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A Trip to the Store; Sensory Overload

A Trip to the Store; Sensory Overload

It used to be so simple; “Oh no, I am out of milk”, so a quick trip to the store and I am back home with enough time to make breakfast and eat before I have to go to work. Not anymore. Let’s not even get into the whole rushing to work thing because, well, I am currently unable to hold a job. No, I want to talk about the going to the store bit. You see, it used to just be a quick walk to whatever aisle has whatever product I need and then a quick walk to the register, but now? Now it’s a huge endeavor, a journey! I don’t know how many of you have this but for me, this causes extreme sensory overload.

First of all, I have really bad stimulus sensitive myoclonus, I take Klonopin for it and everything, which at this point helps take the edge off the stabbing shock of sudden sounds but they still suck. More recently I have developed all sorts of weird visual issues, which my doctor just refers to as Oscillopsia (“Oscillopsia is a visual disturbance in which objects in the visual field appear to oscillate. The severity of the effect may range from a mild blurring to rapid and periodic jumping. Oscillopsia is an incapacitating condition experienced by many patients with neurological disorders”) But that is sort of a broad term and what I have noticed is that it get’s really bad when there is a lot to look at like the many items on a shelf at the store. Things won’t be so bad at first but as soon as I turn down an aisle everything goes crazy. It feels like my brain wants to scan over everything really quick to find what it wants but because of my vision it has to stop and look at each object a split second longer and even though I am consciously trying to stare at just one object my brain is already subconsciously thinking about what object to look at next…. And then next after that and so on… So my eyes literally cannot keep up with what my brain wants even though I am really trying to just focus on just one item at a time. I can’t keep up!

So everything sort of spins and gets really blurry. When it’s really bad things start to sound really loud. I lose my ability to think clearly. I lose my focus. This all affects my balance (which takes a lot of concentration to maintain), which obviously affects my walking. So I imagine that to an outsider they see me walk into the store completely normal looking and then the second I turn down an aisle I immediately start walking like Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. So how I look in public bothers me a little bit but what is really frustrating is that a task that would normally take me 10 seconds (walk down the aisle, grab what I need and walk back out) now takes me 5 minutes. I have to walk down the aisle like I am balancing on a tightrope in a circus, look for what I need like I am looking for an abnormal tissue cell under a microscope, try to grab the item I need with my ataxic arms like I am trying to pick up a moving marble with two broomsticks in a spinning room and walk to the check out line which is once again only accessible via a circus tightrope because everything is still spinning.

Once I make it out of the store it’s like a breath of fresh air after holding your breath for as long as you can under water except… it’s also like I breathed in a little water in that the crazy visual side effects last for a while after I get away from what causes it. So now the parking lot makes me feel somewhat like I am still walking down that aisle in the store. I am still walking like I just polished off a bottle of rum by myself. Once I get home (and no I am not driving right now) I go straight to my room and drop into bed. The simple task of running to the store? It now leaves me feeling like I just got home from dropping the ring off at the volcano in Lord of the rings only I had to walk all the way back home, no magical eagles to turn a 3 movie long trip into a 5-minute ride home on a giant bird. I am exhausted and typically wiped out and in need of rest. A sensory deprivation chamber would be nice but since I don’t have one my bed and some headphones will have to do.

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Comments

  • Nanny to 4
    4 years ago

    That is my life now… I have needed to go to the store for a week now. I will think about it and stress over it because I know it will take everything out of me.. I used to love to go the the store for a minute or 2 hours but now I don’t. Wish I could find a way to really enjoy it.. Just to do the SIMPLE things of life.
    Well, enough complaining, thanks for letting me vent all. It is evening now,, so HAVE A WONDERFUL NIGHT..

  • itasara
    4 years ago

    I used to enjoy shopping; the more products, the bigger the store, the more fun. Even just walking around, meeting friends for lunch, etc. Now I just can’t get motivated to shop or do much of anything else. I do some things but like the writer said, it is a journey. I have to have a list or I forget what I need and I’d rather stay home and watch tv. I call it more a lack of motivation than anything else. I don’t think it is fatigue, not sure, but I don’t think so. My house is a good example about what I don’t do.. too much stuff, not put away, not in the mood to be organized, and no I really don’t get all that much help from my family, but then I can be difficult to make changes as well. I’d try to get someone to help me clean, but it’s really too disorganized at this point. My husband did comment the other day that it “must be the MS because you used to be a better organizer.” And that is sort of true. Also a couple of my adult children have come back to live with us, and I don’t blame them for the chaos; they blame me, but my (and my husband’s) equilibrium as taken a back seat at the moment, both emotionally and financially. I’m tired of making decisions and I do let a lot go, although I try not to. Maybe it is MS. Maybe it is just getting tired and old. I don’t like to travel (in general) especially now.. when we went to visit my son in Michigan it took days and an all nighter to figure out what to pack. To visit my other children who do not live at home means an airplane ride and that is even worse planning – for my medication, for one thing – and worrying about what I do if my OAB acts up. Some days I’m fine other days I’m not. I don’t like to take the medication for that because it is often to drying. I’m trying to work up enthusiasm to go to my 50th HS reunion in April. A lot depends on my adult children unresolved issues, but I’ll enjoy it once I get out….

