The Overload is Real

Until recent years, I never heard anything about people acknowledging being overwhelmed or overloaded, especially not in reference to emotions or sensory processing. I think the first time I heard of sensory overload was in reference to an autistic child. I know those who are autistic probably have a completely different level of sensory overload compared to those of us who are not autistic, but we all process sensory information differently and therefore it affects us differently. Sensory overload isn’t something that only affects our autistic population, it is something that can affect anybody.

Ever since first hearing about sensory overload, I opened my mind to learning more. I learned that not only can people be overloaded with sensory information, but we can also be overloaded from everyday emotions and environments. Some people never get overloaded and others easily do. Empaths are people who tend to be affected by sensory and emotion overload. For me, yes, my emotions absolutely get overloaded, but my sensory overload comes in the form of being overstimulated by entirely way too much going on around me for long periods of time.

I think it is important to point out that sensory and emotion overload does not outwardly look like what you see in movies or TV shows. While there may be some truth to what is conveyed, that is not typical for everybody. For instance, I do not have outbursts when I’m overloaded. I get stressed. My perfectionistic tendencies become more forefront to how I go about my tasks or activities. My need for being on time (read: no less than 10 minutes early) is exaggerated. I get short and snippy. I need shit put away in their damn places and why the hell is it still sitting on the f*ing counter after two days?! Then it might get to the point that I just break down crying. While this is my typical escalation path, each and every other person most likely has some other reaction to overload.

There is not one singular way for every single person to overcome sensory or emotion overload. The method that works for one will not work for others. The method that works this minute in this situation will potentially not work in the next moment in the next situation. For me, quiet time by myself helps. Sometimes all I can get it an extended trip to the bathroom or a longer than usual shower, but it is worth it. Most times, if I can take a couple of hours by myself, I recharge quite well. Driving by myself is extremely helpful, so I might volunteer to go to the store for something or go on a coffee run. When I hit my highest limits of overload, I need a few days to myself. To help with my day-to-day maintenance, I need one to two hours of quiet time in the morning by myself.

I have finally gotten to where I will take care of myself enough to request and even demand these situations so I can reduce and remove the overload from my life. I still battle with feeling guilty about it, especially when we have family over or when we are visiting family. This is something that I will be working on overcoming for quite some time. The point is that I finally do it for me and put myself first.

I didn’t go through therapy or any official diagnosis to get to this point. Some people need that assistance, some do not. I do not feel that my overload is to the point that I need medication for professional intervention. I learned tips and processes to overcome the overload the same way I learned that there was a perfectly normal explanation for these feelings I couldn’t explain: through research and personal growth. It has worked for me, but it might not be enough for you. Please, if you are unable to find relief through any process you try, seek out help from someone else, including a therapist. There is no reason any of us should suffer in silence. Being overloaded shouldn’t be an accepted normal living state. Find peace and methods to help you return to that peace. It is worth diving into the unknown and messy arena.

Making Fun of Me

Growing up I was made fun of for my clothes, my shoes, my hair, my home, my parents, my face, my glasses, my everything. I was continuously told everything that was wrong about me. Including being smart. It gave me a complex that I’m still working on today. There is a lot of baggage there that I have to unpack.

This baggage still creeps into my life today. Little things feel like big things. Little things like my husband giving my sarcastic crap about banging my hand on the corner of the counter as I walk by because I’m clumsy and it happens all the fucking time. We have been together for almost nine years and this isn’t the first time he has been sarcastic about it. But, this time and the time before it caused me to lose my shit.

I felt attacked. I felt like he was criticizing me. I felt like every time he acknowledges when I hurt myself, he is making fun of me. All of that emotion bubbled up and came out on him.

It isn’t unusual. Baggage builds up for years if it isn’t addressed. Then one day it explodes. And it probably explodes when you least expect it.

I took the approach of trying to understand why he continuously commented or pointed it out. He didn’t understand where my questioning was coming from since it has been “our well-known joke” for so many years. He couldn’t understand why all of a sudden I changed from joking about it with him to feeling attacked. We disagreed. Doors were slammed. Feelings were hurt.

