Sensory overload is not just the clock ticking on the wall or the humming of the lights in Walmart. It is not just the ear-piercing shrill of a baby's cry or the sound of a crowd of children.
Sensory overload is not just the pungent odor of a skunk or a woman's perfume that literally burns your nose. It is not just the smell of a person across a crowd who may have forgotten to apply deodorant that day or the unidentified odor that drives you crazy until you are able to figure out what is causing it.
Sensory overload goes way beyond the basic senses. Feelings that I have tried to explain for so long but could never find the words. Sensations which are triggered not just by sights, sounds and smells but by people and objects too.
Children and adults on the spectrum can read into people with the strongest of senses. If there is something "off" about a person, it is noticed immediately. I'm not referring to just a vibe. It is more like a 6th sense.
The same goes for people whom we may feel a strong emotional connection to. Whether it be a person of the opposite sex (not just romantic), a mentor, a friend, a teacher, a therapist, or a coworker, certain people have a way of touching us in ways that can't be explained.
You see, sensory overload is not always a negative experience. These special relationships (which are few and far between) have the ability to cause profound sensory overload. An aura that is difficult to explain. Sensations that are overwhelming and heartwarming at the same time.
Throughout our lives, we come across people who we are able to identify with based on experiences. People who genuinely care about us and our well being. An attachment (for lack of a better word) is formed with certain people who have the ability to trigger an extreme physical response. It reminds me of the butterflies and excitement one feels when you start dating someone. Only, it is much more than that.
Neurotypical people may find these sensations difficult to understand. I have a hard time explaining it myself. A simple message, phone call, hug, etc. from the person with whom we feel this way produces a response that makes time stand still. An overpowering tingling sensation or "warmth" coupled with heart palpitations. A truly unexplainable experience. The moment may be brief or long lasting but it is very intense.
This type of sensory overload is extremely powerful, yet enjoyable. Caught in a daze or a "fog" so to speak, everything pauses around you for that moment.
I'd like to think of this sense as a gift. An ability to connect with someone on such a level that is unheard of.
Perhaps people don't speak of this sense for fear of jeopardizing relationships. Perhaps people fear that neurotypicals will be turned away from them.
Personally, I feel as though this sense is a blessing. An ability that should be spoken of, explored, and researched.
My hope is that others on the spectrum are able to identify with these feelings and breathe a sigh of relief.