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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there, Ido. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I've never known anyone with autism, but I've always been interested in the experience of it. It's wonderful to be able to meet the interesting person inside - I'm so glad that there are tools & technologies you can use to reach out. It is a treasure to be able learn about your world, and I am grateful to know a little better how to interact with someone with autism, should I ever have the opportunity. I am also really hopeful that science will catch up to you. I have studied a bit of neurochemistry - I have a pharmacy degree and am currently a grad student, studying sleep. What we 'know' so far is pretty impressive but, really, only a drop in the bucket. There is so much more to learn and understand about our brains. It seems to me that our understanding of autism so far is about on the level of 'chisel and tablet' technology. And we've been stuck there because of our inability to communicate, along with the condescending attitudes that assume that, "If you don't look/talk/think/act like I do, then there must be something wrong with you." (Not that I'm any better - I'm only human. Silly humans.) Your writings, along with those of others with autism, should help to revolutionize scientific & therapeutic approaches, and this is a wonderful thing, in my opinion. I expect, also, that we will learn how really similar we all are, despite what seem to be profound, insurmountable differences. For instance, your description about being overwhelmed by emotions was so intriguing to me. It was also a bit familiar. I have PTSD and a therapist once described some of my reactions to things as being 'hijacked' by my emotions. At times, the emotions kick in and they take over all reason & logic. They affect my thoughts, behavior, and even certain physiological processes, like my heart rate, muscle tone, and digestion. I wonder if a similar biochemical process is at work for both of us, or if they are completely different. Either way, I am interested to learn. So, thank you. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and enriching our understanding. And, also, I wish you all the best as you work to overcome those things that are problematic for you. My experiences of 'emotional hijacking' are probably just a shadow of what you have to deal with, but it took me some time and effort to get better control. So I cannot imagine how much more challenging your situation must be. But I applaud you for working so hard. Cheers! - Jules

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