I guess there are some things you should know about me.
I am a human.
I am a human with a neurological disability (yes, some days it is a disability) that lends itself to sensory overload which can be overwhelming.
Couple that with limited coping skills (also stemming from elements of the AS) and you have a recipe for disaster.
I try to follow God and do what He wants. Sometimes, though, I can’t see anything because the world is blocking my view with too many sounds, smells, lights, people, sensations.
The past few weeks have been the worst.
First, you need to understand, once I go into sensory overload in one area all the other areas become amplified. If you have Asperger’s you probably understand this. I guess if that is the case, know you are not alone.
If you don’t have Asperger’s, I would like to try to explain to you what sensory overload feels like.
I will give you my situation.
More than two weeks ago, they had repainted all of our offices here – including mine. That meant I had to disrupt my routine to pack up everything in my office so they could move it out to put in new carpet and paint. These were the issues:
The carpet has changed – it is different
The carpet has lines (which I like) but one panel of carpet has lines going one way and the panel next to it has lines going the other way. It is terribly chaotic and makes my head hurt because my brain can’t find the pattern in it, make sense of it. I have to look at it every day, all day.
The walls are different, a different color. They are pretty, I guess, but they are different. I have not adjusted yet.
The windows were tinted. That in and of itself was yet another change to my space. But there is more to the story on that.
When they moved everything out to paint and do the carpet, they moved my desk. When I came in the day after, my desk was approximately four inches further back than it was before and it was pushed flush against the wall. I could not get to my plugs to set my computer and phone up.
A new team lead started at work. She seems nice enough, but she questions everything I do. It makes me feel like she thinks I am retarded or stupid. (Is retarded not politically correct? I don’t know, don’t understand that stuff)
One night after I went home from work, the work people came back into my office unannounced and moved some of my things around, including messing up my files so I am having trouble finding what I need. I was gone and they just came into my private space and moved my things. It was very upsetting.
My daughter said she was moving back in with us and we picked her up. I was adjusting to her living with us full time.
I went to the doctor for some medical tests. The tests were very stressful and made my head hurt.
My daughter decided that she was not going to stay with us and she left – only leaving a note. We had tried to make things as easy on her as possible. We had made plans to help her get a job, save money, get her license, start driving, get a car and get out on her own so she could be independent. But she didn’t want what we had to offer – she didn’t want me.
A woman who I thought was a friend at work suddenly stopped talking to me on Monday. I had no idea why. She wouldn’t talk so I sent her a text asking if she was OK. She didn’t answer so Tuesday I left a note if she was upset about something? She wrote back that I had hurt her feelings. I have absolutely no idea what I did to hurt her feelings and she won’t tell me. She still won’t talk to me. I have thought and thought about what I could have done but I can’t think of anything. I just don’t know. I guess it was just another stupid Asperger’s mistake – that is the best I can come up with.
I went to church Wednesday hoping to feel something, to be uplifted to feel God move, but I felt nothing – nothing at all except that my legs bothered me (I’ll explain that later) and I could not sit still. I don’t know if at that point I was too overwhelmed, if there were too many people moving about, if it was the dynamic of the place, the things going on, the lights, the sounds, the smells or just everything. I was already way overwhelmed and trying to act “normal” makes me feel even more overwhelmed. But I think I managed to make people think I was OK. There was a puppy there and it licked my fingers when I petted it. That was the most relaxing part of the evening.
I am trying my best to live in a world that is so frustrating and overstimulating and loud and scary and it seems that there is no quiet, dark, safe place to decompress and come back down. I feel like I am judged everywhere and everyone is trying to tell me I should just snap out of it.
Believe me, if I could, I would. I just need the world to go away for a little while. I need to be somewhere SAFE and dark and quiet and accepting. Right now I don’t feel accepted anywhere. I know it is because no one understands me – how can they?
But right now, I am just so overstimulated it is affecting everything in my world. I am depressed, distressed, discouraged, unfocused, afraid and alone. I don’t need any more stress, any more stimulation. I don’t need people telling me to snap out of it or pray or anything. I do pray and God understands where I am. He also understands what I am going through.
No humans in my life understand that.
Overstimulation or sensory overload is a terrible place to be. It piles up more and more and more until you feel crushed, suffocated, drowning.
Right now my clothes feel like sand paper (the only thing I am comfortable wearing is my favorite top and skirt – the softest and most sensory friendly but even that is beginning to feel too scratchy on my skin).
Right now, lights are too bright. I wish I had sunglasses so I could look at my computer screen without feeling as if the light is bullets or spikes penetrating my brain. My office lights are off.
Right now, noises are too loud. I hear every converstion outside my office (even in other offices), every voice, every cough or sniff, the cars passing on the street outside (even though I am four stories up), the AC in the office next to me running (I had to turn mine off for now – too loud). Even my fingers tapping these words makes me feel as if my ears are going to bleed – the noise is offensive and overwhelming.
When there are several noises at once my brain tries to pay attention to each noise individually. This is really bad in places such as church when the pastor is preaching while the musician is playing music because my brain wants to focus solely on the words AND focus solely on the music. When everyone starts praying aloud it gets worse because then my brain tries to focus on each person’s individual words as well as the pastor and the music. It is too much.
NO!! The maintenance man just turned on the vacuum cleaner. Even on my best days I can not tolerate the noise.
Right now, I can smell the different perfumes and colognes of the people in nearby offices, the new paint (still), the new carpet (still), the cardboard boxes and paper and files that are in my office, my unscented hand lotion, someone’s food that is heating in the microwave across the building, the heat from my computer monitor…
I know I am in a meltdown or maybe already into a shutdown. I have learned to control the effects somewhat when I am around people, but when I am in my office or alone at home, I am free to rock and stomp my feet (my legs feel like the blood is pooling in places inside my legs and that bugs are crawling under my skin: sometimes it feels like uncomfortable tickling like ants but other times it is like huge slugs slithering under my skin and it is very painful, sometimes agonizing – stomping helps). I can put my hands over my hears and squeeze my eyes shut. I can toss my head back and forth and throw my body back and forth.
Bigger movements are the only things that really bring relief for this level of stimulation, but I have to be alone to do it because humans just don’t understand.
My husband has seen some, but he hasn’t seen anywhere near all of it. He has never seen me self stim when I am at this level of sensory overload. I have to control it around people because I don’t want them to be alarmed or upset. It is so hard to control sometimes but I do and it builds and builds and I get like this: depressed, distressed, discouraged, unfocused, afraid and alone.
I wish I could get on my little trampoline and bounce.
I am going to get something to eat.