A little something I wish people understood about masking sensory difficulties, hitting overload, and visible meltdown:
I learned early on my functioning was atypical, so I learned early on that it had to be hid.
When I am out in the world, let’s say a public event, everything I am experiencing is intrusive and abusive. It is exhausting. If I make it out without public overload, I am still getting home and shutting down. That means: Head is buzzing, body is exhausted. I can’t think, I can’t speak. I have to just sit in a dark room with noise cancelling headphones on and blankly stare until I am restored. This can take hours and sometimes days, depending how strenuous the activity and event was.
When I can’t do these things, this is when my body hits shutdown and overload and remains in a hyper state of stress indefinitely.
This leads to missed work and missed events, that the world just doesn’t understand or accept. So instead of being honest about my difficulties and receiving acceptance and accommodation, I am hit with negative identifiers for the excuses I have to create for why I cannot be there or get out of bed: flaky, lazy, unmotivated, unreliable, selfish, etc.
I have gone to see specialists of all kinds for my different functioning as a child, teen, and adult. With no help or answers or understanding as to why. Always viewed as having anxiety and being depressed, dramatic, and hypochondriac. One male doctor told me I was just stressed and needed to eat better and run more…
When I am out and about, people will not notice my discomfort, but sometimes the mask I have constructed and wear as an adult, falls off when I can’t escape sensory overload, resulting in a visible meltdown.
Everyday I go out into the world and perform as expected, it is a victory.
I will describe it as this to NTs to bring it into perspective:
Imagine everyday of your life in society you were being assaulted and attacked, but you were expected to sit through it with a smile, completely unfazed.
How long do you think you would last?
I have been expected to last my whole life, while being told by bystanders: “It’s not that bad.”, “Just try harder.”, “Stop being so dramatic.”
I grew up being called drama queen, psycho and moody bitch, to the point I learned to internalize and mask my difficulties to appear to function like everyone else, until I could not, then the emotional and psychological abuse would restart.
Just because we can’t experience someone else’s experiences, doesn’t mean they are being dramatic.
We are reacting completely normal for what we are experiencing.
It is society that is abnormal for expecting and forcing us to assimilate and all function the same. Leaving us with no tools to function optimally, no community for connecting, and no understanding or acceptance of why we are different.
I fall into the group of women and people that have not been seen, nor heard. The group of women and people forced to pass as typical. The group of women and people that went their whole lives with unidentified learning disabilities, sleep disorders, and other undiagnosed neurological differences. The group of women and people that have built their lives on coping mechanisms hanging by a string, while the rest of their peers seemed to coast by. The group of women and people that have no idea how or why they are different. The group of women and people, that have no societal accepted explanation for their atypical and debilitating functioning, yet are still held to impossible standards, forced and expected to somehow function as everyone else. The group of women and people from childhood, to teenager, into adulthood, always judged by what is seen on the outside, rather than being heard for the difficulties occurring on the inside. The group of women and people being blamed and abused for their differences and shortcomings so much so, they began to blame and abuse themselves.
I no longer blame myself. It is not me. It is not us. It never was. It is society.
I am still not allowed to exist. We are still not allowed to exist. It is up to us to heal and validate ourselves. Then speak out for visibility for the opportunities and acceptance of younger and future generations.
If you can relate, reach out.
*This is just a scratch of the surface. To be continued…