Tuesday, July 2, 2013

#Autistic Overwhelm Prevention

Yesterday, I was reminded of my personal boundaries in a potentially lethal way.

Lately, I have been having to answer phones, and do other office work for my husband's business that has grown too large for him to manage on his own. There is a series of urgent calls with frantic customers on the other line needing their needs put first.  They all are important, and they all have relavent needs, but unfortunately, there is only so much work my husband can get to ay any given time.

Secretary work, by far, is NOT my thing.  I don't like phones, and I don't like chatting with strangers. But, this is a life necessity.  I can handle it, once I get used to the routine, and develop a new one. Plus, there will not always be this volume of calls, and other duties on a constant stream.  I am aware of that, so I am being rational about it.

However, my brain is taxed.  I thrive on routine to keep my brain running smoothly.  This is stops me from overexerting and having to over think every move due to poor executive functioning skills, or really not skills, but ability, maybe?  Skills implies that I need to learn more, but I have learned what helps me, and that is having s solid routine, as well as not overdoing things by trying to multitask. Yesterday, I had several appointments, and errands to run, as well as phones to tend to, and calls to return.

I felt a bit rushed, but fine. I felt like I was a bit uncomfortable, but could manage.  Then, I backed into a car leaving an appointment. I didn't see him there, but it was just a superficial bump.  All is good.  I head to my next stops, and head home.  I start not to be able to remember the phone calls I made this morning. Who did I say what to? Nevermind, I will remember later. I head out to take the dog to his obedience class. Crossing an intersection I bump another car. This was almost a big accident. I should have not done this.  This is my brain malfunctioning.

I forgot the rule of how my brain works.


If I push myself beyond my limits, my brain will start regulating itself to conserve energy.  If I am out of "spoons" as most say, my brain will start shutting down. I have no choice , but to stop, because it will not function at full speed. It's completely involuntary.  It will start shutting out sensory information first. Hearing, and vision mostly. I might, if overwhelmed very, very badly for a very long time, stop physically feeling anything, but that is very rare. It is like a computer trying to run several different programs at once without enough RAM. I will eventually freeze up, unable to do even simple tasks. I think thoughts, but am unable to connect them meaningfully with my body. I am processing too slow, and not enough. My brain starts selecting programs to shut down to allow maximum efficiency, while avoiding a crash.

Today, I have not done as much, because I am trying to allow myself the space to replenish.  Obviously, I cannot forfeit all duties, but I have chosen to only stick to the important ones. In the future, I need to work on being able to identify this overwhelmed feeling before I get to shutdown point.  I'm not sure how to, yet, but I must figure it out.


I find this song to be quite descriptive of how I feel during these times.

14 comments:

  1. I totally relate! I always attributed it to Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia or whatever. I ran a red light and missed a mailbox by centimeters and finally had to pull over and have a good cry last time I hit the wall that badly. I usually stop way before that point but sometimes I think I can't.

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    1. I just typed a long comment, and it disappeared. I have no idea why. I don't remember all that I said, but thanks for your comment, and thanks for reading my rambles!

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  2. I am glad the accident was not a big one! And yes, yes, and yes again...too much to think about, too many things loading my brain down and things just shut off. The first thing I notice is that I "bump" things with my van--not good.

    Secretary work, I should say more specifically making or answering phone calls will throw me into overload within hours--and I mean the kind that sends me to the emergency room some times because Hubby thinks there is something seriously wrong with me.

    As I get older, I am finding that my speak jumbles and I head toward that dreaded "selective mutism" that I cannot stand! I can get a lot done, focusing on one task at a time, as long as it and I am isolated and there are no phone calls involved!

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    1. I am really trying with the phone thing, because I really need to figure it out, but the driving... I just have never been good at it. I get so overstimulated. When I was diagnosed I tried to explain it to the clinician, but she said I was just anxious. I know anxious, and I was not feeling that way at all either time I hit those cars.

      I seem to always look fine to everyone else while I'm going through all of this loss of function/overwhelm. It's like there is a gap (that is a mile wide!!) between what my affect is, and what is going on on the inside.

      When you're feeling good, and all is well in your world, do you feel you're a good, capable driver?

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  3. OH, how many times I've said, "I can tell I'm tired; my tongue is getting tangled." You are really helping me understand.

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    1. Glad, I can ring some familiarity for you! The more we understand ourselves the better we feel, and all this writing helps me to put those thoughts together. Thanks for reading my therapy! lol

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  4. I can relate to this so much, although to be honest, I tend to experience it with much less, ive noticed i start being unable to focus, and my eyesight gets weird.

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    1. I do that, too especially when I'm about to have a meltdown. Sometimes, things will start to move in slow motion.

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  5. My hands give out first, I start dropping everything I pick up. Break time.

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  6. Oh, and I found another example of my brain tax.... there was a bunch of food I emptied into the recycle bin, instead of the trash as I scraped the plates the other day. I will go through the motions of tasks, but be so jumbled that I get the wrong.

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  7. Thank you for sharing this information. I particularly latched on to your comment that maybe executive functioning is not so much a skill as it is an ability. What do you think about that? Is it possible to learn to become better in this area, do you think? Or do you just need to 'work with' your challenges in this area?

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    1. I think that having good ex. fun. skills requires access to the brain that stores the info, and if we're too overwhelmed, we can't do that. For me, it feels like everything starts jumbling up, and signals get crossed. I think that we can learn to read our own bodies, and our own emotional states enough to know when we're heading into troubled waters, and have a set strategy in place to deal with those times. Like, knowing what it feels like to feel overwhelmed, and taking it back one step to almost overwhelmed, being able to know what that point feels like, sense it on our bodies, and have a plan of action for coping. I suppose I am not there yet, and even when I am I am not sure what tasks I can put off, or delegate to others to give myself the break that I need. Just being able to detect that I have about had enough, and being proactive, rather than reactive would be a major improvement.

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    2. Thanks for the input. I believe you're very correct: understanding yourself and your limits, and then having an action plan for coping, sounds logical. I'm quoting you in my next article :)

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