Today at work, for a few minutes, a meeting divided into two separate, equally loud conversations. I was interested in both, though participating in neither. My brain started bubbling immediately. Bubbling, fuzzing, producing static. It was too much overlapping input. Especially at a work meeting, where I felt obliged to try and listen. So my brain went into a bit of a panic mode.
Ok, can I leave the room? Well, I’m presenting next. That means I will remove myself from the noise, but then add in the tension of making sure I haven’t stayed away too long. Also, what if someone asks why? I don’t want to explain why. It’s weird to complain, since everyone else seems fine with this.
Maybe just to the bathroom? The bathroom is so close to this meeting room that I’m relatively sure I’d still hear everything. Also if I had to go it would be fine, but I’ll be weirdly conscious of how long I spend since everyone can see the door. It’s awkward. How about if I try to listen to the closer conversation and use my focus to help put everything else in the background?
Ok please just close your eyes to reduce information. But then I can’t monitor whether anyone is noticing how upset I am. I’m keeping a carefully neutral expression, but if I let down my guard I will start looking quite angry. I don’t want to deal with the consequences of looking really mad without context in the middle of a meeting.
Close your eyes and put your hands over your ears. Please. Really, brain, it’s important that I’m not weird today. I’m the only woman in the room. I’m the only person from my team here. I’m on edge due to the recent sudden staffing changes. I don’t have the energy to fit in even less than I already do.
Self-soothe. Rock. Fidget. Bounce. Pace. Hey I’ve got these nice fidget rings, I’ve been spinning them constantly. I guess you’re not impressed if you’re asking for more. I didn’t expect to need my book for drawing, though that would help. Dammit.
This has been going on too long. Can I ask them to stop? I don’t want to ask for my own comfort, but maybe I can ask from a perspective of moving the meeting along. Maybe because I’m next? I’m so uncomfortable though that I’m afraid I’ll come accross as angry. Oooh, wait, it looks like coworker is about to get the meeting back on track. It’s almost over!
I’m not even sure it was a full five minutes, but it felt interminable. And I’m questioning decision to stay still and mask. Multi-channel audio-processing is just not a feature available in my brain, and now that I’m done pretending that it is, I’m not sure how to advocate for myself. I do know several ways to advocate for myself, but I can’t tell which one is best for what situation considering my energy levels and the relationships I want to have with people.
What I do know is that it was the major thing that exhausted me today; I’m reasonably sure it’s the reason I had to skip choir practice tonight. Some days, my sensory experience leaves life feeling like an obstacle course. Maybe I’ll tackle it better tomorrow.
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