He said he would stop. He said he would work on it but asked that I not expect an immediate change to an old behavior. He said he didn’t realize it was hurting my feelings. He didn’t understand the change in perspective.

Neither do I.

I don’t know that he should stop. Is this one of those things I should work on accepting? Is this one of those things that my baggage is causing more issues than necessary? Is this something I could actually lean into and have fun with?

Probably.

I should do the work, not him. It is an internal issue, not his issue. He is sarcastic by nature. I am sensitive and serious. Probably because I was made fun of. I probably got so serious because I was trying to avoid being made fun of. I got tired of getting picked on and feeling like shit. So I limited myself trying to become invisible to their comments.

Eddie isn’t making fun of me. He isn’t criticizing me. Eddie actually loves me and is a very sarcastic person. He is very easy-going. He is the complete opposite of me.

So what did I do?

After a few hours and during a walk with the dogs, I told him not to change. I told him I am going to work on my baggage issues. We talked about what might be causing my increased sensitivity to things that haven’t ever bothered me before. The discussion led to talking about other things I’m working on and through.

The lesson here? No matter how hard we work at unpacking our baggage, it may still creep back up into our daily life. Also, talk it out. You might not be able to talk it out right then, but cool off, journal or find a way to have some introspection, and then talk out whatever caused you to lose your shit. It doesn’t hurt to say sorry either. That is, sorry for losing your shit. Don’t apologize for being you and working through your baggage. Thankfully Eddie know’s I’m working on that and that I have to ponder on it. He just hopes I actually do ponder about it rather than just continuing to lose my shit on him.

Baggage may creep up, but we can work through. I can work through it.

Fear

Fear is a topic that is everywhere I look this week. More than one of the coaches that I learn from have spoken about fear through one of their channels. With one coach, it’s just a focus of theirs. With more than one, yeah, it is something I need to talk about. I don’t know if people are focusing on fear this week because it is Halloween or that it is a coincidence, but fear is a big deal.

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

We all have fears, whether we want to admit it or not. Two of my biggest fears are getting in trouble and being late. I suspect that the second one ultimately leads back to getting in trouble. Other than these two, I have countless fears. A new fear I didn’t know I would develop, is the fear of breaking the screws in my spine.

Our fears can be fears we’ve held for all of our life because we developed them as a child, or they can be brand new fears, developed at any time. Some fears stem from a difficult childhood, some from phobias that are common, and some from life changes.

My fear of getting into trouble most definitely stems from my childhood. My fear of breaking a screw comes from getting the screws added to my spine and seeing pictures and hearing of the pain that comes from broken screws. I can easily identify where those fears come from, but I have no idea where my fear of being late comes from.

Regardless of where our fears originate, they don’t have to rule our lives. I say this while fully disclosing that I have an enormous amount of work to do on my fears. I know that my fears don’t have to rule my life. I also know that I can only tackle overcoming so many fears and other issues at once. If I were to try to overcome everything I need to all at once, I’d be an absolute mess and would most likely give up and go back to my comfort zone.

While Michelle Polar of Hello Fears tackled 100 fears in 100 days, I am taking a different approach. I am working on specific fears alongside other issues over time. Right now, I’m working on my fear of not being loved. I am afraid that my family and friends don’t truly love me and that they just tolerate me. There is so much emotion and feeling from my childhood to unpack with that fear, I couldn’t take on another fear at the same time.

Fear is something that some people only attribute to things like sky diving or cliff jumping. It’s also something that people live with every single day without other people knowing. Fear can be an afterthought, or it can rule our lives.

Fear has ruled my life for so many years. I do not wish the pain that living with fear causes, on anyone. Most of my life, I thought my fears meant I was damaged, unworthy. I was wrong. My fears simply meant that I needed to do work on myself to overcome fear while also learning to love myself first. I know that I can’t expect anyone to love me if I can’t love myself first. But I haven’t always known that. I have put in the work for many years, off and on, and now more consistently, to teach myself how to heal.

My steps to overcome my biggest fears is to identify the fear, dig deep to learn what the root cause of the fear might be and how the fear is triggered, and to learn what is the best thing that can happen if I face that fear.

