Fighting overload - mind over matter?

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neongrl
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19 Nov 2005, 7:37 am

I've noticed something about the way overload hits me. Most of the time if I'm in a situation that causes a significant amount of overload for me and I'm with someone I can really trust like my husband or family, I end up almost mute and my functioning level goes downhill, sometimes to the point where it's very much like someone with LFA. I'm depending on the people I'm with to help me a lot.

I've noticed though, that I can be in those exact same situations when I'm working and overload won't hit me the same way. In my job I take care of mentally challenged adults - many of them are functioning at the level of preschool-aged children and I know they're totally trusting and depending on me for help and for their safety and well-being. Somehow that seems to give me some immunity from overload - I can hold myself together quite well and maintain a reasonable functioning level for their sake.

So if I can do it when I'm out in public when I'm working, why can't I do it all the time? Do I always have that ability to fight off overload and I'm just not trying hard enough when I'm around people like my husband (because in that case, subconsciously I know that it's safe to let my guard down a bit and allow myself to become more vulnerable)? Is it really a case of mind over matter? Or is there really a difference that's beyond my control? This is a theory that I just came up with, so I guess time will tell. Any thoughts?



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19 Nov 2005, 10:46 am

I have a friend who was in a bike accident where she only lost consciousness after she was assured that help was on its way.

I also know that if pushed it's possible to do a lot more before a person hits that wall of overload. Not necessarily desirable over the long term (shutting down, I think, preserves brainpower against future overload) but possible, to differing degrees in different people.

Just as when someone has a migraine at home, they might lie down in bed, but if they get it while they are walking their kids across the street, they'll force themselves to continue walking until they get to a safe spot to lie down.


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techstepgenr8tion
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20 Nov 2005, 5:43 am

Here's what I really think is happening here. I'm basing this on my own self-observation a bit but I'm thinking a lot of it may have to do with the emotional complexity of the interactions with you and family being more intense and substantial than what your feeling at work. With work, while I have absolutely no doubt you have more than enough compassion for the people there, business is business and on the other side of it many of em are in a similar loop to where you are and a loop which doesn't drain you. When your arround NT's in an interaction setting which is strictly social, all about bond building and social petting, and ESPECIALLY when they're collectively not in the same loop as you are it's going to be much harder to maintain your energy levels. I tend to get overloaded at work just because I am out of the in-crowds personality and run into constant resistance from people (getting ignorned, blown off, etc.) and I notice that when people are respectful of me or when they come at me expecting that I'm normal, it's a completely different experience and often times empowering rather than draining.

I had another one of those experiences yet again today. For my birthday, my friends decided to take me down to OSU to party with a friend who lives down there. I came in the door of his appartment with like 15 college kids packed in there who's attention was almost deadlocked on the OSU v. Michigan game. We went back to my friends room behind the kitchen, were just talking about stuff in general so I had enough time to go to the kitchen and fix a few mixed drinks before I had to start talking to all these kids, but something out of the ordinary is that I ended up catching a major reality check over above the usual social stress while I was there. Its rare that I have a really profound image of NT-emotionality and how it differs from mine really come arround and practically smack the wind out of me. For me, when I looked at them, I was sensing that reality that comes right of college and highschool movies, that mentality I had as a kid when I was technically just a quirky NT and abiding by all the norm rules, and it was strange to really be hit with a much more advanced, matured, and articulated version of that emotional setting which I had needed to dig myself out of innitially in late highschool and early college just to stabilize myself.

Not that they weren't nice, I did have a good time, but I had that constant inner tension over the fact that I could barely hold the conversations together, the fact that this left me holding up the wall and feeling like I was tuning in on a different language, peoples thoughts and responses to eachother seemed to come from places of the mind that I just hadn't been accessing or for some reason had just never been properly triggered to work, and like usual when I'm feeling that I feel this its scary to see myself all of a sudden in the light which that knowledge builds before my eyes.

My friend earlier had been trying to point me toward a few single girls that he knew and he kinda gave me the rundown on what types people they were and what to expect from em but I got way out ahead of myself thinking "In this setting, it's plain as day and then some that my executive functing is f'd" and I know it's something that women can't NOT notice as well as the fact that once they do, they just aren't supposed to date or even be interested in the disabled - it just isn't done. I wish I could run that race, express myself on that level, and come out ahead, but keeping up with the pace is a serious mindbender where I'm bound to numb-out and fly off the rail if I get to ambitious. Crazy thing is that the more experiences I have like this the more that feeling becomes less and less of a fleeting emotional image and more of a solid set of self-knowledge that I can actually use.

