If you follow me on social media…

Or if you know me in real life…

Or if you’ve seen me at the dog park…

Or at the flea market…

Or at a nice steak restaurant…

Or at the symphony…

Or at a party…

Or in the hot tub…

Or, hell, even occasionally in bed…

Then you may have noticed that I was wearing a beanie. There’s at least a 98% chance of it. And there’s a reason for it, so BACK-OFF! IT’S MY BEANIE!

Do you remember when I was diagnosed with sensory overload disorder? Well, that crap doesn’t just go away. All of life becomes about finding ways to manage it so that it doesn’t get triggered again.

In case you missed that part of my life, sensory overload is when the brain short-circuits because of too much sensation, and the senses will vary depending on who has it. For me, sound is what triggers it. The “short-circuit” is something a lot of autistic people experience, leading to their meltdowns or tantrums. Once it triggers, there’s no easy reversal. It takes time and a whole lot of effort to not be easily triggerable again. It can take me a month or more to get my brain back to normal after a full trigger.

Because of that, I have filled my life with calmness. I listen to only calming music. I don’t go out to loud bars or concerts very often at all. I keep my notifications on silent most of the time. I turn on white noise while I sleep to drown out the city. I wear ear plugs when I’m going to be somewhere loud. I leave any place when I feel my senses being overloaded. And… I always wear MY beanie.

My beanie is like a security blanket for my brain. It covers my ears and softens all sound just enough to keep my senses from being easily overloaded. Even more than that, it applies a constant soft pressure to my head, which is extremely helpful for people who have sensory overload. It’s why weighted blankets and weighted vests are so good for autistic people or people with the same disorder I have. Soft, uninhibiting pressure on any part of the body is just good for all the senses.

I actually own about 20 beanies. Sometimes I wear really thick ones, if I need that extra muffle. Sometimes I wear thin ones if I just want the gentle pressure. I don’t know the science behind it, but this much I do know… When I go out and about without my beanie on, I can feel my senses start overloading in a hurry.

Why do I share this? I don’t know. I honestly don’t think anyone cares if I’m always wearing a beanie.

I just have come to believe after being diagnosed and sharing my experience with sensory overload that far more people struggle with sensory overload, at least to a small degree, than I ever would have expected.

And if you also struggle with it…

And you just want something, anything, to help calm your mind a little bit…

Try a beanie.

Just not my beanie.

Every once in a while I’m out with friends and someone thinks it’s funny to pull my beanie off. Sometimes people pull it off just to try it on.

Don’t do that.

Ever.

It’s like taking away an anxious child’s security blanket. It really is. I will hate you, for at least the next 20 seconds. I don’t care how much I liked you before you did it.

But, really. Sensory overload is very real. Managing it is very doable. This is just one of my tricks. Take it or leave it.

Dan Pearce | The Single Dad Laughing Blog

PS, click here to read my post about being diagnosed with sensory overload. Click here to read the follow-up post about what it is like for autistic people.

Featured photo courtesy of my friend Kinzie James.