…because I ended up getting a fairly comprehensive first-person experience of both today. I accompanied my partner to a lunch thing (60th anniversary party for some of his parents’ friends), which ended up being…way more sensory chaos than I’d anticipated.
The main problem, I think, was the layout of the room we were in. It was sort of a banquet-hall area at the back of a restaurant. There were enough seats for everyone but since we got there a bit late, the only available seats were ones (a) right in front of the live band and (b) that meant I had people moving around on all 4 sides of me at all times. I very very very much prefer having my back or at least one side to a wall. I also prefer having a clear path to the door. I had none of that in this case, and I had no language prepared for asking to change my seat to allow these things.
Anyway, though…even though everyone there was super cool (mostly Awesome Smartass Old People With Interesting Stories About Everything), I just could not deal with all the motion everywhere. The noise level I had at least been prepared for (EAR PLUGS!) but the visual and physical-proximity-to-human-movement stuff…gah. There was just no end to it.
The first thing I noticed overload-wise was the “stress sleepiness” I recently posted about. It was kind of weird noticing it in full knowledge of what it was. My brain was simultaneously doing that yawny-groggy thing and also going “huh, that’s interesting, I think the chaos is making me tired.”
I had some cold water to drink and that perked me up a little bit. And eventually the tiredness did actually lift some. But it wasn’t replaced by feeling better. I was no longer sleepy, but I was really just…kind of *raw*-feeling. Like all my skin had been removed and my nerve endings were being alternately rubbed with steel wool and blown on with a hairdryer. And my visual processing went all to crap. I could only see bits of things and couldn’t really contextualize what I was seeing. People would talk to me, and then 10 minutes later it would occur to me that they’d been saying WORDS that MEANT STUFF.
So essentially my initial stress response was to get sleepy but then when I didn’t leave the situation, all the energy I’d been pouring into making sense of and interpreting my surroundings was rapidly depleted. By the time I was able to let my partner know I needed to get out of there I had lost speech pretty much entirely (every time I tried to talk my brain tried to make me cry instead, even though I wasn’t sad or anything, it was just more like…”well words don’t work so let’s do this other thing that makes no sense!”).
Once I’d been in the car for 5-10 minutes I was fine, but holy hell that was…definitely a reminder to self that I need to do a better job of preparing even for things that most people can just go DO without thinking about it. And now I am home I am just drained beyond belief.
Tumblr, I really wanted to post that post! Why did you have to eat it? :’(
Someone (youneedacat, I think?) wrote recently about getting really tired as a type of stress response. What IS that even about? Because I am pretty sure that happens to me, at least some of the time.
Right now I am effing exhausted despite having slept a decent amount and being adequately fed and coffee-enabled and everything. (And I don’t have a fever, I checked). And I think it’s because I’m stressing out about my senior cat (who is probably having surgery next week to remove a suspicious mass that could be feline breast cancer, basically).
And it’s making me remember this thing that used to happen to me in school. Where essentially, I’d get to class and find myself just feeling overwhelmingly sleepy. Sometimes the stuff I did that I got in trouble for (like getting up and wandering around the room, reading unrelated books under my desk, etc.) was stuff I was doing *just to stay awake*, because trying to sit at my desk made me feel like I was going to fall asleep any second. The weird part was…basically as soon as I got somewhere quiet or with less people in it (like if they sent me out in the hall due to fidgeting) I would have a ton of energy again. o_0 So now I’m thinking maybe the tiredness was a response to overload, because I also used to get it when I was out with my parents. Like when we would go to amusement parks and stuff…after a few hours I’d basically get super “draggy” and would want nothing more than to go back to the hotel. I would sometimes get so “tired” that I’d start feeling nauseated just from walking. But again, as soon as I got somewhere less overloady I’d feel much better.
The thing that puzzles me about this is what the mechanism could possibly be. I mean is it due to certain brain chemicals being depleted by stress and then restoring their usual levels when the stress is reduced? How can that even happen that fast? I guess it could be one of those things where a sensation of one thing manifests in a weird way because autism, but it would be interesting to know how the hell this even works because I’m sure it’s a real thing.