Meltdown. Anxiety attack. Chemical imbalance in brain. Fever. Shaking. Shivering. Eyes smarting. Ulcers suddenly springing up all over throat and inside mouth. Sudden onset of extreme fatigue. What a way to end a day.

I have been in Oxford, UK, for two days now.

Yesterday was a very good day, actually. Until the evening descended, and along with it a huge sensory overload and meltdown. The problem with hypersensitivity is that most of the majority are absolutely ignorant, resistant to learning about and/or accept it, and completely unempathic. I get people who tell me the most ridiculous things, as a response to my description of hypersensitivity. One common comment is, “Relax, don’t overreact, just keep calm and let it go!” The whole problem here is that it is my entire system overreacting, not by choice but just because it is being triggered so. I can bet my bottom dollar that the same ‘normal’ people who are so dismissive about sensory acuity and the seriousness of the effects of overload, will be the very first ones to complain, should they step into my shoes for just one minute.

I am describing a scenario. I am relating a fact. I am not whinging or complaining like a spoilt child. But they just do not get it. All they know is what they know, and they refuse to climb outside of their tiny limited minds to try and learn about a phenomena that they know nothing about. Instead, they choose to ‘scold’ it away. Just as they tell people with mental illnesses to “pull up your socks.”

But wait, here’s the good part first.

Breakfast was a gorgeous sensory experience. I do wish I’d gone earlier, though. The breakfast spread was amazing, well, not quite the lavishness of a 5-star hotel but substantial enough for little ol’ me, because I always eat the same things anyway. I had bacon, egg sunny-side-up, sausage, and two new additions to the usual, baked beans and half a portobello mushroom. There were also a few cheeses and pastries to choose from. I was served 4 slices of toast as soon as I sat down. I opted for tea instead of coffee – when in England, one just has to drink tea, of course! It always tastes better here. 🙂 The table was adorned with mini boxes of different cereal, baskets of mini sized jam bottles and nutella, and generous rows of butter and margarine. I had a huge jug of orange juice all to myself too – well, it was there where I was sitting and I was sitting alone (for awhile, at least). Ah, but this is just the boring part. The sensational part was that we were dining in an old chapel, the Mansfield College Chapel. This was sensory heaven. But it lasted only for awhile.

A very pleasant and friendly couple settled next to me not long after I began to enjoy the sensory pleasure of breakfasting in an old chapel on my own. They were lovely, and the lady most chatty. She offered to help take a photograph of me, but I declined politely. Then we began to chat. Some chatting and greeting over breakfast with a total stranger is ok, and even enjoyable. But when the conversation goes on and on and the clueless, flummoxed Aspie in you just has no idea how to end the conversation, it can become quite stressful. I really liked the lady and gentleman, they were so friendly, but I also wanted to eat my breakfast and enjoy the beauty of the room, but I didn’t know how to end the conversation politely, and was trapped inside the social interaction. My head began to throb and I had to resort to doing what I usually have to do in such situations: bite down hard on my jaws to stop myself from yawning as a reflex from anxiety. Sigh, how pleasant an experience can that be? Anyway, I outlasted them. They finally left. And I finished my breakfast in a hurry, because the staff were already clearing th tables by then. This morning, I will get down there earlier, before the throng heads in. And what a throng it will be… read on for the ending of what was a beautiful day.

After breakfast, I headed downtown again, and enjoyed a long walk in the lovely warm sunshine. Wandered around the Bodleian, Sheldonian, Broad Street, and meandered into High Street. Did quite a bit of photography. I was overdressed and sweltering, a surprise for English weather, and so eventually found myself in Zara, picking up a pair of shorts – from the children’s section. Yes, indeed. I still wear kids size clothes. Then off to Marks  & Sparks for a food foray, feeling ravenously hungry, despite the grand breakfast! Outside M & S, I met a homeless man selling the Big Issue. He had a lovely doggy with him. I am always won over by doggies. We chatted, I played with the sweet Charley, and I gave the man 5 pounds for the doggy. Then, armed with a bag of goodies, I headed back to my lodgings for lunch.

