What is the “rumble stage” of a meltdown and how can it be prevented?
I’m having trouble focusing right this minute.
I can hear four keyboards pounding and three computer mice clicking. Two people are on the phone, and two people are whispering. They must have gum or something, they’re making rattling sounds now. I’m having trouble focusing on my actual work, because I can hear everything. I get bursts where I get flustered by all the sounds and that makes my neck shake and my muscles rush. That’s when my ears turn off. I use that burst of energy to type faster and think quicker, until it ends or my ears turn back on. At this point, I can hear sound, but I can’t process language very well. Words come in in the wrong order and that messes with my understanding of the conversation. My headphones were charging, but they’re done now, so I’m going to put them in. This will help.
My mind is a fire hydrant. You can’t just flip the switch or you’ll get a powerful uncontrollable burst. You can only ease into it. There are processes and procedures involved with sensory overload. Oh, I love this song.
My eyes don’t turn off like my ears do. Everything gets visually more intense, and I get overwhelmed by the brightness and color. I experience a natural intensity with color, as in every shade of green (and grey and yellow) on a leaf, so brightness becomes a factor with my vision. I get a headache from everything my eyes try to process. It’s very bright in here, and there’s a glare on everything. I have my blue-tinted sunglasses on, but it only helps so much.
I can see every color, hear every sound, feel the air pressure around me, the temperature. When I go without dulling aides, I feel like I’m getting to experience the world in the beauty I was meant to, with sweet bird coos and beautiful sights in all sizes. But like with Cinderella, the party does end at some point. I turn into Meltdown Monster if I don’t pay attention to my sensory limits. Headphones, sunglasses and Ibuprofen restore my normality.
The air is cold on my skin right now, but my insides are warm. My skin is very sensitive to temperature, so I get cold very easily. I get hot when I get anxious or flustered though, so I enjoy the flexibility that the everyday cardigan provides. Right now, rolling up my sleeves should cool down my stomach.
The fluctuation and intensity of my senses makes it difficult to focus on the task at hand. I find myself almost constantly distracted by my environment, sometimes painfully. Unfortunately, increasing my focus medication dosage throws my senses into overdrive and go haywire with the extra input, making meltdowns more volatile. My spirit becomes fire, and after the flame has died down, regret seeps into me. I don’t like to be out of control, so I’ve learned that controlling the effect my environment has on my senses helps keep my embers from becoming a fiery flame. My brain doesn’t have that extra input to process, and the extra energy can be channeled.
Right now, I have my headphones on, my sunglasses on, and my cardigan with the sleeves rolled up. I’m starting to feel peace, and focusing on the music helps centers me and gives me something to work around in my mind. I can feel my monster being soothed back to sleep by the sweet sounds of Journey’s talent.
I have a sensory fidget that I play with to distract me from the surges in my neck, and clicking the switch feels nice. I have the space/galaxy looking one. Turning the joystick part reminds me of the controls on the imaginary spaceship that was the bottom bunk of my bunk bed. I put stickers on different parts of the headboard and turned the bars and I would pretend I was having amazing space adventures.
Ok, I’m starting to be able to concentrate. At the very least, I’ve been able to build a steady stream of thought that I can channel into working. This feels like a win. It’s so late in the day and my medication is wearing off, so generally I’m more prone to environmental stresses, but the combination I choose to calm myself down today worked.
Click here to read more about how I learned to accept myself with autism.
For more information and resources for coping with sensory overload, visit: