Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sensory Overload in Community Living - First Experience

Yesterday, I had my first potential mild sensory “melt-down” that was luckily averted before I was too far gone.

Living this structured life has both benefited me and required a few ounces of adjustments. Finding the unstructured “alone” time that I need to decompress and re-center is quite hard to come by, which in a sense I think is good for me to learn to live with.

However, on this day, my body rebelled. It decided that enough was enough.

I felt myself feeling a bit overwhelmed around lunch time during our discussion. It was a challenging question we were processing and required some deep thinking. But that was fine, not unusual.

I was feeling a bit suffocated as they heated the house with wood. Whereas I am very comfortable in cool weather, for them, what I find comfortable, they find freezing. One of my housemates kept adding wood to the fire to keep up the warmth. For me, I found it unbearable. I felt like I was being stifled and all I wanted was cool aire to breath. I could slip out on the occasion, but for activities like meal time, they required my presence inside at the table.

Work time is where I felt actually triggered.

Knowing I do best outside, alone, I asked for some outdoor jobs and got to spend a bit of the time working with the compost, recycling, and chickens. However, when all was said and done, I was assigned to the girls’ bathrooms. Bathrooms! A job I used to adore doing. No problem isn being asked to clean bathrooms.

But soon, things started getting to me.

The chemicals started to overwhelm my sense of smell. I felt like I ought not to breath and started to limit that sense. I didn’t feel like inhaling the fumes and that triggered negative emotions in my brain.

Then music.

Then the vacuuming started. It felt like someone was pushing it into my ears and I started to recoil in discomfort.

Rattling in the kitchen.

Please make this noise stop.

But I decided I could push through this. I decided to try and make my mind be greater than my senses. But my mind is my senses and I was not on a path to success.

It was time for me to sweep and mop the floor and I couldn’t find the broom anywhere. Multiple times I had to cross the wet, already mopped main floor barefoot and my entire body tingled with discomfort.

Escape. Flight. Escape. Flight.

It was at that point where I didn’t even feel like I could really communicate my needs. I slipped outside to the side steps and hugged my knees.

Tighter. Tighter. Tighter.

I didn’t feel like the joyous girl they had come to know. I felt like an absolute nutter.

It’s all in my head. Is it all in my head? Maybe it’s all in my head. Yes, it’s all in my head but that’s what makes it so real.

The vacuum continued to whir and roar. Then it would be turned off. Then on. Then off. My senses tipped with each change.

During a pause, I tried to slip inside the house. I made it to the bathroom when the vacuum started again and I quickly returned to the cold pavement.

When the vacuuming was for certain over, I skittered into my room, covered myself up, and hid. I was longing for some pressure, or something to make myself feel secure. I considered grabbing all of the books and quilts in the house and layering them on myself. But I felt too timid to get up.

4:30 PM means tea time... which is mandatory.

I am sure I could have passed and they would have been understanding, but I hadn’t yet fully explained to people what goes on in my little body and I felt obliged to attend. Walking to the sitting room, little sounds startled me and I found my place against a wall and later, the a foot stool.

It was there that In Young, sweet In Young, asked me how I was feeling.

“Not that well,” was my reply. Not usual words to come out of my words.

“Are you sick?” she asked. And I was able to give her a short clear explanation of the traffic jam in my brain.

Then she offered the best of all things to me. A hand massage. In Young has magical hands I tell you, lots of pressure, and it brought me back to center a bit more.

When it was time to get back to work, I talked to Anna about what was going on and she quickly allowed me to escape for a bit. I ran into the middle of the woods and found a rock sit on. I allowed my brain to wander, relax, and breath.

I’m not sure how long I was gone, but it helped a lot. A lot.
It helped to have no pressure to go back.
It helped to pray.

Feeling put back together, I made my way back to L’Abri and went to our room to read some Oscar Wilde. My roommates were really, well, sensitive towards me and I really appreciated it. They were compassionate but gave me space.

By dinner time, I felt close to back to normal.
Well, as normal as it gets for me...

1 comment:

  1. My soul leaps for joy when I get updates from you here. Please keep them coming.

    Also, as ever, you continue to enlighten me as to what life is like for you. You're making a difference and helping people understand.

    You rock.


Your words make me grin.

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