One (more) of the annoying things about having fibromyalgia, is that I have become so super sensitive to so many things. It’s ridiculous. Annoying. Frustrating. And just plain stupid.
Since being officially diagnosed with fibro, (in 2009, my story is here) and fibromyalgia itself being a relatively new officially accepted medical diagnosis, I have decided out of curiosity, a general need to know what’s going on with my body, and flat out necessity (the doctors I was going to didn’t really know anything, that story is here and here) that I would be in tuned with my body and research what I could and gather the most true information out there and then know how to proceed.
The thing that’s been bugging me the most, lately, is that I am so super sensitive to EVERYTHING!
My husband and I went out to eat with my in-laws a while ago. We went to a restaurant my in-laws liked a lot, and we hadn’t been to in a while.
From the minute I walked in the door everything was effecting me. The smell of old grease made me queazy. A man’s super strong cologne, from the back of the restaurant, started my migraine symptoms. The weird lighting seemed to exacerbate all of the other things and my queazyness and migraine symptoms were multiplied. The seat was pealing pleather that was duct taped, but not very well so it was poking my thigh through my jeans. Then my back and hip pain became more intense. I was a mess even before we ordered. The others asked me if I was okay. I said no. And that was that.
I have learned through my research over the years that natural, homeopathic ways of taking care of my self work best for me. I also know that asking to leave would never go over well and wouldn’t happen.
So I proceeded to close my eyes, pinch the top of my nose hard, and focus on sitting still and deep breathing down to my toes. Meditating until the food came.
This wasn’t an isolated incident, either. Smells of cleaning agents, essential oils, lotions, candles. The different textures of some fabric. Neon colors. Too many people talking, the TV and music playing at the same time. And the list of things that affect me badly grows… *sigh*
When researching my super sensitivity to everything on the internet, I found that this type of thing is one of the major things that people who are on the autism spectrum experience. This blew my mind.
According to an article that I found by Madeline Vann, MPH on Everyday Health
A study, published in the journal Pain Research and Treatment,suggests that changes in brain chemistry among people with fibromyalgia may be linked to sensitivity to stimuli such as sound and smell. Imaging studies have provided visual depictions of this altered response to sensations. In some respects, the brains of people with fibromyalgia may be hyper-responsive to even the possibility of pain or discomfort, Dr. Natelson says.
So, with fibromyalgia, our nerves are sending improper signals to our brain, which then in turn causes the pain in our bodies. Then our brain reacts by causing a chemical imbalance and over compensates affecting our senses. And the cycle of improper signal / chemical overcompensation continues.
This article also addresses the issue, calling the imbalance MCSS.
What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome?
MCS is a syndrome that causes hypersensitivity to certain chemicals and smells. It can also cause you to be extra sensitive to lights, temperature, and loud sounds. MCSS can hit suddenly and without warning, and tends to become more severe as time passes. Typically, people with chemical sensitivity find that they are first sensitive to only one particular trigger, but the syndrome soon intensifies, making exposure to a variety of products troublesome. MCSS causes symptoms that affect all systems in your body, including the skin, respiratory system, musculoskeletal system, gastrointestinal tract, and neurological and immune systems.
Also known as Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance, multiple chemical sensitivity affects between 17% and 34% of Americans on a yearly basis. However, people with fibromyalgia syndrome tend to be at increased risk for this syndrome, probably because many of the symptoms of MCSS overlap with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Up to two-thirds of those who suffer from fibromyalgia pain will also have to deal with MCSS. Like fibromyalgia, MCSS typically affects women more than men, particularly those women between the ages of 20 and 50.
So, along with people on the autism spectrum, fibromyalgia suffers can be blind sided all at once. No wonder the kids seem to have a meltdown! I would too if I thought it would help.
When we are blind sided, what can we do? This awesome article from the FibroModem has some helpful tips.
Sensory overload occurs when you have experienced too much sensory stimulation, especially of a kind you don’t handle very well – think of a computer trying to process too much data at once.
Sensory overload does not necessarily involve any emotion. Although it may seem you are panicking or upset, you can be in extreme sensory overload without feeling any negative emotions. It’s more of a cognitive state than an emotional one.
Some ideas about how to reduce sensory overload:
Reduce the noise level – If you are in a noisy area, go somewhere quieter. Just take a break. Walk outside.
Avoid being touched or crowded – Many people with sensory processing issues are hypersensitive to touch, being touched or thinking they are about to be touched.
Don’t talk more than necessary – conversation is sensory input, and can worsen overload. In addition, sensory overload can sometimes make your own speech skills poorer, and make speaking too much of an effort.
If you have a jacket, put it on and put the hood up. This helps to reduce stimulation, and many people find the weight of a jacket comforting.
When you have calmed down, be aware that you will often be tired and more susceptible to overload for quite a while afterwards. It can take hours or days to fully recover from an episode of sensory overload. If you can, try to reduce stress occurring later on as well.
Prevention is the best solution. Learn what tends to overload you and avoid it. If it’s unavoidable, think about strategies for how to manage overload if it occurs.