I saw both my counselor and psychiatric nurse yesterday in order to address my treatment-resistant depression, anxiety and other symptoms. My counseling session was difficult, but my session with my psychiatric nurse is better. In the end, I’ve been diagnosed with Sensory Over Responsivity, which can lead to what is called “sensory overload” or “sensory meltdown”.
My counseling session was frustrating as my counselor asks me a lot of questions to determine how to help me. I finally just decided to say “I don’t know” to my counselor’s questions when I didn’t know the answer. She, for example, asked if I can think of a good time in my life when I felt confident and reassured when I am depressed and what that good time would be. I thought about it and told her that college and graduate school were good times of my life. Then she asks me to describe how that felt. But, I have memory loss, so I just told her that I can’t remember that. Plus, I can’t think clearly enough to consider using a technique like that when I am in depressive states. Later in the evening I reflected on this question and realized that even during my college years I was drinking heavily and didn’t feel all that confident and reassured, but for me it was the best time of my life. So although this question did cause me to think about a good time in my life, it also brought up a bunch of bad memories, including traumatic memories. This type of thinking obviously then would not help me when I am in a depressed state.
This example illustrates how it can be damaging for a patient who’s been through trauma to try to focus on their past in any way when they are already overwhelmed or depressed. In this case my counselor assumed that looking at good moments in my life would help my depression, but for me it only resulted in another look at my difficult past and more confusion. And because I’m depressed right now, I am more likely to notice negatives versus positives as this is actually a symptoms of depression. I really just wanted to focus on the present yesterday and my current concerns during the session but ended up getting sidetracked.
My counselor also tried to convince me to use counseling methods when I feel depressed and overwhelmed that I know would be too much for me and overwhelm me further. I tried to explain this to her but she didn’t seem to fully understand it. It was, again, frustrating.
My meeting with my psychiatric nurse was better. She told me that I am not only having depression and anxiety but also am experiencing sensory over responsivity, which is a symptom of ADHD, and that this can lead to sensory overloads and meltdown. Now I have wondered if I am having sensory meltdowns for awhile, and I am glad that she confirmed this for me. She told me that traditional counseling techniques don’t work with sensory overload. This helped me to understand why I’ve had so many problems with counselors during my life. She told me that she is going to communicate with my counselor as to how to effectively help me and helped David to understand what it means to have sensory processing issues. I’m grateful to have found her.
David was at both of these sessions, and it was really helpful to him to hear that the when I am overwhelmed that it is different than when he is overwhelmed and that neurotypical techniques won’t necessarily work for a person who is in sensory meltdown. Yesterday when I was in overload he suggested that I try grounding. But, even the thought of attempting something like grounding made me more overwhelmed. I told him this but then he wanted to know “Why” and “How I can help you right now”. And the thing is that when I’m in overload I am not able to help anyone or even process really anything that’s going on around me. This has caused many fights between me and David and problems with other people because they will take it personally when they perceive me as “not taking their advice/help” when really it’s just something that I can’t even deal with at all. It is frustrating for everyone involved, including me.
Yesterday, though, after our session David said to due to psychiatric nurse’s explanation of what sensory meltdown feels like and is that he realized that it is outside of the scope of anything that he has experienced before. He quickly was able to understand why all of his advice and techniques just don’t work for me and why attempting to have a conversation with me during a meltdown will cause me my symptoms to worsen. Hopefully I will be able to find ways to avoid sensory overload and find ways to help myself out of it.
Thanks! Keep reading for more on my journey with health issues!