Monday, August 24, 2015

Sensory Overload

I often have a really hard time explaining to people what sets my anxieties off. I tell them loud music and too much input. I tell them that simply talking is painful and hard. The thing is, when it comes out of my mouth like that I just feel like a twat. I sound like a bitch and people really don't understand how these things can even be triggers.

I complain that the music is too loud. I complain that I can’t hear. I complain that the light is hitting my eyes and hurting my thoughts. I'm telling Ryan to "turn it the fuck down please." I can't hear a word you're saying with noise distractions and I get visibly agitated. Twitchy. I hold my head a lot and it upsets my stomach. I'm not even joking. 

And then one day I’ll be driving in the car with a friend with all the windows down because it’s hot as balls and the AC in my car is broken. We’ve got the music up loud and she's still trying to talk to me. I'm driving and paying attention to the road. I can’t hear from the wind and the music and the talking. I nod like I know what she's saying. I respond with "yeahs" and "mmhmms" and "I know rights!" but I don't actually know what she's saying. I am in complete sensory overload. I need a quiet place where nothing exists.

I haven’t gone into much detail about my sensory processing issues and this won't be very deep because it's hard to talk about. No doctor has ever told me this, but a very good friend suggested I do some research into HSP (Highly Sensitive Person, aka: Sensory Processing Sensitivities). What I discovered was the key to my ENTIRE LIFE up to this point (and only getting worse the older I get).

My hearing is sensitive. My smell is sensitive. My tactile touch is sensitive. My eyes are sensitive. What this means is that what is normally tolerable for most people is painful for me. More so than the usual annoyance and irritation. If it’s loud I feel like crying because it not only hurts my ears it hurts my head and I can't think. If it’s too bright or too dim I get frustrated really easily. I hate shoes and socks and there have been times I've come home and thrown my socks right in the garbage because they pissed me off so much. I don’t like things on my feet and almost all clothes are uncomfortable to the point of freaking out. I just hide it really well. It’s a different level of discomfort that sends me spiraling into migraines and tears. When I am under sensory overload I go into a heightened level of anxiety which can quickly lead to panic attacks. Sometimes the visual and auditory overload are all too much and I just can't stand it.

Back in the sweltering car with my friend:
I have a momentary twitchy freak out and turn the music down after trying to pin my hand under my butt so as to not grab the fucking dial but it’s too late. My throat is sore, my stomach is turning and my head is pounding. I try to just breath. I have a pair of ear plugs in my centre console and I’m doing everything to not shove them in my fucking ear holes. Secretly I’m telling her to “just stop talking, please, just stop talking.” I'm fine if I don't have to reply or if I don't actually need to hear what you're saying. I'm great at listening! It’s the hottest fucking day of the summer and we just rode 130km. I’ve been with her ALL DAY talking. I feel disgusting sweating in the car still wearing my goddamn soupy chamois bib shorts and all I want to do is GET THEM THE FUCK OFF ME.

How do I tell her to just Shut The Fuck Up without telling her to STFU? I don’t and that’s exactly why. I like her. She’s quickly become one of my close friends. I’ve enjoyed our day together and the ride but my limit has been reached and I’m falling off the edge. I just don’t know how to even say this. I told her I was going to write this. I've explained a bit of about my anxiety and issues and she's really open-minded. That doesn't change how I reacted in the moment.

It’s really not you… it’s totally me!

I don’t know how to get through life avoiding every event and outing. How do I say “no I won’t drive to that place and ride that event with you because by the time we get home I’ll be in sensory overload and inevitably have an anxiety attack…”? 

I can't say that. 

So I go, I enjoy what I can and when I get home, I decompress for a long LONG time.



  1. I haven't checked in in awhile. I'm glad to see you're still blogging and working and riding and hanging with Ryan. Your accomplishments are amazing and I would give you a hug but that wouldn't make much sense with your sensory overload. It's the thought that counts??

  2. Hi, I love your blog. I have been dealing with spd or something similar for a year now. I was taking a (usually harmless) drug Lamictal for mood stability and one fine day I woke up and clothing itched like ants were crawling on me wherever I had body hair and seams too. Doctors are stumped, my neurologist flat out stated he has never seen anything like it in his career :( I'll be trying out some tryciclics to see if it helps. I'm 25 and this is slowly ruining my life. Anyway, just wanted to say I feel your pain, sometimes I throw all my clothes out of the closet after looking for something that won't be too tight on my body. Then I usually start crying because NOBODY understands it and it nakes things even worse. So I have to say I'm really happy I found your blog -- I'm not sure we have the same thing but at least it's similar so I can kind of share my pain.


  3. I cannot imagine how difficult it can be.


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