Therapy and Sensory Overloads

therapy

Today was my first time having a sensory meltdown at therapy. Two in one therapy visit. I should get a trophy. I was already a bit stressed when I got there because I made the attempt to eat before I went to therapy and got sick, so I already was nauseated.

The waiting room was filled with so many people. Someone had taken the seat against the wall that I normally sit in, so I had to try to find a seat section that didn’t require me to make eye contact with strangers and also had my back against the wall so I didn’t feel watched. I put a lot of thought into where I sit. I found a seat but not fitting my criteria, there were people directly behind me talking loudly, and people in front of me tapping their feet. I could sense I was getting anxious and overwhelmed (I’ve been practicing identifying feelings as they happen in therapy) so I started to count the colored specks on the carpet, I was too nervous to pull out my phone or even look around the room. I could hear everything, and even the floor seemed really bright in comparison to everything.

When you start to go into a sensory overload it’s like hearing and seeing everything at once and amplified. I could hear the whirling of the fan, the clanking of jewelry on one of the ladies walking around and the clicking of her heels, the tapping of the shoes of the person in front of me, the pages of the magazine scraping up against each other as they flipped the pages, people chatting, so much talking going on, the door clicking as it unlocked. I started to plug my ears because it was the only thing I could think of because I didn’t want my therapist to miss me if I left to go to the bathroom. So I tried to nonchalantly (which I’m sure it wasn’t) plug my ears and breathe and count. I didn’t care if I looked funny because I just didn’t want to cry and freak out in the lobby.

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Reenactment of my not-so-subtle ear plugging.

Luckily my therapist came in and tapped me on the shoulder gently and we went back to her room which was relaxing in comparison. She dims the lights for me cause it makes less stimuli for me to take in. She talked me through a four minute breathing exercise which really did help and then I was able to speak. I still made it though without crying and having a full meltdown. Which I was proud of.

We talked about identifying emotions which had been a complicated thing for me in the past. I would get upset or feel awkward but that was all I knew was that I was upset or felt out of place, I didn’t really know what I was feeling or why since I sometimes get emotions that don’t really fit the scenario. Like having a meltdown over not being able to cut potatoes properly, or having meltdowns because people ask me what I want or ask me too many questions and I don’t know how to answer them.

So my homework from the week before was to write what I did that day, and how each one of those things made me feel.

Example:

  • Cooking: Happy, Accomplished
  • Cutting Potatoes: Frustrated, Overwhelmed
  • College: Worried, Inadequate

I wasn’t focusing on the why, so much as just at the end of the day evaluating what I was feeling since I had a hard time pinpointing it in the moment.

It was really helpful to identify how I was feeling, it gave me some perspective on why I had acted the way I had at the given time. Since sometimes these emotions come off in forms of anger or resentment or pushing people away.

This week is working on why, and how my thoughts determine my actions and working on them to maybe help the outcomes. So now I include in my journal:

A- The Trigger: Where was I? Who was I with? What was happening?

B- Thoughts: What was I thinking at the moment?

C- Feelings: What was I feeling at the time?

D- Behaviours: What did I do?

In an effort to link how things are related. Which became relevant towards the end of session when after we had talked about things, she was talking to me about everything and I didn’t feel normal, I felt out of place. I began to shut down because I didn’t want to say I wasn’t feeling okay and that I felt awkward. What my therapist didn’t know until today was that asking me questions when I’m overwhelmed sends me into a meltdown. She asked me why I liked Ravenclaw? I wanted to speak, I did. But when I opened my mouth my throat tightened and I couldn’t find words of what I wanted to say so I shrugged and started to tear up and I got a tissue and was getting ready to leave because my session was over. As I was reaching for the door trying to get out she asked me about my tattoos, and what they meant. I couldn’t just shrug, I knew the answer, but I couldn’t bring myself to talk so instead I just broke down and started flapping my hands and crying. After another 4 minutes of breathing exercises I was calmed down enough to where I could talk and explain to her that questions overwhelm me when I’m already over stimulated. So we talked about filling out the paper to fit this scenario and to do that every time I have a meltdown.

So the trigger would have been I was at therapy, with my therapist, and talking about my feelings in regards to what’s going on mentally. My thoughts were I don’t feel normal, I don’t feel like I fit in. My feelings were isolated, overwhelmed, anxious, and empty. My behaviour was having a meltdown. Next time we will be working on what to do with those emotions and trying to work on more ways that I can calm myself down before or during a meltdown. She said it gave her better insight as to what I am dealing with and this way she will also be able to find ways to help with it all.

It took me a while afterwards to adjust to feeling like myself. I’m still on edge for a good while after a meltdown which makes it easy to have another one. But I really feel like she’s helping me and that I am accomplishing things this time around in therapy.

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She also said she could totally see me as a Ravenclaw. 🙂

 

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One thought on “Therapy and Sensory Overloads

  1. Such an interesting post – I also like to count the things I see around me in waiting rooms and always hate it if someone is sat in the chair I like! I have sensory processing disorder and often get overwhelmed in new enviroments

    Like

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