Patreon members and YouTube channel members had access to this video on August 9, 2022. The video’s public release will be October 12, 2022.
Hey everyone, Lyric here, and I am an Autistic adult, however, I didn’t find out I was Autistic until I was 29 years old. Therefore, despite the fact that I was Autistic my entire life, I had no language, or vocabulary, to express the autistic experience that I had, because I thought, incorrectly, that I was non-autistic, Allistic, NeuroTypical.
That was not correct, which meant when certain things happened to me, like sensory overload, they often were dismissed, ignored, or attributed to other things.
Learning I’m autistic, and learning about sensory overload, has allowed me to have less sensory overloads than I had before, because I understand what’s going on with me and I can prevent them.
I wanted to share more about sensory overload with you, so that hopefully you or your loved ones can help prevent themselves from getting completely overwhelmed by the sensory environment.
If you’d like to know more, please do stay tuned.
So first, what is sensory overload?
People who have sensory processing differences, sometimes referred to as sensory processing disorder, when this interferes with our ability to engage with the world around us, may experience becoming completely overwhelmed by the sensory environment.
As an Autistic Person, I find that my brain is constantly processing a lot of information on overdrive. I don’t tend to have filters that allow me to filter out distractions and background noise and other sensory things.
Right now, there are crows cackling loudly, and that is really making it hard for me to think, for example. I also hear this fan, that I don’t even know if you can hear, just constantly humming right next to me. All of these little things, on top of my mind, that aren’t tuned down. They’re not put into the background.
Because all of this is coming at me all at once, sometimes my brain just can’t handle it, gets stuck, and shuts down.
When this happens, to the average onlooker, I may appear out of it, or disoriented, or agitated, or frustrated. I might be “short”, and give really short responses, and answers to things, as my brain stops being able to work as effectively as it normally would.
On the inside, I start to feel a bit disoriented, so yes, I am making short answers, and I’m aggravated. It becomes harder for me to concentrate, or find the words, when I start to become overloaded.
I feel as if the lights, which they’re usually already really bright for me, start to get brighter. Everything becomes just so bright. The lights are burning my brain. The sounds turn up, and get exceptionally loud, and start to all mush together, and everything just seems to be swirling around me.
At the same time, if anyone’s ever had a panic attack, and the adrenaline starts pumping through your body, when your fight flight flee has been triggered… I get filled with this adrenaline, this fight, this flight, this flee… so I might really be aggravated, and agitated, and give really snippy short answers, because my heart is racing.
Inside my brain is telling me, run, run, get away, get away, run, run, get away, get away. If I’m in the middle of the grocery store, with a bunch of groceries that still need to be paid for, that’s not, necessarily, a great option. On the other hand, if I push my luck, and I don’t get out of there in time, there could be consequences.
What consequences you might ask? Well, if I am already getting to the point, where I am overloaded in a sensory capacity, being disoriented in public can be dangerous, because you never know if someone’s gonna call the cops on you, or some other situation would happen. Sensory overload is a medical emergency.
In addition to that concern, I may have a meltdown, because of sensory overload. That’s definitely something that can trigger a meltdown, in me, because there’s all of that adrenaline, and that overwhelm, and that need to escape, so it makes that a more intense situation. On top of that, there are other health consequences of overloading my senses.
I, personally, have chronic migraines and seizures. On top of that, because of having that fight, flight, flee response, be triggered, I -have IBS, so when the anxiety kicks in, the adrenaline is pumping, the stomach and the digestive system don’t work effectively. My stomach shuts down whenever I get overwhelmed, or overloaded, or have a meltdown. So it messes with my very sensitive digestive system.
The other thing is, much like when you have a seizure, there is a phase after you have a seizure that you have to recover from. You’re very lethargic, and you’re maybe prone to more seizures being triggered in that phase.
Sensory overload, in my experience is very, very, similar for me where, after I have had sensory overload, it’s more likely I can get re-triggered, into having another sensory overload.
I feel very tired, my brain may not be its best, and I may need to take a nap, or just go escape in a sensory friendly space: our top loft bunk of our RV, covered in my weighted blanket, other fuzzy things, with noise canceling headphones on, in the dark, and curl up and just exist in- in silence, away from all sensory things.
The consequences are social consequences, dangers to being disoriented in public, having law enforcement called on you for that.