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    It’s definitely a combination of all sort of MS related factors; things I used to enjoy or simple tasks are now huge chores for myself as well, it really sucks when the thing you used to ENJOY doing are now just a chore that you really don’t have the will to do…

  • DarlaKaye
    4 years ago

    I remember the Christmas before I was diagnosed. My husband and I went to the mall with our two young children (ages 3 1/2 and 1) and we split up to shop for each other. I had the kids. I stood in the middle of the mall, completely overwhelmed and unable to figure out what to do or where to go so I just sat down with the kids and waited for my husband to be done with his shopping. I didn’t know what was wrong with me but I was absolutely incapable of doing any Christmas shopping. Now, I start shopping early, do some of my shopping online and make sure I don’t have more than one or two items to pick up when I go to the mall so I’m not overwhelmed by the enormity of my task in addition to the crowds at the mall. I used to be more spontaneous and I was capable of handling a huge, almost inhuman workload when I was able to work. But now, I can do exactly 1 thing at a time – no multi-tasking and I must do it slowly so I don’t make a mistake or tire myself out too quickly. This has been one of the hardest parts about MS for me.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    That’s how I am, every little simple task now requies my undivided attention :/

  • MarianneM
    4 years ago

    If there are too many people around me, I have to flee, grocery shopping in the large stores that have too many choices drive me nuts. I end up having to make a decision on something as simple as Italian salad dressing and I find all the choices overwhelming. My eyes have that problem with scanning the various items. I also have issues with making decisions on what I should buy and most times I come home with nothing. It’s easier that way because I may end up having to return it and that is another issue! Sensory Overload is the worst I deal with. It changes as it could be noise one day and items on a shelf another. I use to love to shop but find I have to be very selective on where I do shop. No confined space, smaller grocery stores, and forget the crowds of people. MS is without a doubt the most frustrating illness. I hate that at time I appear to be drunk walking. And all I had was a glass of water!

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    I have to plan so many details in advance before I go somewhere, shopping means a detailed list or else I will just get overwhelmed and either grab whatever or grab nothing… And yeah, sometimes I seriously wish I had one of those “I’m not drunk I have MS” shirts haha….

  • CatMom
    4 years ago

    Matt, what a great description! I have these issues occasionally. When they first started my neurologist sent me for some testing, it was years ago and I can’t remember the names, but it had to do with vision and balance. It turned out to be vestibular imbalance.

    They gave me exercises to do that really helped. Maybe you could ask your doctor to refer you, or if that isn’the an option take a look at this website http://vestibular.org/understanding-vestibular-disorder/treatment

    I hope this can give you some relief. Living with MS is a bowl full of cherries, isn’t it.

  • CatMom
    4 years ago

    Well, it was worth passing on. I’m sorry it affects you so severely.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Haha yes, I already did all that, saw a physical therapist who specialized in vestibular dysfunction ; did all sort of crazy testing on crazy machines, was also sent home with exercises but he was sure it had nothing to do with my inner ear as it did not respond to certain test the way it should have, so he thought it was all neurological and the exercises just don’t seem to help, blah

  • Nancy W
    4 years ago

    I can relate. My sensory overload is not as bad as yours. But it is enough to keep me out of busy supermarkets.fortunately, I live in a rural area, so we still have smaller stores. My favorite is an IGA in an old A&P building. It has everything, just not multiple choices of everything. If I forget something, it is only a few steps to go back and get it. I don’t like going to the bigger market, 10 miles away.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    I wish we had that, everything here is so commercial, nothing but “big-box” stores….

  • JULIE SAVENE
    4 years ago

    Try to read a billboard on the side of the road while you are a passenger in a car (I do not drive anymore)…it takes me a few passes to read it all (or help from my husband), I just can’t focus on it all at once…I thought it was just me not a connection (or disconnect) between my eyes and brain. Every 6 months when I see my Nuro, he checks my vision/eyes.
    I tend to do most of my shopping on line where I can take my time so I don’t have to go out or my mom does my shopping for me (but that is a story for later).

