I was having a conversation earlier today and I could feel my brain ‘melting’. This happens more than I’d like.  Obviously my grey and white matter doesn’t literally melt, but it feels that way during these times, in which several things happen together.  Firstly, I think it begins with a sense of being overwhelmed, though not in the obvious way of having lots of things to do, noise going on, or being normally overstimulated.

It seems that I’m incredibly sensitive to things around me at the moment, in a way that is common in neurological conditions such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  It’s obviously not the same, but it’s the best way I can compare my current sensitivity.

In part, this is why I can find going out to be overwhelming, though I don’t usually find it too hard to be out in the open with noise around me – it’s usually worse in enclosed spaces indoors during conversation, or with a background of noise, where the sounds bounce back to me from the walls.

Today, Oblong was talking to me about her work; she can have quite a powerful voice, and can often get excitable when talking about something for a while.  She’s very good at talking about things to me when I am not in a place to interact very much, though this can be overwhelming for me.  When I’m as I am now, I need most conversations to be quiet and gentle, and I need to be given space and time to speak, as I will be much slower off the mark than normal.  If the speaking is going too fast and I miss my space for turn-taking a couple of times, that’s it.  I’m out.  I have to let the other people speak on as I won’t be able to catch up in my head enough to properly interact.

If this goes on a while, I have to concentrate pretty hard to listen, and my concentration goes – as it would if you were listening to something very technical, or complicated, for a long time without reprieve.  If you can, also imagine you hit your head on something hard enough that you might flinch, but not that it would hurt for long or do much damage.  Now imagine your reaction: a flinch, and a short sensation through your head.  If someone was talking to you, you might have missed what they said in that moment.

This is how it can feel inside my head when I am in a conversation such as I have described above, but without the obvious physical pain on my scalp.  Every word that’s said loudly or with vigour makes my brain flinch and I miss my step in the conversation.  I find one-on-one conversations much easier, as the majority of people will adjust their conversational pace to suit who they’re speaking to, and the volume and turn-taking naturally adjusts too.  If I prepare myself, or I get into a conversation from the start, I can be alright, but it’s tiring.  At home, gentle approaches to conversation are preferable.

Usually, I just need to have conversations at a gentle pace, with chance for my input, and I’m fine.  If a conversation gets too much, and I feel like my brain is melting, I can seem bored, uninterested, and probably rude; this must be frustrating and upsetting.  Generally, a good chunk of peace and quiet to myself is all I need to recuperate, and then I’ll feel more able to carry on.


From The Wizard of Oz.

Feature image credit: KnitClickStir blog