Sensory Overload

Sensory overload is a frustrating phenomenon which affects many people with MS.  It can take on many different forms, such as, but not limited to sights, sounds, people, movement, etc.  Other examples are listed here:

  • Environmental (e.g., crowds, shopping, dining out, acoustics, driving, etc.)
  • Social (e.g., meetings/parties, multiple or even one-on-one conversations, phone calls, dates)
  • Work, home, school (multi-tasking, chores, family, planning, studying, creating & writing letters, documents, email/texts, etc.)

Some people can recognize the signs when they are vulnerable to a sensory overload situation and they can take appropriate measures to prevent it from escalating into a bigger problem.  For others, it’s unpredictable, comes on without warning, and can even lead into full blown panic attacks.  I’ve experienced this from time to time and it’s a scary, terrible feeling.

I’ve recently had a revelation of sorts regarding the way sensory overload affects me, specifically with thought processing and cog fog.  It’s a strange, multi-faceted issue which seems to mainly involve focus, fatigue, and a little perfectionistic personality OCD.  Also, it seems my creative side of the brain battles the logical/business side, especially when I’m writing or attempting to submit anything that contains MY words or ideas to other people, or when working on any project I am passionate about.   I have trouble being able to transfer the words/thoughts inside my head directly, easily, or in a timely manner onto paper.  It’s like I’m multi-tasking in my head, therefore focus, word finding, energy, and emotional changes take over and settle in. My thoughts can’t keep up with the ongoing chatter and ever changing ideas in my head.

Basically, I am very creative person with numerous ideas of projects or things to write about filed in my head.  When an idea comes along I tend to write it down on a “to do” list.  I always start writing using a notebook and pencil and never concern myself with proofreading or editing during the “write it out” process.  I typically edit or re-write when I put my work into a computer document when there is a submission deadline I intend to keep, or when I’m simply ready to finalize something and put it away.  When I’m typing my work, my thoughts…my words into the computer, EVERYTHING CHANGES and time stands still.  As I enter my work, I edit and then edit some more.  Soon, I’m re-writing something that was just fine to begin with.  A great word or sentence will pop into my head, but the moment I start to type it in, POOF!  It’s already left my brain and so I sit, staring blankly at the computer screen as if the lost words will magically return.  My cramping fingers are hovered over the keyboard in anticipation of nothing.  Hours go by (without me realizing) and I will “wake up” to notice I’ve been stuck on the same paragraph.  I’ve had this same issue when typing out an email or test or even a post on Facebook!  I don’t recognize it when it’s coming on and I don’t realize it when it’s happening – it’s as if I’m in a trance or on autopilot, yet I’m going nowhere.

When I do come out of this bizarre tunnel vision, I feel the damage done.  I’ve hit that wall, crashed and burned, can barely speak, yet my brain will keep ruminating…and it takes a while to realize it’s time for me to rest, sleep, re-boot, and try again later – I’ve come to accept this is the way I am.


Author: Mary

ABOUT MARY ~ Mary is a "late-blooming" writer from Texas who enjoys exploring a variety of different styles & genres, however her deep passion for creative writing (poetry, essay, narrative interview & non-fiction) remains unwavering & most purposeful. Mary's personal & professional background is filled with an eclectic combination of business & art (e.g., music, performing arts, 15 years sales/marketing & special events planning in the private club industry). Mary is a 1990 graduate from The University of North Texas with a B.S. in Hotel/Restaurant Management. In 2001, life as she knew it would be dramatically & forever altered by the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at age 35. Several years passed, searching for answers to unknown questions. This loss of reality, normalcy, & PURPOSE needed to be reinvented - renewed - rewritten. This disease is not a "one size firs all." MS affects everyone differently & can morph unpredictably, silently, relentlessly... day to day. It's not easy to figure out how to deal with disease & this vile invasion of an uninvited, unwanted "internal room-mate." Eventually, Mary also sought the help of a professional therapist which helped her learn important coping skills needed to tame/calm mood disorders & to encourage healthy ways in which to purge the noisy chaos inside the brain. And so the writing began... as did a newfound passion & purpose. This journey of reinvention became plausible via Mary's background & her desire to discover new creative outlets. As a student for life, Mary continues to explore & study the health benefits from turning off our "auto pilot switch" & instead focus on learning - consume new information & participate in new activities (Neuroplasticity). The gift of "resilience" is a glorious, powerful tool which stems from the endurance of life & it's many challenges. Resilience forces us to rise up & learn face issues (new & old) head on. Focus on the important things in life. Laugh & live selflessly with compassion, purose & passion. Connect with Mary at: 🔸Twitter: @pettigrew66, @MSpals 🔸Facebook: 🔸LinkedIn: 🔸Instagram: 🔸 Acknowledgments and Press ~ * Creator & Co-founder of MSpals: A Global Organization (2014 - present) * Administrator & contributing author of content, posts, & interviews: MSpals blog: https:/ ~ The Summer of Sport: Forward Poetry 2012 ~ Poetry Rivals Collection 2013 ~ Something On Our Minds Vol.III ~ Something On Our Minds Vol IV. Interviews: National Multiple Sclerosis Society's "Momentum Magazine" ~ 2013 = Art Therapy & MS ~ 2015 = Connecting Via Social Media Other works also featured on a variety of blogs, websites, videos, as well as other multimedia platforms including: www.MS&MeRadio/TBI Network iConquerMS/The Accelerated Cure Project WEGO Health HealtheVoices MS Focus - Monthly contributor

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