Alarmed by an alarm

I knew this would happen at some point. But it doesn’t make it any easier, or any less humiliating.

A fire alarm evacuation was probably never going to be an ideal situation for me when sound is one of the major triggers for my sensory issues. I’d hoped it was going to be OK, though, at least until I got out and could try to find somewhere as quiet and private as possible.

Nope.

Full blown sensory overload. In full view of the entire office.

This is not something I ever wanted. It is not something I find easy to accept. But it’s also not something that I have any real control over. So I’m trying to be kind to myself about the whole situation. I’m not succeeding very well…

And it all takes so much out of me.

To function at any sort of level during a sensory overload is difficult. Every instinct I have; every fibre of my being is telling me to get away. Telling me to drop to the floor and curl up in a ball, protecting myself. To resist that impulse takes almost all the strength I have. I use the rest of my strength to just put one foot in front of the other.

It doesn’t leave me any strength, or any processing ability, to:

  • speak
  • see
  • understand what people are saying
  • control my behaviour

I’ve been trying to think of an analogy to use, to explain how it feels.

Imagine you accidentally touch a very hot piece of metal. Not hot enough to burn or cause any permanent damage, but hot enough to be extremely painful or uncomfortable. Your instinct would be to move your hand away as quickly as possible.

Now imagine that you are being forced to hold the palm of your hand against that metal. Imagine how much energy; how much mental strength that would take.

Imagine how you would feel afterwards.

That’s probably how I’m feeling tonight. Plus an extra dose of feeling stupid, because I still feel as though I shouldn’t react like this; that I should be able to control my reactions to what is, after all, just a very loud bell.

Perhaps I’m not as close to accepting this condition as I thought I was.

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