I can’t say for sure that this has never happened to me before. If it has, I didn’t notice and don’t remember.
I do a bit of local history work now and then. I own a set of very old photographs of buildings in the little town I live in that people love to see and reminisce over. I occasionally receive invitations to show and display them, most recently at an exhibition of many old photographs of a similar nature. I was there from about 10am until 3pm.
It wasn’t too crowded and the flow of visitors was fairly steady but spaced out. I talked to a lot of people, answered questions, listened to stories about the buildings in my photographs. That was it for the duration.
I was worried about how I’d cope as far as stimulation went. I could easily wander off and have a quiet moment whenever I needed to, and most of the people were already known to me or knew of me, so they were friendly. They were also older, so there was no great racket or rowdiness to worry about.
I was uncomfortable, to be sure, but it was the kind of discomfort I feel all day long at work or in company, the kind I simply tolerate as part of life.
It wasn’t until I got outside that I realised how much the day had affected me. I knew when I had reached saturation point. I knew when I had had enough, so I packed up my photos and my kids and we left. When we got outside, I couldn’t see. I had to hold on to my daughter to steady myself. It didn’t last long, but for a few minutes, I was so overstimulated by the noise and people and lights that my senses were overwhelmed to the point of my eyes not working for a few minutes. It was incredibly strange. I wasn’t scared, though perhaps I should have been. It didn’t last long enough to panic and, strangely, usually when I’m overstimmed, I’m snappy and grumpy but that didn’t happen.
I’ve never heard of this happening to anyone else before and I’ve never read of it. Well, I say that and remember that I used to shut down all my senses in one go when I was a baby at airforce plane shows – that is, I’d apparently do the equivalent of passing out. Hmm. So maybe it’s just an derivative of that?