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 patient advocate for MS, chronic illness & disabilities. She is a freelance 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 & purposeful. Mary's personal & professional background is an eclectic compilation consisting of the fine arts, civil rights advocacy, fundraising with 15 years in sales/marketing & event 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, Mary was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Within a few years, health issues forced her to resign from the career she loved. As her marriage began to crumble, Mary was keenly aware of the emotional & mental crisis firmly taking hold. Eventually, she sought the help of a professional therapist which helped her learn the important coping skills needed to tame/calm mood disorders & to encourage healthy ways in which to purge the noisy chaos inside the brain. This loss of reality, normalcy, & PURPOSE needed to be reinvented, renewed & rewritten...NOW! The divorce & all related proceedings lasted an unfathomable six years, yet it was the therapy, communities & her writing which kept her most grounded. Each poem a cathartic purge, each word a therapeutic tool meant for healing & to inspire resilience. Blindsided by this newfound purpose & passion, Mary continues writing & exploring a plethora of multimedia outlets to this day. Her writing, networking & advocacy projects target the MS, chronic illness & disability communities. Her interactive presence can be seen throughout social media. Although MS is the primary community in which she advocates, Mary enjoys playing an active role in other patient communities (bloggers, writers, music, live chats, special events, & many more. One of the key messages Mary continues to emphasize is how chronic illness can affect everyone differently. MS is a prime example in that we are not a "one size fits all." This disease called MS is a conundrum in every which way. To this day, research continues, yet we still don't know the root cause for MS, yet current findings now show "risk factors" for the disease. MS can morph as it sees fit to do so. Unpredictably, silently, sometimes relentlessly this MS becomes an uninvited, unwanted "internal room-mate." Mary's overall background & her desire to discover herself & new creative outlets was a plus. A renewed student for life, Mary continues to explore the unknown - Once you switch off your "auto pilot" it's amazing what you can see & do. Place focus on learning, consume new information & participate in activities uncharted or foreign (The science of Neuroplasticity). All of this is most DEFINITELY a work in progress, but remember to focus most on the important things in life. Laugh out loud & live selflessly with compassion, purpose & unbridled passion. Connect with Mary at: 🔸Twitter: @pettigrew66, @MSpals 🔸Facebook: 🔸LinkedIn: 🔸Instagram: 🔸 Acknowledgments and Press ~ UPDATES TO COME * 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 - Patient Leader HealtheVoices - Patient Leader MS Focus - Monthly contributor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


A chronic illness life is a crazy life. We can handle it together- with humor, kindness, and a few meltdowns along the way. Peace, love, and health.

The Amazing Adventures of Stick Girl

Join me as I adapt to living with a disability. I will update you on my health, review things I do, see and visit all with a positive spin.


Expand Your Horizons

Reality Recappers

Here to recap all the crap

My Life in Pieces

A history of my journey through life.

Damaged Goods

The unfiltered musings of a youth worker, MS warrior, wanna-be writer and chronically misunderstood misfit

A 30 Minute Life

Living with chronic illness - Multiple Sclerosis & Pain

MS and Ultra-Cycling and Running

Father,Grandfather and Ultra-cyclist with MS

Diabetes Blog -

Searching for the right balance between the highs and lows of diabetes

Rising Above rheumatoid arthritis

A Collection of Poetry, Essays & Articles ~ by Mary Pettigrew

Carnival of MS Bloggers

A Collection of Poetry, Essays & Articles ~ by Mary Pettigrew

budding communications

specialist writing services


The Voice of Creative Independence

Bean's MS Blog

A Collection of Poetry, Essays & Articles ~ by Mary Pettigrew

Mango Health

A Collection of Poetry, Essays & Articles ~ by Mary Pettigrew

My New Normals

Living With Multiple Sclerosis

Hellomrsmartypants's Blog

Just another weblog

Barefoot Heathen

trivial nonsense from a random existence

The Zebra Mom

One mother's experience of life with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome

%d bloggers like this: