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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SPD at Two Weeks

It’s my two-week OT-iversary, and considering the vast goings-on of the past few weeks, I can honestly say I am still feeling calmer overall and less jumpy than I had two weeks and a day ago. I am still brushing as often as possible – according to my OT, everyone’s needs are different with this technique, so more isn’t necessarily worse – and I am attempting to follow her guidance to blitz the gym, because eventually (somehow), we’re hoping the gym will serve as a replacement to the brushing.

I have also started following some of the food-portion of my Sensory Diet, which means a reduction of gluten and dairy, and an increase of Omega-3 fatty acids. As far as I understand, Omega-3s maintain the fluidity of cell membranes, and somehow make neural connections smoother. I’m not quite sure, but it can’t really hurt to include more salmon and flax seeds in my diet. I haven’t looked into the theories behind going gluten-free and low-dairy, but I can say that I honestly feel more bombarded by stimulation about a half hour after eating a high-gluten meal, so I bet there’s something on-target there.

My next step in OT will be a listening program – essentially an integrated neural exercise program of sound, vision, and balance. No news on this until September 15, when I have my next appointment, but I’m happy to know there are more tools coming down the pike.

Yesterday marked my first day of graduate classes, and considering I typically would’ve been anxious to the point of on-going and unrelenting frenetic discomfort, I was more normalized in my anxiety. It has been six years since I’ve been a student, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t remember exactly how it works. Since joining the working world in 2004, I haven’t had to sit perfectly still and focused for more than a few minutes at a time, and taking breaks – even just to stretch – is never a problem in an office. I forgot it’s the exact opposite in the classroom.

What stuck with me most was how difficult it was to focus beyond the oppressive glare of the fluorescent lighting in the basement classrooms, which were also lined with shiny floor tiles, and echoed. I’d be surprised if anyone else noticed the difference, but the combination made me zone in and out of focus, unable to transition from taking notes to looking up clearly at the professor. I felt like I had to hold my head, at least on one side, to keep myself aware and in the mix while squinting, and my hands were clammy the entire time. I know it’s the SPD talking, plus first-day-stress, and hopefully some of that will subside as I get used to being in the environment and continue my OT. A few classmates suggested I wear sunglasses, but I’m not Paris Hilton, and I’m still debating whether or not to tell my professors about my situation, in the event they see me breaking focus during a lecture, in sunglasses, and bolting out their door.

The best part of the past two weeks, aside from the positive effects of brushing, has been finding D. and B., two fellow twenty-something SPDers. We might as well be the same individual, our stories are so similar: from feeling quirky and different as kids, to what situations and senses are problematic, to how we deal with them, and how we perceive we’re seen by others. We all were diagnosed in our twenties – D. has had two and a half years to deal with his, and B. is in the process of hunting down an OT, so while we’re in different stages, we still have the same tales to tell. It’s bringing an immense amount of comfort to talk to people who know this as intimately as I do. Most importantly, they’re a grand reminder that I am not alone.

I will close this post with a short story about an email I received from a dear friend. Hours before I was officially diagnosed, she and I met in Trinity Churchyard for lunch. The day was parchingly humid, the summer tourists were out in full force, and there was a blur of people and sounds and heat. I couldn’t find a spot to sit where I didn’t feel personally bombarded by the sensory experience around me. It affected my demeanor, our conversation, and lunch was cut short when in the midst of all the sensory chaos, a band started to play. I left lunch feeling frustrated at my shortcomings, oozing with sadness and self-loathing. Later that night, she flew home for vacation, and I received my diagnosis, which I shared with her in calm detail a week later in an email, thanking her for being my final catalyst for understanding.

In her response, she told me that she had been recently practicing various forms of eastern prayer, and how that same evening, she had thought of me during her chants, having felt helpless in the presence of my obvious distress hours earlier. The universe is a funny place indeed.

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