Sensory overload isn’t just the clock ticking on the wall or the humming of the lights in Walmart. It’s not just the ear-piercing shrill of a baby’s cry or the sound of a crowd of children.
Sensory overload isn’t just the pungent odor of a skunk or a woman’s perfume that literally burns your nose. It’s not just the smell of a person across a crowd who may have forgotten to apply deodorant or the unidentified odor that drives you crazy until you’re able to figure out what’s causing it.
Sensory overload goes way beyond the basic senses. For me, they’re feelings I have tried to explain for so long but could never find the words. They’re sensations that are triggered not just by sights, sounds and smells but by people and objects, too.
I believe children and adults on the autism spectrum disorder can read people in different ways than others. If there is something “off” about a person, it might be noticed immediately. I’m not referring to just a vibe. It is more like a sixth sense.
I’ve found the same goes for a person I may have a strong emotional connection to. Whether it’s a person of the opposite sex (not just romantic), a mentor, a friend, a teacher, a therapist or a co-worker, certain people have a way of touching me in ways that can’t be explained.
You see, sensory overload isn’t always a negative experience for me. My special relationships — which are few and far between — have the ability to cause profound sensory overload. It’s an aura that’s difficult to explain. The sensations I feel are overwhelming and heartwarming at the same time.
Throughout my life, I’ve come across people who I’ve been able to identify with based on experiences. These people genuinely care about me and my well-being. An attachment — for lack of a better word — is formed with certain people who have the ability to trigger an extreme physical response. It reminds me of the butterflies and excitement you feel when you start dating someone. But it’s much more than that.
Neurotypical people may find these sensations difficult to understand. I have a hard time explaining it myself. A simple message, phone call or hug from the person with whom I feel this way produces a response that makes time stand still. It’s an overpowering tingling sensation or warmth coupled with heart palpitations. A truly unexplainable experience. The moment may be brief or long-lasting, but it’s very intense.
This type of sensory overload is extremely powerful, yet enjoyable. Caught in a daze or a “fog” so to speak, everything pauses around you for that moment.
I’d like to think of this sense as a gift. It’s an ability to connect with someone on such a level that is unheard of.
Perhaps other people don’t speak about this sense for fear of jeopardizing relationships. Perhaps people fear that neurotypical people will turn away from them.
Personally, I feel as though this sense is a blessing. It’s an ability that should be discussed, explored and researched.
My hope is that others on the spectrum are able to identify with these feelings and breathe a sigh of relief.
Follow this journey on Open Your Box.