For me the thought of being trapped in an uncomfortable, sticky environment where I can't breathe or the heat is making me feel faint and unwell is one of my biggest triggers. It can also affect my sleep, and I find it hard to regulate my own heat, I've been told it's like sleeping next to a furnace in the summer. Now this isn't just a dyspraxic issue, although many dyspraxics do struggle with sensory processing issues and anxiety, but something which many people can find a challenge.
As a child I remember going on a family holiday to Portugal and hiding between tree to tree in floods of tears if I spent too much time in the sticky heat, on another holiday abroad the heat made me unwell and I experienced nose bleeds and I spent the holiday avoiding anything which could make me worse. In my late teens I remember going to a music festival in the heat of summer with friends and experiencing a huge anxiety attack due to the sensory environment and feeling like I couldn't get out of the crowd. At the time I had no idea what I was experiencing was sensory overload and that I was having an anxiety attack, I was terrified, miles away from home and thought I wouldn't end up being back home and thought I was going to die. I'm still here to live the tale but to me it was why it is so important for me to write this blog, as for years throughout my childhood and young adult life I spent terrified in tears and simply overwhelmed and didn't have a clue why. Being the overly conciencious person I am and not wanting to draw any attention to myself or cause a huge fuss I never said anything, I either went along with it to please others or bottled it all up and let it all out behind closed doors.
As an adult I've become a lot more self aware of the environments which can trigger me, for such a long time I avoided these environments as I thought similar experiences would happen or would only go in the company of my boyfriend. Which can be difficult as some of these are day to day tasks such as even to facing going to the supermarket or walk down the street can be a huge ordeal for me and I will build a fortress up not wanting to face it all. The world is simply too overwhelming for me. I still have a long way to go with that, but accepting the anxiety and understanding that it is anxiety and finding the courage to seek help has been beneficial to me.I'm lucky to have some supportive people in my life especially my boyfriend Matt and if I need to physically remove myself often at great speed and with no spatial awareness or if I have a panic attack they understand. As someone who struggles with social anxiety I've always hated drawing attention to myself so how visibly I can show my emotion at times, and there can be a lot of tears it can make me feel very self conscious and I've been known to run away and hide so I don't expose that side to me in front of others. When people experience sensory overload or anxiety their behaviour may seem a little different to others, they aren't having a tantrum or being un-coperative they are simply overwhelmed and trying to cope best they can.
It can especially be difficult when the things which you enjoy are in environments which feel uncomfortable in. I've often struggled with my self worth and to allow myself that I deserve self care, treat myself and that I deserve to do things which I enjoy and make me happy. I love pop concerts and I also love going for a cocktail, but feeling not trapped in these environments can be hard and a lot of planning involved, such as finding an easy exit or finding a bar with a small amount of people in where I don't feel constantly on edge in. Last week I went to meet the girl group Little Mix (who put on an incredible show) the thought of queuing to meet them in a busy shopping centre was making me feel quite queasy and at times I wanted to remove myself from the queue but I stuck at it.
If you have a friend who struggles with this you might think that they're just being a baby or hard work, but the anxiety and feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable is very real. Please remember to be kind you never know how much hard work and effort getting into a situation has been for someone. I still have a way to go managing my anxiety but I've found talking to others both at Dyspraxia Foundation conferences and just in general having a chat (or a waffle in my case) and on a platform like this blog has helped me a lot, please don't struggle in silence like I did.
- Plan ahead and find as much information about where you are going to and book a time or place to suit you.
- Break challenges into smaller more manageable chunks so it's not too overtaking and go at your own pace.
- Have something with you to distract yourself and the anxious thought.
- This blog from Blurt talks about some helpful anxiety/panic attack strategies https://www.blurtitout.org/2016/05/25/panic-attacks-6-coping-techniques/
- Find safe spaces and a place where you can feel relaxed in.
- Remind yourself you deserve self care https://t.co/Oybg3TCJVP
- Wear clothes which make you feel comfortable in the heat.
- Keep hydrated.
- Find ways which help cool you down such as buying a fan, having no duvet on the bed, and wearing sunglasses.
- Don't take on too much at once and remember to rest after.
- If it impacts your day to day quality of life don't be scared of asking for help.
- Don't compare yourselves to others, life isn't a race we all have our own challenges which we find more difficult in life.
- Remember when you feel overwhelmed this too shall pass!