and providing this service vs. the sensory overload I deal with for sometimes days afterward.

I go to the monthly potluck at my apartment complex. The same situation exists with multiple separate conversations bouncing off the walls of the community room. And I can't hear the person in front of me talking to me.

But if I don't go anywhere, isolation will consume me and swallow me whole.

If you know me and visit with me, I need you to understand why I need a lot of quiet time alone at home to recover. I may rebel for a few days and feel like not going to the next event. I often rebel against doing any more volunteering.

When I'm in a room with many other people in it, I can't hear individual voices -- even the one directly in front of me -- if other people in the room are speaking. The other voices seem to bounce off the ceiling and walls, making their way back to my ears with overwhelming sounds and sensations. My brain has difficulty focusing due to competing sensory input.

When I get home, I hear what feels like hundreds of conversations in my head competing for my attention. When it is intense, I can experience restlessness and irritability... which may spill over into triggering survival reactions in my body. As exhausted as I am when I climb into bed, even if I manage to fall asleep, I wake up in the middle of the night (to pee) but can't go back to sleep.

Knowing I will most likely experience sensory overload in many different environments produces anxiety to the point I decide not to go. The next time someone asks me 'why' I don't want to go, I'll send them the link to this post.

In addition to 'social' sensory overload, other types of sensory overload I experience can include:

I put on one of my favorite shirts, however, this time, I feel a lot of pinpricks on my back as if the threads are made of thin wire and the seams are highly irritating. The fabric itself may feel irritating, too. The pinpricks become an itch, and the itch continues to spread. I can't stand the feeling of labels and cut all of them out. I finally found the term for this is tactile allodynia.

My fingertips on the hand I hold my computer mouse with feels like I burned them on something hot. I Googled this issue and found that some people are extra sensitive to the EMFs of WiFi. If it is because it is a wireless mouse, I will try using one with a USB cord.

The computer monitor is too bright for me. Fortunately, I found an inexpensive pair of blue-blocker glasses to wear over my prescription glasses.

The good news is that I found out sensory overload is a known 'symptom' of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, and PTSD from past traumatic experiences... when it's difficult to focus and think straight because there is so much 'noise' inside your head.

I used to take medication to calm down. I used to take medication to knock me out at night. However, I learned this is not a good long-term solution, and the medications have unpleasant side effects. I especially became aware that with sleep apnea, I do not want to be sedated through apneas.

These days, I try to unwind before bed by applying Lavender oil on my spine and bottoms of my feet. After I climb into bed, I will 'upload' all the conversations and thoughts into what I call the 'mastermind' -- where everything exists -- a holding tank for all the thoughts and voices of the entire planet. Just like I turn off my computer every night, this is my way of turning off my mind. Most of the time I am successful.

I know when I turn the computer on again the following day, all my work will still be there. I don't have to keep the computer on all night with all my files open, fearful that I will lose any of my work if I close the files and turn the computer off. I know my files are 'SAFE.'

I don't have to keep my mind on all night fearful I will forget something important or worry myself into further despair. All my appointments are written down on my calendar. Important tasks are on the Task app of my phone. Inspiration always comes from a divine source. Problems eventually sort themselves out. The aftermath of a disaster will eventually calm down, and many people will discover strengths they didn't know they had and can even become heroes.

I remind myself that I am a vehicle for the Creator of all that is to express itself through. "I" don't have to hold onto anything. "I" am not writing this post. "I" can go to sleep and let this expression decide what it wants to do in the morning... which all depends on how much energy I wake up with.

As I get warm under my down comforter, I practice a meditation technique in which I climb inside my body and focus on visualizing brain synapses, nerve impulses, cells interacting, and blood flowing instead of all the voices I was overwhelmed with during the day. I will repeat this process in the middle of the night and early in the morning if necessary. Sometimes, I have to visualize thoughts, words, and concerns flowing down the creek outside my apartment. The water is always flowing... doesn't get caught up in staying in one place, holding onto thoughts, words, and worries.

And to overcome feelings of powerlessness when people I know are struggling with their own life situations, I try to remember to let go of my own anxiety and consciously dispatch angels to guide them and get them through. After all, there came a day when I realized angels/guides had always been there for me. They just waited to see if I could handle those situations on my own before stepping in. (Miracles Sandwiched Between The Challenges.)

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