Monday, January 16, 2012

Near Sensory Meltdown - Unexpected Change In Environment Interrupting an Intent Focus

Photograph by Derek Jackson

Mid-study, mid-snow fall, I had a break through in a little hump I had to get over in order to get into the study mode. I had been overwhelmed with a weeks worth of Geology homework to catch up on and for me, that drowning feeling can be a rough one to conquer. But when I do conquer it and slip into that beautiful phase where my brain latches down on all things intellectual, oh what a sweet time that is. Hyperfocusing is the blessing and the curse of people with brains like mine.

Let's see. Had the bump-hump-hill... But I conquered it! I was set to go calculating atoms based on half-lives and then... the parents came home.

A shift in setting, without warning, can be a trigger for me, sometimes (it's always going to be sometimes, isn't it?). The unexpected has a tendency to set me off in certain ways when my hyper-focus is disturbed. Today, my face started to feel hot and prickly.

I moved to the studio computer when the snow-shovel scraping started.

This is where non-SPD folks don't get it. This is where non-SPD folks, if they were watching would probably make some judgments on my character. They would probably say, "Hold it together!" not realizing how long I've already been holding it together for. They might say, "You're over-reacting," not realizing how much of my reactions I've been working to suppress.

SPD, ADHD, and Autism share a handful of things and a lot of folks on the autism spectrum deal with sensory issues. I was watching a fascinating video on a girl with autism who finally, after years and years, found her voice through typing. A girl they thought was incapable of so much turned out to be very expressive and articulate.

Here is an excerpt from the video:

Reporter: Carly, why do autistic kids cover their ears, flap their arms, or hum?
Carly Types: It's a way for us to drown out all sensory input that over loads us all at once. We creat output to block out input.

That I could relate to. When my brain get's overloaded, a huge struggle takes over as I try and deal with it all. There's a conflict between acting how a normal person would act and acting how my brain wants to act. It's really frustrating. I don't want to overreact by "normal person" standards, but I'm not a normal person. I want to act like an adult, but this overwhelming feeling is like having toddlers run my brain again.

With the start of a sensory overload, I was a time bomb. I thought I was doing fine and got to work, ignoring the sound, but that snow scraping kept knocking the wrong "nerve" in my brain.

With each scrape, my brain had a similar reflex to a gag reflex.

You know how when you gag, you can't help it? You don't want to, but it's what your body does. And no one gets mad at you for gagging. They even call it a reflex. Pharyngeal reflex. "A reflex action, also known as a reflex, is an involuntary and nearly instantaneous movement in response to a stimulus."
Involuntary response.
That happens with me, sometimes, with noises and on this day, vibrations as well.

I tried to sit it out and be normal.
Didn't work.
Before long I was covering my ears, yelling out a whisper of, "STOP! I WANT IT TO STOP! STOP!"
I didn't want to be too loud.

At this point I was torn. It's hard when something that is normal to others sets you off. For me, I want to explain to them what is going on, but since they don't understand, they normally don't really take it the ideal way. My parents especially have a history of reacting the same [negative] way, regardless of how careful and tactful I am and it's made communication a challenge, for me.

I wanted to move from the studio to my room, but my cousins can hear whatever goes on, as they live beneath me, and I didn't want to have them listen. I covered my ears, wrapping my head in my arms, and made it to the very back corner of our laundry room.

I safely maintained a comfortable position (you can guess which one), face covered, eyes covered, and hummed away. Hommmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. It was like how I used to blast radio static in 2008. Just as Carly had said, making my own output blocked out the input.

After a while, the scraping had stopped and I felt like I was ok. I wanted to see how fast I could recover. I still think, sometimes, that it's all in my head and I can choose to not react (which usually doesn't end the best).

I went to the front room, started to type, calmed down a bit, and then my dad came back inside. I involuntarily shuddered and cringed. Each step he took up the stairs rattled me and I took on a state of hyperviligence.

Even after he left, with each tiny noise, I involuntarily jerked to look back. Spazzing out? Yes. I hid my face.

My music continued to blast in my ears so I wouldn't hear too much.

And, eventually, I calmed down, back to normal.
Or, well, as normal as I can get....

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