Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sensory Overload

If the average person starts at zero and gradually works up to ten before getting overwhelmed, my base level is probably a seven. I think I need to develop some kind of warning system like the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System to let everyone around me know what the risk level is for a meltdown. Green, "Low Risk of Meltdown" -- I'm mellow and well-rested and can probably tolerate a lot more than usual, so I'm up for going out and having some fun. Blue, "General Risk of Meltdown" -- I'm feeling somewhat anxious and uncomfortable but I can still run errands and enjoy the company of people. Yellow, "Significant Risk of Meltdown" -- (this is the most common for me) I can only function at work with my door closed and headphones on. Anything more will elevate the threat level. Orange, "High Risk of Meltdown" -- I am probably overtired and have already put up with multiple assaults on my senses. I need some quiet alone time to put myself back together. Red, "Severe Risk of Meltdown" -- I am done. Leave me alone in my dark, quiet room or I will flip the fuck out.

I'm still learning what I can and can't deal with. I work with some exceptionally loud people and that makes downing them out with my iPod (I'm shopping for a good pair of earplugs now) difficult at times. What's more, they've taken exception to my need for quiet and have begun to do things like pound on the wall when they pass my office or stand outside my door while yelling back and forth at each other. I have no proof that they're targeting me, but this has only begun since my diagnosis. I made no announcement to my co-workers, but I did have to tell my manager what was going on so he would understand why I'm working with headphones on and keeping my door closed. I suspect he asked them to keep the volume down for me. It's been my experience in almost ten years working here that, if you ask them to be quiet, they only get louder. Am I surprised by their behavior? Not really. I am the only female and I have asked repeatedly for them to stop using the ladies room because it makes me uncomfortable and because they piss on the floor and that's disgusting, but they persist. You'd never know I work with grown-ass men.

Today is a definite Threat Level Orange.

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