Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sensory Overload

I have been pondering silence lately. Silence and peace.

Silence is extremely important to me. I can't stand a lot of noise around me. I don't have television on, or the radio, or even music, most of the time. Sometimes I like it, but mostly I find it irritating. I even have my computer's sound muted because the constant blipping and beeping drives me bats.

It's the same with visual input. I can't watch movies or videos with a lot of fast cuts, and I find those new billboards that change pictures every few seconds extremely irritating and distracting. I guess I don't deal well with sensory overload.

Even artificial smells irritate me, particularly strong perfume. I can't stand scented soaps, scented shampoos, scented laundry products...all those clashing smells. And I can't stand next to some heavily perfumed person in an elevator.

It makes me wonder if there's some sort of connection between our noisy, flashing, smelly, overstimulating modern environment and some of the mental health issues many of us deal with. Particularly anxiety and depression.

Writing Prompt: What is the most irritating environment you have ever found yourself in? What was the most restful environment? What sort of place would be the perfect environment for you--a place in which you feel you would function your best?

17 comments:

Clueless said...

Reminds me of this post I saw this week. http://somethingjusttostart.blogspot.com/2008/06/noise-lightstoo-much.html

Caroline said...

Noise is as much an environmental pollutant as all the other pollutants everyone talks about.

Jazz said...

Thanks for the link, Clueless...I was having those exact same thoughts this week when I was sitting working in my journal and trying to concentrate. The kids were outside, and I was realizing that even though the house was quiet, it wasn't anywhere near silent. And then I started thinking about when the last time I really heard silence was...and I have no idea. About four years ago when a couple of friends and I went on an art/healing retreat to Madeline Island...

Jazz said...

Caroline--
Noise is indeed a pollutant. Maybe I'm just hypersensitive, I don't know, but the constant low-level noise in our house from all the electronic junk and appliances just really sets my teeth on edge sometimes!

Clueless said...

I'm the same way with noise and it has a lot to do with my childhood and my hypervigilance. And some people are just more sensitive than others.

Gianna said...

Jazz,
from my experience in large withdrawal circles and my own experience, it seems psych meds mess with the central nervous system and make us sensitive to all these things.

I'm so sensitive to some of this stuff I can't even leave the house sometimes. I can't drive at night because headlights are awful. I can't watch TV most of the time, movie theatres are completely out of the question.

My dog's bark makes me fantasize throttling her---and I love her so much that this hurts me terribly.

Loud noises feel like assaults on my being. I sometimes have to wear sunglasses indoors and sometimes I just have to go into a dark room and avoid light altogether....

I'm also extremely sensitive to chemical toxins that you breath in...they make me sick in a multitude of ways...

anyway...sorry for the ramble....I'm hoping some of this stuff goes away once the withdrawals are over and my CNS system has some time to heal...you may still be in that window too.

Jazz said...

Gianna--
I guess I should have thought of that. It's too long for it to be from Depakote or Lexapro, which I stopped three years ago...isn't it? But it could certainly be from the trazodone...that doctor must have brainwashed me well...I still think of trazodone as benign, and I know that it's not!

Gianna said...

Actually, no it's not too long. I've met people who report it for years later and sometimes one of my "mentors" of sorts who has been helping people off drugs for 20 years ---she claims this sort of damage can last forever. I get scared of statement of that nature and frankly don't pay too much attention to them. I truly believe in the brain healing if we're doing all the things that we're doing.

Hopefully though it is simply the trazadone...when did it start?

(I posted this a while ago and it showed up in my email...but not on your site...)

Jazz said...

Gianna--
It's actually been an issue for me even before I was on meds...it just seems like the noise gets to me now more than it ever used to. One of our neighbors has been having some noisy landscaping work done this week--bobcats and cement mixers and all manner of trucks pulling in and out all day all week--and it's just about driven me to distraction. I'm not sure when it started to be particularly bad...I've been noticing it more over the past few weeks--since it got warm enough to have windows open.