At tea, I visited three people who I had not seen for twenty years, and who were and still are very dear to me. It was so very lovely to see them again, and well worth the sensory strain.

About an hour after returning to my lodgings, a group of about 9 people from the South Asian continent descended upon my sensoryscape, and created such a racket that I was left a shivering, feverish wreck, climbing into bed without a shower because I was too terrified to step into the bathroom! They came into the building, stomped up and down and up and down the stairs, chattering extremely loudly, to me, with hypersensitive hearing, it just sounded like they were screaming and shouting at full volume for hours on end. Then, the highlight of my horror was when one of the grand party, a particularly loud man, suddenly wrung at my door handle violently and kicking it when it won’t open for him! Yes, of course, he mistook my room for his. But… honestly… why don’t people read? The room number is very clear on the door. The people at the Porter’s Lodge are very helpful and clear with their instructions on how to use the key and which room one is assigned. I guess the majority of people just don’t read and don’t listen to instructions?

That shock of having someone attempt to break down one’s door just shot through my entire physical body like a bolt of lightning. I began to suffer a meltdown, with increased heartrate, shaking hands and feet, nausea and then fever.

I called the Porter’s Lodge and asked them for help. They did try. There was 2 minutes of peace, but they started the party again. No rest for the weary. It was endless noise, I kid you not – not just talking and laughing at the top of their voices, but also stomping feet going up and down, and slamming doors. Enjoyable social interaction to them, but to me, a horrible nightmare. At around 10.30pm, I was already running a fever, developed painful ulcers all over throat and mouth, and almost fainting with nausea and dizziness, when a couple from the grand party decided to play with the bathroom taps and shower. I went outside and asked them if they needed help, a feeble attempt to hint about their noise, but to no avail, of course. They said they didn’t need help, and continued to fiddle around with the taps and talk in loud excited voices. I retreated into my room, cowering under the cover of the thick blankets, breaking into a cold sweat that did not dissipate the fever. I was in such a state that I just didn’t dare enter the bathroom. I darted out to use the toilet, but found they had stuffed a blue plastic bag into the toilet bowl! WHY???? I have no idea. I was just thankful that there is another toilet without a bag in the bowl.

Sleep was not good, although they did retire and the madness ended at 12am. By then, the fever was insistent and two panadols just didn’t help. I woke up this morning at 4am with a pounding headache, high fever, painful ulcers and nausea.

Thanks to my wonderful social minded friends.

Well, the conference begins today. Say a prayer for my poor old body. The mind is quite blown as it is. Maybe I can try to salvage some physical strength and energy, and climb out of this in better shape today. It’s a new day after all.

5.30am update: What a dramatic way to start the day. I dashed into the bathroom early, thinking to make hay while the sun wasn’t yet shining 🙂 but lo and behold, the lady who was last night fiddling away with the taps and shower began to wrangle at the lock and knock repeatedly at the door, even after I answered, “Yes?” She speaks English very fluently, by the way, so I cannot figure out why she didn’t say anything but rather just continued to create a racket at the door when it was clear that someone was in the bathroom? The lock had a sign outside that read, OCCUPIED in RED when one turns it from the inside, by the way! I hurried through the shower routine and finished in 3 minutes, but as soon as I opened the door, I was stunned to see the woman standing there in her nightie, her face less than six inches from mine, and she said in an annoyed tone, “Have you finished?” Good golly, I was just 3 minutes inside! Then I saw that my bedroom door was open, even though I had checked it three times before I went into the shower to make sure it was properly closed. She must’ve had a nice looksee around. This is insanity. I do wonder, why does Wagnerian drama seem to follow me around like a spectre? I guess it is just ‘over reaction’ on my part, and people who are not hypersensitive really either enjoy these things, or they merely shrug it away?

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