Sensory Overload


I’m not even sure where to begin.  I might not even hit publish when I’m done with this post, but at the moment, I feel like I need to write it.

I struggle with sensory overload.

I don’t mean that I just prefer quiet, although I do.  It’s so much more than that.

I don’t like “excess” noise.  I like to watch a show or a movie every now and then as much as the next person, but I could be totally fine not owning a television.  Having the TV on just to have it on is something that drives me crazy.  I also enjoy listening to music, but to have it on constantly as “background” noise and then layering conversations and clapping and other stimulus on top of it puts me on edge… especially in enclosed spaces like a car.  It’s the reason I prefer to travel in our mini-van on trips so the kids can spread out and not in our small car where they are practically sitting on top of both me and each other.  I have a hard time “tuning things out”.  It just all soaks in and in and in until I feel like a shaken soda ready to explode.

I don’t like crowds.  They make me anxious and uncomfortable.  I see every stranger as a potential mugger or child abductor, which I know is a completely irrational fear, but I struggle with feeling that way just the same.  I literally feel like I cannot breathe sometimes in those situations.  If it were up to me, I would be perfectly fine without ever stepping foot in an amusement park or “downtown” area again.  It’s just not my thing.

I would not consider myself unfriendly or entirely introverted, but I do find myself more and more craving moments of solitude.  The ideal vacation for me would be one with no timeline or agenda and plenty of down time to just sit in quiet and read or relax without feeling like I had anything else pressing or that I needed to BE somewhere.

When I walk into my house, I don’t see a welcoming place for my family to hang out.  I see every scrap of trash in the floor, every piece of clutter that’s out of place and all the things that need to be done… all the jobs I need to be doing but have been left undone.  All the imperfections yell at me that I’m not fulfilling my role as a wife and mother and weigh me down to the point that I rarely feel at peace.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family.  I think my kids are really cool people and I enjoy spending time with them.  I love seeing how different their personalities are.  I love watching them grow.  I love seeing them learn and interact with their world.  I love my husband.  He is an amazing father and is so patient with the kids and with my crazy idiosyncrasies.  I like hanging out with my family.  There are just moments when I can only take so much, though.  The constant noise, the mess, the arguing that is normal for three girls, the constant need for “Mom, Mom, Mom…”  Sometimes I just feel like the walls are closing in around me.

My husband is a healthy, constantly “on the go” person who needs to be doing something.  He loves amusement parks and doing things just for the sake of adventure.  He likes having music playing in the background whenever he works, and can fall asleep with the television on.  He doesn’t like downtime.  To relax, he plays stimulating video or pinball games.  He thinks I’m crazy and abnormal.  Maybe I am.  He doesn’t think it’s healthy to want to be alone.  It affects our relationship.

I know there has got to be a healthy balance somewhere.  Part of it may go back to the differences between being an introvert and extrovert.  My issues with overstimulation don’t necessarily impede me socially all that much.  I have friends, and can handle social situations without much awkwardness.  It’s not debilitating.  I enjoy hanging out with my friends and family and have a good time doing so.  But I do find that I can handle my children better and have less frequent outbursts of anger and impatience when I do get some “alone time” now and then.

It’s hard to know if this is something that’s “just me” or if it’s something for which I should seek help.  I’ve just recently come to the conclusion that all these little things are connected.  On one hand, I usually handle situations pretty well.  My children are old enough that if I need a “Mommy Time Out” they know to give me my space and let me calm down so I can be a better parent.  On the other hand, I hate being the stick in the mud every time my family wants to do something “fun” that I don’t see as “fun”… because it really is a challenge for me to be positive about “going somewhere” or “doing something”.  Every.  Single.  Time.  And of course, they don’t appreciate all the times I do say yes despite my feelings… the time I spontaneously spray them down with water for the fun of it… all the trips to the community pool… the hours I spend carting them to and from drama practice and being involved in all their activities… the times I do say “yes” to impromptu weekend vacations… the times I join in and sing with them at the top of my voice when we’re in the car.

This post is lacking the nice little wrap-up bow, because I’m not really sure what the point would be.  It’s just something that was on my heart today that I wanted to share.

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About Laura

A Christian wife, mother, daughter, former educator, photographer, amateur chef, pretend gardener, alto 🎶, book nerd, cancer-survivor and laundry-hater.

3 Responses to Sensory Overload

  1. Debbie July 23, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    I too feel this way. However, I relate to Kevin & the nightime TV. I can block that out, and retreat inside of myself to recharge. I love sundays, but am physically and mentally exhausted by 8 pm on Sunday evenings. I hope that you can find some time to retreat and recharge.

  2. diana mcadams August 6, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Nothing wrong…you are just an introvert who needs space to recoup and re-energize….these two articles might help.
    Not understanding why is frustrating though, so maybe everyone in the fam needs to read both of these…at least the older ones :-)

  3. Jill August 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    As an Occupational Therapist, we see kids struggle with sensory processing difficulties all the time. There is “sensory processing disorder”, but not all people with sensory “issues” would be so severe as to fall into that category. Think of it this way, your senses are “on” all of the time. Your brain has to learn to ignore the input that it doesn’t need; which is typically done in early childhood. But not everyone’s brain learns to process the sensations (the usual five you think of, plus 2 you may not think of–one that tells you where you are in space, and one that tells you what your body parts are doing) the same way. Sometimes our brains may ignore too much–these are the kids you see climbing and jumping off everything, crashing into stuff, shouting all the time, and seeking sensory experiences. Sometimes the brain has a hard time ignoring what it needs to, and sensations can become overwhelming. It can be just one or two senses, or more. It can also fluctuate, depending on how tired we are, cycles, and so on. Do a search on Sensory Processing Disorder, and you will find sites where people share coping strategies and so on. This may or may not fit with you; but I suspect it does!

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