To tell the truth, being in situations that make me extremely aware of exactly where the perimiters of my disability lie and exactly how and why it effects my life the way it does is nothing short of golden in the sense of lending me all the kinds of knowledge I need to help myself. That ammount of time where I can hack those almost coded NT conversations and really get into their heads and get where they're comming from and how those things just spontaneuosly arose off of what they were seeing are even more powerful because IMO being able to take those fleeting instances and build them into my standard social-intuition is more than vital, it's flat out necessary if I really want to crack the code and stop feeling like I'm flowing against the world. A lot of times situations like that can be almost like mind-altering experiences without the drugs but at the same time it's one of those challenges which I guess I pride myself on being ambitious about facing down and conquering.

My hope is that if I can really grab and pull in the full mechanics of all that and exercise that way of thinking, I may be able to have a major breakthrough with that social lock-out problem you and I have been having. As far as that first paragraph you can see that foreign thought processes are the biggest culprit of that stress; my hopes are to grab up as much 'theory of mind' as I can, especially all that tricky and glossed-up college kid stuff, and be able to use that to strengthen and stabilize my social senses far beyond where they're at now.

Good luck with the family though. I think its possible that over the years, they're way of thinking and handling things may kind of just osmose its way into yours, especially since it sounds like your at that stage like I am in life - where your major intellectual battles with figuring out society and the scheme of things is done and you've been waiting a while in that "Ok, so no what?" stage.


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Last edited by techstepgenr8tion on 20 Nov 2005, 5:46 pm, edited 4 times in total.

neongrl
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20 Nov 2005, 7:19 am

Wow, thanks for that long post. And happy birthday! I thought it was yesterday but I couldn't remember for sure. Your post put everything into a perspective that I hadn't even considered - I'm gonna be chewing on this one for a long time. The more I think about it, it's all so true and it explains SO much. (Like why I love my job so much, for example.) I don't have time for a long-winded reply right now though, I'm leaving for work soon. :D (Lol, not many people smile like that about going to work.) Stay tuned... BTW, it's after 7am and it looks like your still logged in here. You might wanna consider getting some sleep? :)



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20 Nov 2005, 5:31 pm

i overlaod during class and after class, because i have to deal with people telling me to do things and concentrating on important stuff that i need to do.



techstepgenr8tion
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20 Nov 2005, 5:57 pm

neongrl wrote:
Wow, thanks for that long post. And happy birthday! I thought it was yesterday but I couldn't remember for sure. Your post put everything into a perspective that I hadn't even considered - I'm gonna be chewing on this one for a long time. The more I think about it, it's all so true and it explains SO much. (Like why I love my job so much, for example.) I don't have time for a long-winded reply right now though, I'm leaving for work soon. :D (Lol, not many people smile like that about going to work.) Stay tuned... BTW, it's after 7am and it looks like your still logged in here. You might wanna consider getting some sleep? :)


Yeah, thanks :). Sorry about all the grammatical problems by the way, I went back over and smoothed out some of the stuff that was a little too wierd or choppy (I've noticed my manner of speech is pretty f'd up sometimes and it bugs me how I don't see it till later).

Something I wanted to or at least should have added to that last paragraph is that I think being in the stage that we were in, in terms of trying to figure out the world from where we felt like we could comprehend it best, helped us grow but at the same time I think it in and of itself was a major distancing factor because we had to filter it within our own natural comfort zones. As we figure out more and more of this and get it dealt with, it'll be easier to get our thought processes, social habits, and lifestyles back toward the more mainstream way of doing things. That friend I have down at OSU was actually the same one who had the Subaru, was a major grung/industrial/raver kid back in highschool, and it seems like he went through a similar situation in terms of stepping back in highschool, figuring himself out, going through the angst over the fact that the world wouldn't meet him halfway as he was back in his early 20's, and now he's at that point where he's getting to be more and more just like anyone else in ways where he's able to chill with practically anyone and fit in.


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neongrl
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21 Nov 2005, 7:10 am

techstepgenr8tion wrote:
Sorry about all the grammatical problems by the way, I went back over and smoothed out some of the stuff that was a little too wierd or choppy (I've noticed my manner of speech is pretty f'd up sometimes and it bugs me how I don't see it till later).


