First of all, HAPPY SENSORY AWARENESS MONTH! October is a month set aside for many causes, but one of them is mine, and therefore I’m doing my part to make others aware. I hope in an effort to promote awareness, you send this blog out to a few people you know who might benefit from learning about SPD and an adult’s experience. You can also send them to www.spdinternational.org, D.’s site for adults with SPD, and those who love them.
It’s been a while since my last post, but two jobs, grad school, and this new diagnosis really have left little time for anything else. It feels like everything all at once, really – subway rides uptown and downtown and hour-long daily bus rides to the
Bronx and back at super-late hours, tons of work and homework, patients, and many, many, many bosses. It would be a lot for anyone to handle, and being smack-dab in the middle of my SPD treatments just makes it that much more difficult.
Thankfully since last week, three new tools have entered my life to help ease my issues: blue-tinted glasses, a listening device, and a trampoline.
The blue-tinted glasses were suggested by my awesome OT, who said she remembered reading once the positive impact of colored lenses on my sorts of sensitivities. I tried them out in class last week (the one where I was called “disabled”), and with my fur-collared army jacket and striped shirt, felt like I had dropped in from LAPD in 1972. My grad school classmates were fantastically supportive; one of them even suggested we all wear sunglasses one day together to make a point to the prof. I was skeptical at first, as I really have been with every tool handed to me, but then I realized I was completely focused. I wasn’t spending my usual amount of time squinting, heart pounding, leaning against the wall for support. Instead I was completely engaged in class, asking and answering questions . . . not unlike the bad-ass 1970s cop I was apparently dressed up to be. After class, I felt relaxed and chatty, not like I had to bolt, and I didn’t have that same sense of pulsing under my skin. Score one for vision. As I’m typing this from a fluorescent office, I’m wearing them, only slightly awkwardly.
My iLS device arrived last week, and my OT and her lovely intern set me up with the odd-looking piece of machinery. I’ve been asked to listen to it for one hour a day for 60 days. In an ideal world, 15 minutes of each day will be dedicated to listening as well as performing activities specified by the iLS company (from visual tracking with a yellow tennis ball to balancing exercises), and as I understand it, this is to help with some of the extraneous issues, allowing for both hemispheres of my brain to coordinate properly.
The entire concept behind the listening device is confusing to me still, even after many discussions, research, and a previous blog post. I am only on day 4 today, and can already report “symptoms” of slight nausea during the listening, extra visual sensitivity after the listening, and a slight ringing/buzzing in my ear when the device isn’t on. I’m waiting to confirm these feelings with my OT, although I know most feedback on all of these tools is given by children, so who even knows what’s what. I’m working under the assumption that my senses in general need to be shaken-up, exacerbated, and broken-down before they can be pieced back together.
The third, and most fun, new tool is a trampoline. OK, it’s not one of the pieces of equipment suggested through therapy or research, but I’ve been asked to do lots of jumping – especially with the brushing – and I’m noticing how helpful jumping can be when I’m feeling extra sensory sensitive. I believe D. said he had one in his sensory-supportive bedroom, and as Josh said, all we now need is a ballpit and we’re set :-)
So that’s where I am right now, essentially attempting to hang on to the busy myriad of amazing and stressful things I’ve got going on in my life, while educating those around me about the joys of sensory issues, and handling these sensory issues . . . It’s a lot. On the questionnaire that accompanied the listening device, one of the emotional symptoms related to this all was the difficulty of and overwhelming feeling related to performing ‘normal’ life tasks. This is a biggie for me, and always has been. It’s tough to explain to those who love you: yes, a result of this means I’m even more sensitive when it comes to juggling many life activities, and therefore even the smallest potentially pleasurable things outside of it – a new lunch destination, an extra stop on the way home, a change in schedule – make my difficulties even more difficult. Yet another perk, I suppose, and yet another minefield to negotiate. Even with the diagnosis, I feel I have to keep speaking up for myself in these moments. I’m truly not willing to overload myself and risk collapsing my job, my fellowship, my courses, my best relationship.
I’m still hopeful, though. I’m welcoming the nausea and absurd eyewear, waving in the extra sensitivity and calmly explaining my way through the world to others. I look forward to that day months from now – a year from now – as soon as I can get there, really, when I open this blog, skim my words, and strain to remember these strenuous, freeing, frightening transitional days.