My neurons get overwhelmed and overloaded easily, much more quickly than most people. I have lost my ability to filter and tune out the world around me, so information is absorbed and attempted to be processed all at once. What does this mean? If I am in a crowded room – I hear every voice equally, every shuffle and squirm, every cough and sneeze and mumble. I smell everything, oh man do I smell it. Ease up on the cologne, hair spray, and perfumes, it makes me sick. Then add in every cough drop, mint, chewing gum, body odor, bad breath, yup people are smelly. Ok, that’s two only 2 senses and I’m already nauseous and overwhelmed. Crowds tend to bump into each other, I get touched, nudged, surrounded and my skin crawls and tries to shrink and disappear with each assault. My vision may start out clear, but most indoor settings use awful fluorescent lights with a tone and flicker that causes me physical pain. I start to squint. My vision blurs, gets noise and static like an old TV. If they flash or strobe any lights I’m a goner, even closing my eyes doesn’t work as I can still sense the changes through my closed lids.
Confusion sets in. I can no longer read, comprehend the words I see or hear. All the faces around me suddenly look ominous and distorted. My heart races, I start sweating, feel a choking feeling as I struggle to breathe. Yup – Panic is taking hold. I know to start breathing exercises, get myself to a quieter location, try some grounding to give my poor tired neurons a break. But at this point, all I can do is damage control, because the stress sequence has already started. My brain is overloaded and I need to rest. I have run out of processing capacity, like trying to run Photoshop on my old computer, just too much data coming through – a crash is inevitable.
http://www.braininjury-explanation.com/consequences/invisible-consequences/overstimulation-flooding – “In over stimulation feelings of panic can prevail upon the brain-injured. The person may be sweating, have tremors, can be vomiting, and thinking is difficult.
These are the basic reactions of the body to survive in a situation that is perceived as very dangerous. It is also called the fight or flight response. One person is going to flee from the overstimulation of the noise or stimulus of the moment. The other person faints. Most of them cannot think anymore or are very upset first.
The basic emotion of fear and the ensuing responses are generated and directed by the amygdala. The amygdala is part of the oldest part of the brains, the limbic system. This system is a kind of emotional sentry. All that matters is survival. If there is danger, immediately adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into the body to flight, fight or freeze.”
I appear to be withdrawn, isolated and antisocial now. I avoid crowded places. Truth is I never enjoyed them but I could manage before. Now it is torture. I don’t think this is depression and anxiety, or fears causing me to stay home, not exactly. I do fear the overload response, it absolutely horrible. Imagine if lights, sounds and smells caused you pain, not just discomfort. Imagine if you could not make sense of what people were saying to you? You see them asking you something, but can’t hear their voice above everyone else’s, or if you do, the words seem foreign. Then you can’t remember who they are, or why you are there. Confusion sets in with totality. When processing stops – it stops. It is really super scary to be walking up to the counter to order a sandwich one moment, and the next find everyone staring at you, grabbing at you, saying things you don’t understand.
After some peace and rest, I always come back online, and with practice I am learning not to get myself to a state of total confusion. But there is always this nagging, underlying fear – what is I lose my mind forever? What if I stay like that one day?
I don’t feel like I am recovering or healing. I feel like I have been stuck here for years. Like I made some progress initially, but then it stopped. And that also terrifies me. Is this as good as it gets? This is not my brain.