The dangers of having meltdowns, the dangers of having more sensory overloads being triggered, and then the compound health impacts that sensory overload can trigger. For me, other neurological things, such as seizures, migraines, IBS.
There are a lot of consequences for having sensory overload, that can extend further: hours, days, weeks on past the initial sensory overload.
That’s why it is so incredibly important for anyone who is prone to sensory overload, anyone with sensory processing disorder, or sensory processing differences, whether you’re Autistic or not, because this doesn’t just impact Autistic People, to be very aware of their own unique sensory profile.
The things that trigger my sensory overload may not be, and are likely not, the same things that will trigger someone else to have sensory overload, and vice versa. The things I sensory seek with, and I help to soothe myself with, and to regulate with, may not be appropriate for someone else.
Even some of the things that I use, as part of my own sensory diet, may not be appropriate at all times. Like when I am feeling already amped up things that energize me would not be appropriate, and when I am trying to get more energy, things that soothe and calm me down would not be appropriate.
So really understanding your own sensory needs, your own sensory profile, learning your sensory triggers, learning what causes you to have sensory overloads.
Journal, writing things down, noting when you have sensory overloads, and what you are doing, leading up to the sensory overload, and when you had sensory overload, becoming really aware of how you can protect yourself from those environments.
For me, that may mean taking noise canceling headphones out in public, or using sunglasses, or indoor sun shades for myself, and protecting my senses. Hats also, depending on what your sensory triggers are. Avoiding things that overload my circuitry in my brain.
I recommend that everyone, who experiences this, also learn their own triggers, so that you can take the best possible care of your brain too, because my needs are gonna be different from your sensory needs.
It’s funny going your entire life, having an experience, but not having a language to describe your experience.
When I was little, I remember literally crying to my mom that I hated the grocery store, and I never wanted to go there again. I couldn’t explain why. I just knew it made me feel terrible to go to the grocery store. Nobody could understand why, they just thought I was a kid that was bored at the grocery store, and didn’t like going to the grocery store.
Then as a young person, why when I had to go to the grocery store for myself, I would go to the grocery store at 1:00 AM, when it was empty… because there were no people there to create sensory chaos for me.
It also explains why I completely disassociate from my body, and then feel horrible for the rest of the day, anytime I go to the dentist and have people, touching me or do any kind of medical procedure. It is just a overwhelming to have that much unpredictable, close human contact, from strangers, because I am very sensory sensitive in, in touch. That’s just too much for me.
So many things now make sense: the migraines. I used to have migraines several days a week, at the office I worked in that had the fluorescent lighting. Now that I avoid fluorescent lighting, I have had just a couple migraines in the past few years. My life, and my quality of life, is so much better now, because I understand my brain. I take care of my brain, and I am very bold in speaking up with what I need, in order to be comfortable, happy, and successfull.
So those of you reading, listening, who have sensory processing differences, and sensory overload: what is sensory overload like for you? What are your biggest triggers? The third question: what do you do to avoid, prevent, and recover from sensory overloads? What do you do for sensory overload, self care?
I’d love to know because like I said, many times, the things that work for me may not be something that works for you, or the next person, or everyone. It’s great that we all share, and learn, and grow from each other.
Thank you all so much for hanging out with me this week. If you made it to the end of the video, and I didn’t lose you and I didn’t go so off track on tangent that you got bored and tuned out, hit that thumbs up. Let me know.
It’s hard for me to stay on topic, and focused, and not go on tangents, and keep videos to a reasonable length, but, but I try to do my best, cause that’s an accessibility, being able to summarize, and not lose people. So let me know if I, if I did a good job there and hit the thumbs up.
Thank you, everyone. Who comments, who shares your experiences, your suggestions, your questions, and your video feedback. As always, I am so grateful for all of you. Of course.
Thanks to, to the monetary subscribers, the Patreon followers, the Twitter super followers, the YouTube channel members, the Facebook supporters. Those of you that do a little monetary subscription help with things like website hosting, the transcriptioning software I use that has an annual subscription, the technology with which the videos are filmed on.
All of this would not be possible without the help of the viewers like you. So I am so grateful. As always, thank you. Thank you! Thank you to each and every one of you,
I will see you all next Wednesday.
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💜 – Lyric