Thursday, August 2, 2012
Struggling for Self Control in a Sensory Overwhelming World
It is the most intense feeling when I get overwhelmed. How do I describe it in polite terms? It is like the need to vomit. Do you think you have the ability to hold that in? Like it or not, the vomit insists on being released. The need to purge is stronger than manners, or place, or doing what is appropriate. The body defeats the mind’s wishes.
My response to strongly overwhelmed senses can also be an explosive outburst that comes like a tidal wave. Staying away from overwhelming situations helps but I can’t hide from the world. Sometimes I may be in an environment where the background music may be at a volume so loud as to be really agonizing to a person with sound sensitivities. That same environment may be so visually stimulating it is like a kaleidoscope whizzing at a fast speed. In the struggle of sensory blasts, we with autism struggle to keep it together. I think you can’t imagine the challenge of some environments. In the past I wrote how I felt overwhelmed by the crowds and visually blasting images in the rides in Disneyland. Many times there I get the feeling like I must escape instantly because my senses are overwhelmed, but these feelings can happen in many other environments as well.
Even after leaving a tough environment the effects may linger. I wish I could do more to stop the bursts inside because I may behave in a way I regret outside. The choice is to fight the intense feelings inside with so much effort (like fighting back the urge to vomit), or to have the feelings burst out. If I could figure out how to calm my system in these challenging moments, I would because afterwards I feel wretched and regretful. Thankfully I generally have good control now despite these moments that are so overwhelming. But this is still a great frustration for those of us with autism, as well as those who are with us when it happens.