Lol, I'm always editing too, fine-tuning my posts. I hadn't noticed any problem with your original post though - I guess aspies understand aspie-speech. I definitely notice that at work with certain coworkers. With my NT coworkers I have to explain everything a few times before they understand what the heck I'm talking about. With my aspie-ish coworkers though, I'll say something that comes out so messed up I barely understand myself, and they'll get it right away on that first try. When I'm writing it's not usually too bad, except for one instance few days ago with a very NT coworker. One of the residents had an appointment coming up that her Mom was gonna take her to. The logistics of it were a little complicated so I was leaving a note about it for the staff who would be working that day. After I wrote it, my coworker was sitting right there and she started laughing. She said sarcastically, "Oh, THAT'S clear!" I thought I did a really good job explaining everything so I looked up at her with one of those confused "Huh??" looks. She said, "Don't worry about it. I'll be here that day, so when I see that note I'll remember the conversation we had about it and I'll know what's going on." *Sigh.*

I have an aspie coworker who has that problem of people misunderstanding her even worse than I do. If I'm there and people are understanding something a certain way, I'm always thinking, "But that's not what she meant." Once everything is explained and confirmed, it always turns out that my original interpretation was right. I guess it goes back to that whole foreign language idea you mentioned - our wiring really is that different.



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21 Nov 2005, 4:01 pm

anbuend wrote:
I have a friend who was in a bike accident where she only lost consciousness after she was assured that help was on its way.

I also know that if pushed it's possible to do a lot more before a person hits that wall of overload. Not necessarily desirable over the long term (shutting down, I think, preserves brainpower against future overload) but possible, to differing degrees in different people.

Just as when someone has a migraine at home, they might lie down in bed, but if they get it while they are walking their kids across the street, they'll force themselves to continue walking until they get to a safe spot to lie down.


I was thinking that was probably part of it - at work those people are depending on me, so naturally in situations like that you find it within yourself to "do what you gotta do".



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21 Nov 2005, 5:29 pm

I don't hang around my family because they are part of what causes me overload, so guess I am agreeing with that part. I don't overload at work because everything is really structured. I am a crisis clinician and there really isn't anything new that happens - its all a variation of something I know well.
I usually have trouble when things have been building up and I have had no outlet. These are times when I have been feeling bad about "stimming" and trying to do without it, or unable to use other coping strategies (earplugs, isolation, etc). Then there is an event that might seem insignificant, but puts me over the edge.
I do tend to try to hold it until I can get by myself. Once in a while I can't. It was happening a lot a couple of months ago, but I have had a lot of alone time, plus a major roller coaster riding session, so I haven't had much trouble lately.


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22 Nov 2005, 9:22 am

techstepgenr8tion wrote:
Here's what I really think is happening here. I'm basing this on my own self-observation a bit but I'm thinking a lot of it may have to do with the emotional complexity of the interactions with you and family being more intense and substantial than what your feeling at work. With work, while I have absolutely no doubt you have more than enough compassion for the people there, business is business and on the other side of it many of em are in a similar loop to where you are and a loop which doesn't drain you. When your arround NT's in an interaction setting which is strictly social, all about bond building and social petting, and ESPECIALLY when they're collectively not in the same loop as you are it's going to be much harder to maintain your energy levels. I tend to get overloaded at work just because I am out of the in-crowds personality and run into constant resistance from people (getting ignorned, blown off, etc.) and I notice that when people are respectful of me or when they come at me expecting that I'm normal, it's a completely different experience and often times empowering rather than draining.


I think you're exactly right. I hadn't even looked at it from that angle before, it explains so much. (And I just worked 4 days in a row and had a lot of social stuff going on too with both family and friends so I've had lots of opportunity to start weighing it all from that angle.) With family I think I used to be able to act more normal when I was younger, it seems harder now. That's probably because I wasn't an adult back then though so everything was different that way. I was supposed to be less mature/less socially advanced because I was young - now the expectations are higher and I'm not meeting them. It's like everyone else is advancing and moving ahead and I stopped moving a long time ago. (I guess the same idea applies with friends/peers too, not just family.) With regards to my sister, I'm 5 years older and I was always the *big sister* when we were kids/teens. I noticed though that as she matured and became more adult, something changed. Slowly the roles started to reverse and now for about 6-7 years she's been in the big sister role, watching out for me because she's in that loop with the rest of the NT world that I can't hack my way into.

