Cognitive Overload Weekend


I went to Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church’s service day at Haywood St. Congregation on Saturday.  I never go to those days because I know there will be too much stimulation for me. When I’m cognitively overloaded, I become sluggish, irritable and unable to think.  This time, there was a job where folks could pack meals which seemed like something I could do. I arrived at 9 AM for that’s when the schedule said the packing would begin.

Actually, I arrived at 9:10 and by the then, the parking lot was filled. It took a few minutes to locate overflow parking. I drove by it and had to stop to ask a passing pedestrian for directions to the lot. He didn’t know so I drove back to the church to ask. I was then told I could park right across the street.

Dealing with directions always weakens me so I didn’t start out fresh but decided to press on. I figured I would walk right in and begin work. No such luck. We weren’t supposed to start until 10.  I knew I had limited cognitive energy which I didn’t want to spend talking to folks in a noisy room for 45 minutes so I looked around for something else to do. I worked in the garden but of course I hadn’t brought any garden tools so I had to spend time finding some. I started weeding and it began to rain.

Haywood Road work dayI left my ear plugs in the car, my mistake for I always bring them, so I couldn’t do my “rest my brain” routine. I went to the packing room and the leader had already begun his spiel. He told stories about folks needing food and how these packets would be used. Everyone stood around the tables listening but I found a chair and closed my eyes. I could at least block out visual stimulation.  Finally, we started but he played loud upbeat music to energize folks and make it fun but it was too much for me.  I stayed as long as I could but at 10:40 I had to leave.  I don’t fault the leader for his words were important and playing loud music works for most people in that environment.

When I got to the car, I put in my ear plugs for a while and when I returned home, I sat on the couch with my ear plugs in for 1 ½ – 2hours resting my brain.  I always plan ahead for events but many times this isn’t possible.

The next morning, church went the same way. I ended up having to be in several places where folks chattered. I left the room when I could but on Sunday, the church doesn’t have many quiet places where I can go to get away from the stimulation.

When I have days like that in a row, I am wiped out. I’ve learned to relax for the next few days in order to let my brain recover. If I don’t, it only gets worse. For me, overstimulation is the most challenging aspect of TBI and it seems I’m in these situations often. In the past, I’ve stopped participating in things, but I got bored and felt as if I wasn’t using my gifts.

Now, I monitor what I do and rest if I need to. It means skipping things as I did on Saturday afternoon. Folks may not understand and might think I’m lazy but for me, this is required. I’ve mostly stopped worrying what people think! Notice I wrote “mostly.”

2 thoughts on “Cognitive Overload Weekend

  1. Thank you for this article. I can understand in a limited way,tho I do not have TBI. I am getting older and everything I do takes longer and more concentrated effort, which is tiring. On every other Wednesday I like to go to worship at Haywood Street. I have a conflicting meeting during the time of serving the meal. The traffic getting from Weaver to Haywood St Congregation is hard on me, as is finding a parking place. Once I get into the sanctuary, I am ok, and I sit with two men who have become friends. I love attending the worship. Brian is remarkable and now I get to experience Mark Siler whom I miss at CoM. My neighbor plays his guitar every first Wednesday. You are a remarkable woman! I am thankful that you are my friend.


  2. Yes, I have had many folks tell me some of what I experience happens when one ages. Thanks for you comment. I’ve decided to begin go to Haywood St. I’m going to lead communion next Wednesday when you’re not there. Just know that I always end communion with the words I learned from Ed and Murphy. “…until Jesus Christ comes again, and come again, he will!”


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