It’s not often always clear or obvious that I am feeling overwhelmed as an Autistic person.

I don’t stand up from my chair at work and yell out “I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

So, if you see me in the office at work and I’m displaying any of the following signs then rest assured I’m feeling overwhelmed.


I start to yank on my staff pass, threading it through my fingers numerous times. I will also pull on the string bit and let it go snapping back and forth again numerous times. I may also wrap the cord part around the pass itself and then let it unravel.


Stretching my fingers. This is a very soothing thing for me to do in order for me to prevent myself from heading into a potential meltdown situation.


Twirling my hair. I will grab with my finger some of my hair and twirl it around my finger and then let it go and repeat that whole process.


Banging out a rhythm on my chest with my hands. I will get a beat going with my hands and that is very soothing for me.


I barely say two words. So, here a couple of things have happened. One is that the incident had been that horrible that I am still in the processing stage. This is where I will replay what happened repeatedly in my head on a continuous loop. I will analyse each section piece by piece.  Dissecting as I go along. Two I am about to or am in the early stages of a shutdown. Here it’s best to leave me alone to experience this. Shutdowns are when the Autistic person is still experiencing perceived sensory overload to an environmental trigger. Shutdowns can be defined as a person’s brain going into a protective mode, where it ‘shuts off’ momentarily.


If I begin stimming or fidgeting in any way, then that’s a big sign that I’m upset. It could be stretching my fingers, or playing with my staff pass cord, I may also start twirling my hair, or slapping my chest with my hands.


Conversations are brisk and my word count/vocabulary becomes limited. You may start a conversation with me, and I will do my best to end it as soon as I can. It’s not you and I’m not being rude (if this happens to you). I may not be able to communicate with you how I’m feeling, or I maybe so overwhelmed that I simply cannot tell you what’s happening to/with me.


I will do my best to live in my own bubble and have every possible means available to make that happen. If I am wearing my noise cancelling headphones, then take that as a polite sign that I don’t wish to chat with you. 


I also will spend anytime that I have on my own and I will retrieve from engaging with others in anyway, shape or form possible. I will live my life as a monk to some degree. Just know it’s something that I need to experience and when I’m ready I’ll chat about it.


If whatever’s happened has occurred at work, then I may take myself off for a walk. I’ll let you know where I’m going, I just won’t say anymore. It may come to it that it’s all becoming too much for me and in that case, I’ll just inform you that I am leaving for the day and that I’ll make up any hours at home. I won’t feel the need to explain any further. It also means that I won’t wish to discuss it there and then.


As always, I can also be found on Twitter:@AutisticNickAU and on the Official Autistic Nick Facebook Page

Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.


  1. Great post Nick! What would it look like to talk to this person/people and tell them what you have written in your post? How it makes you feel, what it does to you, and what could help? It seems people are so self-absorbed these days, they may not even know they are torturing you…?


  2. That’s GREAT Nick! Pat yourself on the back for advocating for yourself, asking for what you need and putting together a plan. Great work. You’re an inspiration.


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