When was the last time you were facing a fear and asked, what is the best thing that can happen?

Feeling

Feelings are something that I’ve had a love/hate relationship with for my entire life. For most of my life, I haven’t wanted to feel. I just wanted to be. I built up walls so absolutely strong that nothing could break them down. Until they did crumble.

At some point during my childhood, I learned how not to feel. Not to feel the pain of losing my nephew. Not to feel the pain of parents who didn’t outwardly care about me. Not to feel the pain of the bullies at school. Not to feel the so-called friendships I had. Not to feel, just to be.

I built my last wall in late 2009 when I left my ex-boyfriend. That wall went up so damn quick, it was like it had always been there. Over the next few years, I lived an existence of not caring and keeping people at an arm’s length. I let a few friends in, but only a couple have weathered the years. I passed my idle time by partying hard. I was of the mindset that I would do whatever I wanted and would answer to no one. It felt good at the moment. But I was lonely. I wanted connection. These were some of my most lonely years. I made a lot of mistakes.

Then the walls started crumbling.

They crumbled faster than I could have imagined. Faster than I was ready for. So fast that I couldn’t prepare myself for all the feeling that I was starting to do. It took one weekend and one guy to cause my walls to crumble. I never had a chance.

For the past eight years, I couldn’t see what the destruction of those walls did to me. Others probably saw a mess of a woman. I could not handle anything emotional. All the feeling that I prevented for so many years rolled into every emotion I felt. When someone would normally expect to have a small reaction, my emotions reacted dramatically. I had no clarity. I didn’t know what was happening. I felt so alone and so lost. Something was so wrong with me and I couldn’t figure out what it was.

I blamed it on the way other people treated me. I blamed it on my hormones. I blamed it on the IVF treatments. I blamed it on how I believed other people felt about me. I blamed everything that wasn’t directly my handling of my emotions.

I started to do the work on myself, then I went deeper into an emotional hell with infertility and IVF treatments. I stopped working on my personal growth for a few years and it showed. I was a mess. I have been a mess.

Then I stopped drinking this summer. This was a game-changer. I had already committed to working on my emotional well-being, but this made the difference. When I quit drinking, I gained so much clarity. Clarity I wish I had had years ago.

I have found clarity to help me deal with feeling. Clarity to help me learn how to feel into my emotions. Clarity to help me have the internal check-points on each feeling. It may take me a few days or weeks to really understand something, but I know that will improve.

I’m flipping my story. I’m looking internally to see how I can change the blame I’ve dished out for so many years.

I blamed it on the way other people treated me. I let them treat me that way. I need to set boundaries on how I let other people treat me. I can’t just expect them to see that they are hurting me. Are they really hurting me? I have to ask myself this and so many other questions. Is it them or is it me? Is it both?

I blamed it on my hormones. In my opinion and experience, my hormonal roller coasters are affected by alcohol. Hormones have played a big role in my emotions and feelings, but they were exacerbated. Now I am letting my body heal from the alcohol before I re-evaluate my hormones.

I blamed it on the IVF treatments. Yeah, these were fucking hell. They made what was already a hormonal, emotional mess, even worse. I was not emotionally prepared.

I blamed it on how I believed other people felt about me. The keywords here are ‘I believed’. I made assumptions that may or may not be true. I have so, so much work to do here.

I blamed everything that wasn’t directly my handling of my emotions. It couldn’t be my fault. Life was happening to me. WRONG! I let life happen to me rather than taking control. The control I thought I had was such a lie. I wasn’t handling me. I wasn’t working on me.

Life happens. Horrible shit does happen in our lives. It is how we deal with that shit that determines our life going forward. I was not dealing with any of it. I was not working through it.

I let all of the years of not feeling, of not caring, come crashing down on me once those walls crumbled. When I feel something now, there is so much baggage behind it. I feel that baggage as I’m writing this. It is a weight that I could have never known would come back to haunt me later.

I have so much work to do that it is overwhelming. I need to let myself feel into the baggage and pain. I have to stop running from it. I have to stop running from feeling.

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