I am overloaded. I had a busy weekend, with the usual round of kid’s activities and social stuff on Saturday and a full day at the science museum with Mr Purple and the children on Sunday. The beginning of the week has been similarly hectic, meeting up with friends on Monday and Tuesday followed by a course with a roomful of people on Weds morning and playdates for all three children after school. All really lovely activities and I’ve had fun but the intellectual, sensory and environmental stimulation has left me feeling overloaded.
Pre autism diagnosis I had no idea what this sensation was, meant, or how to deal with it. I knew I didn’t feel good and usually tried to combat it by ‘doing’. Meeting more friends, being more sociable and busy. This would make me feel more and more overloaded until the inevitable meltdown happened. Followed by a period of necessary rest, feeling better, and the cycle restarting.
What does overload feel like?
Overload feels scattered. Messy. Out of control. I feel exhausted, stimulated, and irritable. I find it hard to concentrate and I can’t think straight.
My daily autism related challenges are amplified. Any sensory input feels unbearable. I find it increasingly difficult to behave appropriately socially, and reading other people becomes impossible which causes problems and adds to the issue.
I didn’t know how to feel better, since recognising, identifying and dealing with emotions is a massive challenge for me at the best of times. Then comes the meltdown, after the tiny final trigger, I’m out of control and I want to run away from it all.
How I combat overload;
This is new for me. I was diagnosed in June last year, so six months in I’m taking baby steps towards self management and care.
First up is identifying how I feel. My feelings are like a jigsaw puzzle, all I know is that I don’t feel right and I want to feel better. So piece by piece I put it together, recognising the causes, the sensation and the necessary action. I need time out, space, quiet, I need to just be rather than do.
So I find a space and time where I can do just that. This morning I’m free, the children are at school and I’m ignoring the to do list in favour of sitting on my fabulous purple sofa. Im using my lap weight, a rectangular weight filled mini blanket which makes me feel calm and helps me to relax. I have on calm music at a low volume and I’m processing how I feel by writing this blog post.
Other things which help me include sitting in my bedroom with the curtains drawn and the door locked, this works well when the rest of my family are at home and I need to reduce input. We have sensory lighting and a bubble tube in Super Kid’s bedroom and I’m planning on spending some time relaxing and using those later.
Randomly I’ve found Candy Crush really helps. Something about rhythmically making patterns with the Candy, makes me feel really calm. It’s immersive, shuts out the rest of the world and helps me feel in control. Feeling in control is important to stop the cycle.
I feel strongly that learning to deal with overload is going to revolutionise my life. If I can stop the cycle before it goes too far and avoid the drama of my meltdowns then I will massively reduce my stress and shame. This will be better for those around me too, leading to better relationships which will also reduce stress and will increase my self esteem.
It’s been interesting and challenging taking the picture of me at the point of overload, anxious and irritable, and tracing it back to cause, too much noise, conversation and visual input. Previously I would have been looking for a problem to fix, searching for the thing which has made me feel this way, destroying relationships and upsetting my family along the way. I’m thrilled to be learning that actually I don’t really have too many problems, just a brain that is easily fried.