I’ve experienced sensory overloads with meltdowns and shutdowns for as long as I can remember, meaning since I was around three years old. However, I didn’t have any proper words for it until a year ago and I still find it difficult to explain and talk about since most of the times I have tried to explain it to doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists and people around me they have no clue what I’m talking about. They misinterpret it as anxiety and push me to challenge it just like I’ve done all my life. Challenging instead of respecting limits is how I ended up in the mess that’s my health today but still, sensory overload isn’t something professionals (or people in general) know much about in the country I’m living in.
Being forced to stay in noisy, visually messy environments, collapse, being punished and then pushing myself to a new collapse is what my life has been all about. It haunts me in my nightmares. It makes me scared of other people. It makes me feel detached from people. It’s not only that it happened, it’s the fact that people blame me for it or act like it didn’t happen. It makes me think that I’m such a strange creature that nobody will ever be able to relate to me.
Then, there’s my kid. One of the few people I feel strongly connected to. I see how people keep insisting on doing the same thing to my kid. Keep saying that of course it’s important to prevent sensory overloads but then when it comes to actually do something to prevent it it’s harder. Suddenly I’m exaggerating and the restaurant isn’t as noisy. Suddenly a playdate with new kids in a new environment the day after a demanding day is an excellent idea, no matter what I say. Suddenly everything I just said doesn’t count. So I fight. I fight with all the power I have and explain, argue, give examples, educate, give workshops for free even though I’m too ill to eat and sleep. And my kid finds ways of communicating his experience that are amazing. People not listening to me is painful, people not listening to my kid – I’m angry beyond words.
I will never stop fighting for my kid’s right to live his life without painful meltdowns and shutdowns. Not because I’m some sort of saint but because I’m his parent. Because keeping my child away from people and situations that are hurting him is what I consider responsible. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It hurts like hell every time I’m reminded of what I went through every day as a kid. It hurts to realize that it actually did happen, that my mom’s inability to respect my limits and way of functioning isn’t something I’m making up. It’s making me relive my nightmares over and over.
Does this mean that it’s time for my to start dealing with my past? Is it time to start dealing with my PTSD?