When I'm with friends the situation is usually pretty similar to what you described from that OSU party. It depends on who I'm around though - some friends have a lot of AS/ADHD/OCD traits themselves so social situations are less draining if someone like that is around. At least I can interact pretty well with them even if everyone else is in a totally different loop that I can't keep up with. (Disclaimer: that's not to say aspies are better or anything like that, just that aspies and NTs can be so different from each other, it's nice to be around people you can relate to.) Last Saturday evening John and I were out with some friends - a couple, NT wife and ADHD husband. We were in a noisy busy restaurant and I don't know about the others, but I'd had a long day and my own functioning level was certainly less than ideal. What I noticed, as usual, was that John and Heidi ended up talking to each other a lot while Rob and I were both off in our own La La Lands half the time, oblivious to the conversation that was happening in front of us. When Rob and I did converse it was mostly with each other. I hate when there ends up being a division like that, especially when I end up talking mostly to another guy when my husband and/or other girls are around, but that seems to be the way it naturally works out. At least I was interacting with someone, not sitting off to the side, mute.

Work... your post gave me so much new insight into that. I always thought it was strange that I love my job so much even though it's so people-oriented - now that makes a lot more sense. They're people, but they're ones I can relate to and be my aspie self around. I even see why I work in the types of homes that I do - homes where the people are lower functioning, usually around the level of very young children. Compared to them, my social skills etc seem pretty advanced. There's not very much pressure to fit into that advanced adult NT loop - for the most part I can relax and stay in my comfort zone or at least close to it. I've never liked working in the homes where the residents are higher functioning/more independant (NT) and I'm guessing now that it's because in a lot of ways they're actually more advanced than me. We're in different loops. Also, in the homes where the residents are lower functioning you tend to find a lot more aspie-ish staff (and aspie-friendly NT staff) so I fit in pretty well with my coworkers. For some reason (at least where I work) the homes with the higher functioning residents tend to have more staff who are leaning toward the alpha-NT end of the spectrum. (Again, not better or worse, just worlds apart from where my wiring has me right now.)

As for the overload part of my post, I think a big part of the fact that I'm less prone to it when I'm working is what you said - I'm in a loop with those people that's less draining. I think another thing is that the people need so much attention, supervision, even hands-on help that I'm so focused on that, it kinda blocks out a lot of the excess sensory input around me because my mind is already so occupied. The only bad news if this is all true is that my original theory probably won't work, at least not anytime soon. (About fighting off overload and maintaining a more normal presence in all situations, not just some.) What you said --
techstepgenr8tion wrote:
I think being in the stage that we were in, in terms of trying to figure out the world from where we felt like we could comprehend it best, helped us grow but at the same time I think it in and of itself was a major distancing factor because we had to filter it within our own natural comfort zones. As we figure out more and more of this and get it dealt with, it'll be easier to get our thought processes, social habits, and lifestyles back toward the more mainstream way of doing things.

Do you think it'll get easier? Because honestly I don't feel like I've made any progress that way yet. I feel like I'm still stuck in that distant comfort zone and getting out of it doesn't seem to be any easier now than it was years ago. I've made a little bit of progress in figuring NT social stuff out, theory of mind, etc, but the other half of that is being able to use that knowledge... Well, I guess I'll have to be patient and keep working toward it. The insight I've gained from this thread will probably help quite a bit.



techstepgenr8tion
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22 Nov 2005, 10:34 am

neongrl wrote:
Do you think it'll get easier? Because honestly I don't feel like I've made any progress that way yet. I feel like I'm still stuck in that distant comfort zone and getting out of it doesn't seem to be any easier now than it was years ago. I've made a little bit of progress in figuring NT social stuff out, theory of mind, etc, but the other half of that is being able to use that knowledge... Well, I guess I'll have to be patient and keep working toward it. The insight I've gained from this thread will probably help quite a bit.


I think that way sometimes but I've definitely noticed that while I'll hit plateaus for long periods of time, I'll start making progress usually as a rule of thumb about 3 months after I'd totally abandoned all hope and started to believe that I was really stuck on that level now for life. I don't know if you've had that experience in the past but if you have and your still pushing at it, odds are you'll still be hitting more of those points where you catch a break.


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22 Nov 2005, 12:38 pm

techstepgenr8tion wrote:
I think that way sometimes but I've definitely noticed that while I'll hit plateaus for long periods of time, I'll start making progress usually as a rule of thumb about 3 months after I'd totally abandoned all hope and started to believe that I was really stuck on that level now for life.


Ok, 3 months - that would be Feb 22/06. Marking it on the calendar... :wink:

techstepgenr8tion wrote:
I don't know if you've had that experience in the past but if you have and your still pushing at it, odds are you'll still be hitting more of those points where you catch a break.


Yeah, I'm sure that'll keep happening, I guess I'm just in one of those waiting periods right now where things seem like they're gonna stay the same for life. It's all a big cycle - the feeling should pass soon enough.