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.

Beginners Guide to Introvertism

I write the title Beginners Guide like I hold the instruction manual on what is it to be an introvert. The reality is, I don’t have all the answers. I only have my answers. I only know what it is like for me to be an introvert. So instead, perhaps I should rename this post to My Subjective Guide to Introvertism.

I always knew I was different from many people. Not just in the everyone-is-different-everyone-is-unique way, I mean, there was something within myself that made me feel un-alike to the people around me. My brothers were always extremely outgoing. They always had countless friends, joined all the clubs at school, and were liked by everybody they ever met. They were popular in grade-school and high-school, they were always well-known at their universities, they were textbook extroverts. It was always so easy for them to make friends and fit in. Honestly, it made me mad. I was the polar opposite. I still am. I didn’t have hundreds of friends growing up, I didn’t belong to any clubs, and by no means did I get along with everybody I knew. And I was perfectly OK with that. I preferred having less friends. I didn’t find pleasure joining social clubs. I certainly didn’t mind that there was people in this world who didn’t like me (lets face it, you have people you don’t like, why expect anything else in return). My family thought this was odd. More specifically, they thought it was odd that at a young age of 19 years old, I preferred to stay in, enjoy my music than go out with my friends and party till the sun came up. They found it odd that I was attending a university with over 5000 students, that I could not and was not interested in making any friends. As it turns out, this is much more common than they thought.

Introvert: Opposite of extrovert. A person who is energized by spending time alone. Often found in their homes, libraries, quiet parks that not many people know about, or other secluded places, introverts like to think and be alone.

Introvertism is not about the butterflies you get in your stomach when you’re introduced to new people, or expected to speak in front of a large audience, or even order a meal at your local McDonald’s. That is social anxiety (I have plenty of that too). Typically, social anxiety and introvertism goes hand in hand. People become introverted because they find themselves experiencing large amounts of anxiety when in social settings. As a result, they spend less time placing themselves in social situations and spend more time alone. It is important to note however, that this doesn’t necessarily mean that only novel social settings can create feelings of discomfort. More often than not, I find myself preferring to be alone after a long day of school, after a day out with my friends, or even after a day out grocery shopping with my dad. To me, social interaction has its limits. I can only participate in so many social situations before I feel the need to isolate myself in my room and become antisocial. Social interaction is exhausting and usually makes me quite irritable, it’s safer for both parties if I just have my alone time.

Keep in mind, there is a common misconception about introverts. We are apparently “incapable” of maintaining friends, making plans to go out, or interacting socially with another individual without getting antsy. I can’t speak for all introverts, but for many this is not the case. We are more than capable of making friends and maintaining long-term friendships, we just simply prefer to have a small group of friends rather than hundreds. We are perfectly content knowing we can rely on a single person and that single person will be our moon and stars. We have more energy to exert on their friendship because we don’t waste our energy with meeting new people. Us introverts take our few friendships to heart. Secondly, we introverts are more than capable of calling up our few friends and asking them to go to the movies to see the newest Blade Runner. However as I mentioned before, social interaction is exhausting and has its limits. When we go out, we enjoy every minute of it and have a blast but we know when enough is enough and prefer to stay at home (don’t take it personally!). Lastly, we are capable of social interaction, we do it on a day-to-day basis just like the rest of you. We interact with our families, our coworkers, public service workers, the cashier at Wal-Mart, and the drive through representative at Wendy’s. Sure some of us may be nervous when we approach novel people, but that is a whole new problem within itself. So before you tell me to have some fun outside in the social world, consider this: I am my social world and I am perfectly OK with that.

via Daily Prompt: Solitary