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    you describe my life haha

  • Charlie
    4 years ago

    I so relate to this article! I’ve been saying to my husband for years that the sensory overload at the shops makes the connection between my eyes and brain a little haywire. so imagine this woman heading to the Sales!! I need to psyche myself up and go hard then go home. Going to the supermarket is a pain, but I’ve started using mindfulness and it keeps me on task… Well kind of…

  • Charlie
    4 years ago

    Now don’t get me started on online shopping…. Dangerous…

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    haha my best solution so far? Online shopping, which to me is not a very GOOD solution but yeah…

  • 150lq56
    4 years ago

    Wow, your right on target. I also have problems waiting on the checkout stand and by the time I swipe my card I need assist from worker. My legs feel like they are going to collapse. I am happy to read your post. I thought it was me.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    I am glad you can relate, “I am not alone” haha…

  • Fran
    4 years ago

    It is nice to see someone else has had this happen. Going to the store is so overwhelming. When I was first diagnosed and would go to the store I would feel as if everything was flying off the shelf. I would be so dizzy, there were times I just wanted to sit in the middle of the isle and cry (although I never did). I would have to cut my shopping short, the dizziness and being nauseous was too much. I am still the same way, can’t even deal going to the mall, it makes me so sad. I have two daughters in there 20’s and when they come and see me we always try and go shopping I feel so guilty because we always have to cut the trip short. Same with noise, when things are loud it stresses me out or when I am in a crowd it is so hard for me to focus. Especially if I am weaving through the crowd my balance gets so bad. I run into people like I am drunk. But I always play it off and say sorry I lost my balance. Because most people have no idea about my MS, and if they find out they usually say “oh wow I never would have known that, cause you look so good”. You talked about your vision, I feel like times that my eyes are moving but are not I get dizzy and nauseous. This would happen to me several times while I was driving I would have to pull over until it stopped or put my left hand up to shield any movement. It was scary. Sorry for going on and on, this is the first time I have ever commented or shared anything. But thank you for sharing your story.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Luckily this didn’t hit me till about a year ago but between this and already not being able to stand sound I want to sit and cry too. My vision is tough, I have had nystagmus for a while where you can actually see my eyes shake ut this is pretty much all in my brain.

  • apeofthejungle
    4 years ago

    Excellent description. My husband suffers from this and I’ve never been able to full understand what is going on. Thank you for clearing things up and sharing your story. Very much appreciated!

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Yeah, there is so much that is just so hard to put into words. I still can’t explain certain symptoms of mine but I try haha

  • Theresa
    4 years ago

    This is such an accurate description of a seemingly simple task that has become a monumental project for those of us living with the MonSter. I love your writing, Matt :). It is refreshingly honest, while validating (because, you know, we have to PROVE how we feel to both ourselves and others) our experiences. So many people look at me like I am a few nerves shy of total demylenation annihilation when I balk at shopping. What could be more fun, right? Except maybe being accused of inebriation when walking or maybe having a needle jabbed into your veins at regular intervals….those are fun things, too! Thank you again for your honest, no-holds barred description to what so many of us can relate. And I love, love, love your analogy using “The Walking Movies”, aka LOTR. You are not only accurate, you are funny, too 🙂

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Lol hey, all I want is some sort of outlet to feel like SOMEONE understands me so I guess this was a success! And yeah, LOTR, lol…. it was too perfect an analogy haha

  • New to me
    4 years ago

    Sorry my finger hit send before I could finish my comment: I am a bit old school and struggled with the idea of using CBD oil but after many hours of research there was enough documentation to get me to try it I am only into week 2 but so far I have been pleasantly surprised…..I am not endorsing just giving my experience

  • New to me
    4 years ago

    I feel your pain I too enjoy sensory myoclonus somedays the sights & sounds of being amongst too many people can send me over the edge, I used to be able to charge into a store grab my item and be on my way! Now days it can take me a min of an hour I find myself so easily distracted and unable to choose if there are multiple manufactures and suddenly I am two isles over procrastinating over another product that caught my eye… I do eventually make my choices but am usually so wore out from the trip to town once home I am spent and need an hour to “recharge” I suffered so many neg side effects from Kepra etc. I currently feel the jerking and jumping are more acceptable.. I am currently trying whole plant CBD oil with promising results my wife has just commented over the weekend I jump and jerk less and with less intensity

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Hey, I would love to ask you a couple questions regarding CBD, do you think you could email me? mattalleng@yahoo.com

  • skcullers
    4 years ago

    Soooooo happy most stores here in Oregon have scooters or else couldn’t do it. Have my own to do distances but basket never holds enough. Isn’t it mindboogling what this disease does to you? Of course, once a doctor did reminded me the disease literally is in my brain. Just so wish it didn’t make you feel at times like you were loosing yours!

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    What is amazing is how there is something to “break” that we lived our whole lives never know “was a thing”

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