Gianna said...

well...perhaps the worsening of it is associated with this particular withdrawal then...

Mine varies a lot. I've talked a lot about it....but maybe mostly before you were reading? Not sure....

Jazz said...

I have read a few of your posts on it. I will keep it in mind that it's probably the trazodone withdrawal making me especially sensitive. Hopefully, as you say, it will fade with time. I think the clarity of thought and increase in energy I've gained since cutting down on it is well worth the trade-off. I'm mostly at home, and I have control over the interior environment...I guess I can always close the house up and put the AC on if it gets too noisy! We have such a small window here in Minnesota where it's warm enough to have the windows open but not hot and sticky enough to put the AC on...

Gianna said...

I use white noise a lot...use a fan if you don't want to turn AC on....

Jazz said...

Yes, I already have white noise in my arsenal! My husband suffers from tinnitus, so he has to have a white noise generator on in order to sleep. I found it very difficult to get used to, but now I notice it if it's not running, because I can hear all the other noises that it masks!

naturalgal said...

Quote"
It makes me wonder if there's some sort of connection between our noisy, flashing, smelly, overstimulating modern environment and some of the mental health issues many of us deal with. Particularly anxiety and depression."

Yes, there is most definitely a connection. I had this problem long before I ever took any psych meds. I have heard it said that people like us are canaries. We are the first to be bothered by environmental "pollutants"...things other people don't notice (or even joy enjoy)...but after awhile many will come to acknowledge that these "additives" are harmful to all the human species.

Coco said...

Hi Jazz, yes I hear you on this one, and I too am in this boat of people who need a lot of silence. It's another reason I tend to limit my activities. And it has been one of THE hardest things about raising children.

Right now for me it waxes and wanes with the ups and downs of the mood disorder. When I'm hypomanic/good mood, it won't bother me in the slightest. I've noticed in amazement, as if I'm a seperate person, that my tolerance is incredibly high at these times.

When I'm hypomanic/irritable... it's a huge problem. I'll react strongly and hotly to sensory irritants (like anything?!).

When I'm in the initial stages of depression? I can't handle very much sensory-wise... until I reach a certain point in my depression where everything is numbed to the point of me caring.

It all of a sudden seems very complicated to me. I seem very complicated to me.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
I also need a lot of silence, but it's worse when I'm depressed. During those periods, I don't listen to music, nor do I like loud noises of any kind.

Like you, I always had a difficult time shopping at places like Target, because it was "too much." Too big, too loud, too many people, too much merchandise.

When I'm depressed, marketing is impossible. The markets are also "too much. There are too many choices. Most markets are too dark, and I have a problem with the lack of regular lighting and lack of fresh air.

In doctor's offices or the ER (when my mom was so sick), I hated the fact that the TV was on constantly. It's the noise combined with the stupid day-time programming.

When I'm hypomanic, I often can't stand to hear people talking on their cell phones in public places, and I'm sure there's much more.

Susan

Jazz said...

Naturalgal--
I rather like the idea of being a canary...as long as someone's going to clean my cage regularly!

I wonder what will happen when society as a whole realizes how damaging this sensory overload is. Can you see going backwards in a technological sense? I can't. I fear it will just get worse and worse, and everyone will be saying, "Geez, I wonder why we have such high rates of ADD and despression and anxiety." You know, kind of like they are now...

Coco--
Oh, yeah, raising little ones--having them in the house making noise all the time--that was one of the hardest things for me to get used to. They needed so much attention...and when I was nursing it got to the point where I just didn't want anyone else to even touch me. Too much togetherness for sure!

During my last mania it was all about loud music and flashing lights. My girlfriend and I used to go to the dance bars frequently. I loved it then, but I don't think I could take two minutes of it now.

Susan--
I agree...it is worse when I am depressed of hypomanic/irritable. As I said above to Coco, if I'm hypomanic/happy, I love music and lights and sensory overload. When I'm depressed or irritable, every noise is like Gianna said above, an assault. I just want to hide away, wrapped in blankets that muffle all the input.