I’ve written a blog on here about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) but I wanted to write a post about something linked to SPD but which causes a worsening of symptoms and pain, that is sensory overload.
So to me the world is louder, brighter, smellier than it is for most people. I can’t eat certain things due to texture, I am under sensitive to some things regarding sensory stuff, and I have a great difficulty processing internal sensory feelings. All of this affects me everyday, it affects the way I interact with the world. I do what I can to control senses, with ear defenders, tinted Irlen lenses, masks, hats, baggy clothing. Yet still the senses are dramatically over powering for me, and often this means I go into sensory overload.
Here is a picture of me with all my equipment to try and reduce sensory input.
For me there are two ways I reach sensory overload: gradually, or suddenly.
Gradually can mean over a few hours, days, or weeks. It means that slowly things become even worse sensory wise. Things become brighter, noisier, smellier. The air against my skin starts to hurt, wearing clothes is agony and I scratch at my skin wanting to rip it off and escape. Over this time it gets to a point where my head is constantly pounding, I feel ill and I know if I don’t take a few days to rest, to stay indoors recovering with the sensory input that I can manage then I will reach meltdown or shutdown stage.
However, I can also reach sensory overload suddenly. It appears so severely, so suddenly.
Last night I was watching a film, and suddenly I no longer could. The film was quite flashy, with graphics that moved a lot in different media’s, both real people, but also drawings moving, and suddenly sensory overload hit me so badly.
I felt like an arrow had gone in through my left eye, and was lodged in my eye and going into my head. The pain in my eye and through my head in a line was horrendous. Then both eyes also started to feel like a volcano was erupting behind them. My eyes felt like hot lava was continually burning them, and my forehead was filled with blinding pain. I felt sick suddenly, my skin was beginning to burn, and yet I also felt cold. I started to scratch at my skin in an attempt to starve off the feel of holly leaves and stinging nettles attacking me. I began to sob in pain, the lights were off, curtains were drawn, it was night time, I was wearing my tinted lenses and my eyes were shut, and yet everything was still too bright. I was in agony. Absolute agony, and it appeared so suddenly. Yes I was still recovering from meltdowns and stressful things last week, but these sudden sensory overloads can appear when I’ve had stress, no stress, when I feel fine, or when I don’t.
Usually when sensory overload hits suddenly I end up having a meltdown or I shutdown. Last night I had a meltdown. I started sobbing, screaming, I curled up on the floor and rocked for ages and was hitting my head against the floor. Eventually I got under my weighted blanket and just lay in the dark listening to gentle music.
Sensory overloads (and indeed meltdowns) can cause physical after symptoms. I feel like I have a cold, but I don’t. I have a runny and sniffly nose, sneeze a lot, headache, exhaustion and fatigue and lack of energy. Also the sensory input from the world is worse than usual and it takes me a while to recover and for the sensory inputs to get back down to my usual level (which is still a painful and overwhelming level, but is my norm)
Sensory overload is agony, and takes time to recover from. It is something I deal with so often, but you never get used to it.