But even more worrying because I did not see or feel it coming. I went from feeling calm to getting extremely agitated within a few minutes. And I suspect it is the result of a lifetime of suppressing my reactions to intense sensory and social input. I have learned to hide this not only from others, but also from myself. Before my diagnosis, I just believed it was wrong to get irritated so easily. And that I should try harder to stay calm and not act like a child. I now know that there is nothing wrong with getting overwhelmed, but lifelong habits and ways of thinking are hard to overcome. I have become so good at pretending that I feel OK that I actually believe it myself.
What I need to learn is how to identify the earlier stages of overload, to recognise the building stress. In hindsight, I can see the things that led to me being overwhelmed, but in the situation all the dots did not connect. I need to know when just taking a break will be sufficient and when leaving a situation is the best thing to do. I need to look more carefully at what is happening, how it is affecting me, and then learn to predict how much more I can handle.
And even more important, I have to be kinder to myself despite the fact that others may not understand or become impatient or feel inconvenienced. I spend a huge amount of energy accommodating and pleasing other people, probably too much energy. And they do not know this, how can they when doing the same things do not require nearly the same amount of energy of them? That is probably why they cannot understand my frequent irritation or fatigue. I work hard, I get tired, and I owe it to myself and to the people around me to insist on getting more down-time.
It is scary though. I find it hard to read people, to pinpoint what they are really feeling, but I am good at picking up negative or positive vibes - feeling them, but not understanding them. So when I state that I do not want to do something, or want to be alone, or do not enjoy something I often feel the negative reactions and not knowing what it means makes me very anxious. Is the other person feeling irritation? Disappointment? Anger? Resentment? Rejection? Concern? I have no idea, and since people mostly respond with the universal and frustrating "It's OK", I am left feeling confused and guilty and insecure.
And instead of using my down-time to relax, I worry. Maybe I need to be more honest and try to describe what I feel and experience and what my needs are. That is hard though - the sensations and feelings I have are so many times not connected to words at all. Take the imminent meltdown - if you wanted to know how I felt, I would have to show you the physical reactions I had to suppress, I cannot describe in words how I felt.
What I want to do is accept that my needs are important, and that even though it may inconvenience others, getting what I need will benefit them also. This is a continuing education - teaching both myself and the people around me.