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.