Monday, September 9, 2013

Feeling Overwhelmed

I think feeling overwhelmed is common for people with Autism/Spectrum. I have often heard or read about people with Autism/Spectrum "losing it" in large gatherings, or specifically during times in their lives when they were overwhelmed or exhausted past the point of normal. 

Whatever the causes of these overwhelming times, one thing is certain; this particular trait alone can set us apart, even without a known cause.

Today it is very common for people to constantly be on the go. From work to children's after school activities to our own extracurriculars, it seems to be the norm that people are constantly running, and giving of their time and energy to every pursuit that one could possibly imagine. It isn't just all the kids have X activity, its that child 1 has this activity, and child 2 has a different one, and child 3 has yet another one, and so on. Then we ourselves will say yes to a wide variety of other responsibilities, whether for family, friends, work or church. It's just "normal" to be constantly busy and constantly social.

I know, from my viewpoint, that it is impossible for anyone with Autism/Spectrum to be on the go at all times, if for no other reason than that it takes a lot less stimuli for us to be overwhelmed, whether we realize it or not. Often times, unfortunately, I don't realize I'm overwhelmed until its too late and I'm having those typical anxiety attack symptoms. Whether there is a specific form of sensory input that bothers us the most (such as sights, sounds, smells), or simply one more than we can handle at a time, or if it is just all of them in combination, it takes far less time for someone on the spectrum to become overwhelmed with certain situations. 

As I said, this alone can set us apart. It makes us "weird" that we can't function the same way that other people do. It makes us abnormal that we can't handle a trip to the store on Labor Day Friday. It makes us different, and we stick out, because we can't be comfortable in certain situations, especially social ones such as a party. It makes us confusing when we need to take a few minutes (or more) to sit down at the computer, bring out our phones, or leave the room when we have company at our house.

I've never been someone who has to have people around me all the time. I am lonely without my children around me, but as far as friends go, I have never been someone who needs to have regular physical, in person contact with my friends. Facebook does the job for the most part. There are times in life that I wish they were physically there for me, but for the most part, (no offense), I find that life is a lot easier without having to socialize in person. However, I have noticed that the times that I do have people here, I do need to take that step out of the room. It is a good thing that my husband is fairly social most of the time, and the fact that I am no longer in the room is usually not noticed by guests, because my husband just keeps chatting. 

I do remember, however, having birthday parties or something at my house as a child, and after a while I would be found alone somewhere reading a book. This was something that was not "normal". Shouldn't I want to spend time with my friends? Shouldn't I be out with them, doing what they were doing, playing with them, talking to them? Sure, I did, in a way. But honestly, it was a lot easier to play by myself, and since I loved reading, it was a lot more peaceful in the confines of a book than it was with a bunch of kids.

I can't speak for the people I was friends with when I was younger but I'm sure that this problem with easily becoming overwhelmed had a lot to do with why they ended up not being my friend, even if they had been my friend and defended me for years. I had a very hard time with kids my age. I didn't understand why they acted the way they did, and I'm sure they didn't understand me either. I can't recall a single instance in elementary when I actually played WITH another kid. I remember pretending to be one of the boxcar children, but I was alone. I remember doing cartwheels and whatnot, but again, I was alone (and even teased for pretending that I was really doing 'gymnastics'). I remember hating when everyone wanted to play kickball or something at recess, because I would much rather find something else to do. 

Being overwhelmed is a very disabling feeling. Basically, I would rather collapse onto the floor than have to deal with any social or loud situation when I am overwhelmed. Unfortunately, I usually don't want to sleep. I have a very complicated relationship to sleeping early. I feel as if something is wrong with me if I go to sleep earlier than 10, as if I'm sick or something. Even if I am sick, it just feels wrong to go to sleep early. This is something I would like to change, but for now, at least 10 works. It could be worse. 

People who are expected to act like everyone else, yet can't, find that very few people will go out of their way to deal with your differences. Where the norm is to party all night Friday and Saturday, there is nothing left for one to do with others that doesn't involve overwhelming parties and other such situations. 

Anyway, I've been interrupted several times through writing this post today, so if it seems incoherant, I apologize. I also seem to have gone off on a tangent, so I'm sorry for that too. :P