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Sensory Processing System Overload

By Out-of-Sync Woman
I don’t know about you but it drives me bananas when I’m watching television and somebody else starts rapidly channel surfing, especially if they increase the volume of the television. Another thing that can make things much worse for me is if that person wants to talk to me. They often don’t understand why I’m having trouble understanding them. I find it confusing, overstimulating, and headache-inducing, and my first impulse is to leave and get as far away as possible. What if I couldn’t leave or the other person didn’t listen when I said it was too much? This particular scenario I’m talking about is what it feels like to me to have sensory processing difficulties which is common with Autism. My sensory processing system is like the person in this scenario above who’s channel surfing at a high volume. I’m literally not seeing, smelling, hearing, or experiencing the same things that a lot of people do.
The part of my brain that processes and organizes my sensory system doesn’t work well for me. Sounds that other people can tune out or other conversations that are occurring around me either hurt my ears or make it difficult to concentrate. I also have some difficulty with my visual system, not my eyes but the part of my brain that sees. It’s hard for me to describe this part of my difficulties. I really struggle with understanding where things are in space in regards to where I am. For example, in middle school, I would often hit the walls of the hallways because I misjudged how close I was to them. I often bump into people with regularity. I believe part of my problem is my depth perception; it just doesn’t work well.
What I described above is hard for me and means I have to be smarter about what environments I seek out. One environment I really don’t do well with is in large groups; it’s way too overwhelming. I either have to retreat or I find myself shutting down and not responding to the environment anymore. This is not under my control and sometimes is scary for me. Conversely, I may get so overwhelmed that I literally have a meltdown. When I was a child, that was called a tantrum. That was scary, out of control, and unpleasant for everyone. Would I like better control of my sensory system?  Certainly, and to some extent, I can get better at it but in other ways, I’m not sure even with practice that things will ever change.
 This isn’t a “poor me” blog and I don’t want pity. The reason I wrote this blog is it wasn’t until recently (and I’ve been an adult for a while) that I’ve been able to explain why I struggle with my eyes, ears, and brain. I literally didn’t understand so I would get frustrated with myself and others. I would feel bad about being different and this hurt my self-confidence. These days, a better understanding of why things are harder for me increases my success at taking care of myself. I believe self-understanding is the first step in taking care of better care of yourself. As always, wishing the best to my readers.