Growing up Autistic and undiagnosed, I would always find myself feeling overwhelmed. What was that overwhelm made up of? I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. All I knew was that I was in a constant state of ‘overwhelm’. It wasn’t until I received my diagnosis that I truly began my journey in understanding the importance of acknowledging emotions, and ultimately, coping in a way that is best for me.
After lots of support and practise, I began recognising that my emotional connection to feeling overwhelmed was anxiety, fear, and a lot, I mean a lot, of anger. But I still didn’t know why I would feel this way. The day would be seemingly ‘normal’ or ‘good’, yet there was something there that just didn’t sit right. It was almost an entirely physical feeling, right in my bones, that I wouldn’t be able to shake.
I’ve always liked to know why. Constantly questioning why things are as they are.
And so naturally I began trying to decipher all the small events in the day, analysing each event to find the root cause, what was ‘the problem’, what was making my bones ache and my head spin. It seemed the only probable conclusion was that I was broken; that the wires in my brain had short circuited, and that I needed to send it in for repair. Only there is no such place, no such thing as a brain repair shop. Instead there are incomplete tasks and piles of lists, unanswered text messages and intense emotions, meltdown after meltdown after meltdown.
It wasn’t until I received my diagnosis that I was able to finally understand that I was overloaded with sensory input. Days where colours look a little brighter, and the birds sing a little louder sound pleasant, but for my brain, are too much to process. And that’s okay. It’s taken a while to figure out, but I’m finally able to explore new ways to support how I cope and even better, I no longer yearn for that brain repair shop I was so desperate for.
Sensory over/under stimulation does not mean you’re broken. It’s okay to respond differently to your surroundings than others. Navigate the world in a way that is easiest for you. If that means I have to wear ear-defenders and tinted glasses, then that’s what I have to do.
Normalise prioritising your mental and physical wellbeing.
Even if your means of doing that is perceived as ‘different’. Healthy wellbeing should be inclusive of all, and the more we embrace and empower that, the more we verge towards an accessible society. And wouldn’t that be great for a change.
My own self-discovery journey has only just begun, and I’ve made it my goal to ensure others don’t feel like they are bad, wrong or broken, just because society labels them as different. Later this year I’ll be launching the inclusive wellness hub, Diverge, aimed to bridge the gaps in the health & wellness industry and promote informed accessibility for all.
Different is good. Different is what sparks change and ignites creation. Different is human.