Skip to main content

Sensory Overload




Have you ever tried to explain sensory overload to your nearest and dearest? Yes, me too. And usually this conversation happens apart from the overload because, not surprisingly, when you are overwhelmed by sensory input and your body thinks it is being attacked by life itself, you aren't in a position to explain.

In fact, I would say that sensory overload is without words, a feeling, a condition, a point in time when you are purely a mind in flux, a body entrapped in experience, something which cannot be described at the time it is happening. Trying to describe sensory overload from inside the experience is like trying to explain logic to custard: the custard is susceptible to logic, like everything else in life, but it is unlikely to be listening.

So I want to let you into a secret room where you can see what sensory overload looks like, to me at least. We have to tread carefully here as it's all quiet at the moment and the last thing we want to do is set off any drama alarms.

It's a lovely room, full of colour and vibrancy. The walls are covered in heavy, rich wallpaper, the furniture is ornate, gilded, carved and upholstered in velvet. The curtains, heavy enough to block out natural light, nevertheless shine in the dazzling patterns thrown by the grand chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

The mirrors on the walls show your face if you look in them but are placed at angles where they also show each other. Try looking at yourself and you see a confusing array of selves, all at the wrong angle with one face repeated in many places. These mirrors reflect the light from the chandelier and it cascades around the room, following the vision of your face, becoming part of the air itself.

But no, I am letting my calm slide. I must not think of the mirrors or the light or the darkly-engrossing colours around me. I must focus on moving from the door to the window, from this point to that. This simple, small journey is what I can accomplish here and all my attention must belong to my travels, pulled away from the busy distractions littered around me.

I look down and concentrate on my feet, moving over the floor. The shining floor, wood polished to a sheen never intended by nature, whorled and swirled in patterns from trees meant to live in peaceful forests, now ripped into planks and screwed down into this tortured existence.

Across and move and don't look at the faces inherent in the knots of the floor or the movement of the shining wood as it too reflects light from that damned chandelier. My feet are small and shuffling, trying not to pick up too high in case I trip, not wanting to find myself down there with the wood, echoing the agonies of being formed and fixed into an unnatural use.

Beads of perspiration stand out on my forehead as I find myself by the window, at last able to reach out and touch the glass. The cold, welcoming glass with the view to an outside world so much more complex and frightening than this one room. But while I am in this room, I long to be out there, away from the concentrated, aggression-fuelled sensory experience of this place.

I let my hand drop. I see my hand drop in the mirrors either side, I feel it drop in the mirrors behind and beyond, the ones I cannot see but know are there. I see it drop in real-life, coming to rest at my side, afraid to move it or the whole room will start to swim and be mixed, pulled, drawn in around me by the very fact of my existence there.

My breathing sharpens and I see the colours of the curtains, the cushion on the day-bed nearby, the edge of a tasselled, embroidered rug slipping out from under a small table covered with intricately-carved chess pieces. I catch my breath and try to be calm as I become aware of the chandelier shaking in an unseen wind. But it does not shake, it is me who is moving, my body swaying backwards as the room becomes too much, the colours too rich, the place too far into my mind.

Backing away, I feel behind me as I go, desperate to find the door and, finally, after all my efforts I stumble, slide sideways and fall to the floor. There, where I have been so many times before, looking up at the lights from the chandelier as they sparkle viciously above me, casting the definite glare of accusation and reproach: I have failed again.

Mumbling, I shuffle over the smooth wood, my hands slipping on its surface until I reach the door. I am too low to turn the handle and have to stand, have to somehow be up on my feet again when the room is closing in around me, the colours blending, the lights spinning, the mirrors glittering with false and true images of me and my life. I have to breathe in all of this and still have enough fresh air left to help me see clearly, to turn the handle and open the door.

Gasping, dragging in laboured breaths still full of colour and light and the sound of my hammering heart, I collapse on the other side of the door, slamming it behind me to shut out the glare of the awful room. I am safe again, for now, though it will be a while before I feel this safety. I am outside of it all in the pale, grey, nondescript hallway where it is soothing and peaceful. I am free again.

And there you are, beside me all this time. I meant to show you the room, I meant to explain it to you so you would understand. I'm sorry, perhaps another time. I forgot you were there, I couldn't see you next to me. Forgive me, I'm sure if we try again sometime then it will work.

Someday I will be able to go through it and know where you are, understand you are still there when the lights dance and the mirrors swirl. Someday I'll see you there and still know who you are when it all begins. Until then, let's close the door and be somewhere shaded and calm, with quiet words and soft lights. Come now, another day.

Amanda
  


My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

Popular posts from this blog

Spotting an aspie adult

Have you ever wondered how to spot an aspie adult, at a distance, without having to get too close? It would be so convenient, wouldn't it? To be able to detect the aspieness before you are drawn in, before there is any danger of becoming part of their mad world and waking up one morning, trying to work out where it all went wrong and what happened to all your socks.

Bearing in mind there are always exceptions that prove the rule, here is what you should look for.

In the supermarket I often wonder if I have spotted a fellow aspie. Walking along the aisles, it's easier to people watch than shop, usually because I've forgotten what I need. The supermarket is a good open space where you can spot aspies as they grapple with the complex practicalities of staying alive by food shopping.

The walk: Yes, from a distance or as they pass by, the walk is a dead giveaway. It seems to veer towards extremes, either a fast paced booster effect from A to B, or a meandering wander with no vi…

A Guide to your Aspie

So, you have your new aspie and are wondering what to do with him/her. Depending on size and gender, some of these instructions may need to be followed with caution but we are confident that you will be able to get the best out of your aspie for many trouble-free years to come!

(Disclaimer: we are not responsible for any physical, emotional or financial harm that may come to you when following these instructions. Once unboxed, your aspie is not eligible for our guaranteed swappage and refurbishment policy. Please have a good look at the aspie through the window provided before unboxing).

1. Unbox carefully and without making physical contact with the aspie. Pull down the box using the flaps provided and allow them to step free by themselves.

2. Allow your aspie free rein, to explore their surroundings. For ease of capture, we recommend not unboxing in an area that is too large or too small. Open fields would not be suitable, unless you are a long distance runner. Small rooms are to b…

Your life, on screen...required viewing for aspies and friends

I come to you today a wiser woman. Aren't we always saying, how good it would be to see ourselves as the world sees us? Well, thanks to a new Japanese anime show, I did just that. For the first time in my life, I saw what I look like from the outside.

Readers, this is not a paid review or anything officially linked to the Watamote, the anime. This is purely my response to something which, hum, how can I put it? Well, if I tell you that I sat through the whole show, with an expression of horror and recognition on my face, would that tell you how it was?

IT Teen had told me to watch it. He bought the manga first, the Japanese version. He waved it in my face and said, 'This is about yoooo!' I remember scowling at the book cover, to find a edgily-drawn girl scowling back at me. Yes, already it was accurate.

IT told me that it's a 'slice of life' story, all about this socially awkward girl called Tomoko. I thought, well, yes, I am socially awkward but that doesn…