Caution: Sensory Overload!

A rare peaceful day at the Bear residence. I am laying on my couch, writing a riveting new story for you all to read (that will be up sometime next week). The sun is shining in through our tall windows, bringing in a warm beam of light that illuminates the entire living room. The only sound to be heard is a muffled lawnmower. It’s peaceful. I could spend the rest of my days in this blissful state. Not everyday is like this. Usually, there is more going on around the house. Either my dog is barking, the news channel is on full blast screaming about Trump’s newest screw up, the kitchen fan is on its highest intensity to clear the culinary space from smoke, and the accumulation of this smoke has caused the smoke alarm to go off. The dog, the tv, the fan, and the alarm, all going off at once creating an atmosphere of horrendous noise. I feel like my brain is turning to mush, a headache is not far behind, and I seem to be the only person bothered by all this noise. Finally, it quiets down. The dog is let outside, the TV and fan are turned off, and the smoke alarm finally stops. Bliss – until clang. A single spoon falls from the buttery grips of my mothers hands, onto the white, marble floors. The very noise the spoon makes could not possible create an agitation within me, how could it? After the previous cluster of noises, how could a single clink create such destruction in my mind?

Take a moment to reminisce on one of my personal favorite movies, Bruce Almighty. The movie follows a man by the name of Bruce who works as a news host. Due to an unfortunate loss of a promotion, he begins to question the workings of God. Damning God for his inability to provide assistance to poor Bruce, God gives onto Bruce his almighty powers. He can make cars move out of the way in a traffic jam, finish his soup without even touching it, and even make a monkey appear out of a Chollo’s butt. However, all the cool tricks don’t come without some kind of responsibility. Part of the godly gifts is to assist others in need who pray to Bruce for help. In many scenes you can see Bruce enjoying a wonderful afternoon out enjoying his new powers when all of a sudden he is overwhelmed with voices in his head. Millions of voices, speaking all at once, some shouting, some whispering. Too much information for poor Bruce to process and he does what any sane person would: he totally flips out. It seems Bruce Almighty and myself have quite a bit in common, but why? Can’t we just learn how to turn off the worlds volume? Let me tell you about a dear old foe Sensory Overload.

Sensory overload is quite the villainous phenomenon. Here’s the breakdown: The world creates information for us to perceive, this raw information enters our sensory organs for us to process, our sensory organs attend to the most important information and discard the irrelevant information, the relevant information makes its way to the proper cortical lobes for further processing, this refined information than becomes stored in many areas around the brain. From stimulation to storage, a lot of information is being processed at once, especially when the information first reaches our sensory organs. When we see or hear things, touch or taste things, we are stimulating our sensory systems so that they may relay the information to the brain, and essentially make it available to us as functioning human beings. Sometimes, this stimulation can be overwhelming. Sometimes, too much information enters our sensory organs at any given time, creating an agitated sensation. We become swamped, even the slightest, smallest noise (like the clinking of a spoon) can create a feeling of great irritability. This phenomenon of sensory overload is quite common in people with autism, post traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, and anxiety. The world is essentially screaming at us and we have no method of turning down the volume. Perhaps you too have felt this before. Perhaps your sibling swamps you 50 questions a second and all you can imagine doing is screaming oh just shut up already. Perhaps a friend taps your shoulder to show you something you might like and you react with an over exaggerated touch me again and you lose a finger. Or perhaps after a long day of engagement all you want to do is go home, slip into your bedroom, slide into bed with the lights off and sound of silence.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself can’t I just turn the world off? Than you have definitely experienced sensory overload.

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