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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Weighted Blankets and Six Month Reflection

No surprise, I have trouble sleeping. If I manage to stack enough layers on top of me (the current amount: one blanket, one sheet, two doubled-over blankets, and a heavy comforter), I wake up in the middle of the night in a complete sweat. This is why, ever since I was tall enough to reach the knob on the bedroom air conditioner, I've tried keeping my bedroom at a balmy meat-locker temperature. It's either deal with the temperature dichotomy in the room or not sleep at all, and most times, regardless of the temperature, I lie awake in a haze of half-sleep until I take melatonin to fall asleep. It's toughest in the summer, when no amount of AC can really bring the bedroom down to a tolerable temperature, and I have to scrunch up a sheet and a thin blanket, and convince myself that they're heavy enough.

My proprioceptive sense is such that for some unknown reason, my body never quite understands where it exists in space. This is why I am perpetually bashing into familiar furniture and struggle to sit at a table in the middle of a room. A few years back, before my re-diagnosis, I kept a blog on my 'experience' with Panic Disorder. I wrote this about one particular tough proprioceptive moment:

And so I wove my way through construction and conversation on Friday, in search of an Irish pub lunch and select photographs, in heels and helium. We were a large party, and were sat in the middle of the large, open space; our words drastically competing with the swarm of laughter and jumble of letters from the surrounding tables. I swear I clung to my chair with my fingertips as we waited for our food, gently reminding myself that I could always walk to the bathroom to regroup.


This is fascinating to me, especially now that I am armed with the knowledge of my true issues. What I perceived to be a reaction to anxiety actually perfectly describes the way someone with a whacked-out proprioceptive sense would deal with the same situation. The room was excessively echoey and loud, and the visual I painted was chaotic. 


The bedroom is not unlike a big, open restaurant - minus (typically) the crowds and the food service. It only makes sense, then, that I feel untethered even when I lie down to rest. I notice that this is especially true when I'm sleeping next to Josh. While I feel I should be calm, instead my mind fixates on the noise he makes and any movements while he sleeps. This turns into an anxiety reaction, and I feel my heart pounding and my limbs get shaky and restless. We're moving in together in two weeks (finally), although I'm a bit concerned about how my sleep patterns will shift.


Enter the Weighted Blanket. 


A few weeks ago, I received a new shipment of Wilbarger-related brushes in the mail, along with a pediatric catalogue for 'special needs children.' (Nothing to make a grown woman feel so small as a catalogue filled to the brim with objects designed for her ill-timed diagnosis.) An entire section was dedicated to children with Sensory Integration issues. There were colorful, gummy objects to bite on (I used pen caps, pillows), tactile tools with bumps and lines (I used soft stuffed animals, textured blankets, fur coats), and weighted blankets (I still use my faithful stack of normal blankets). I was most intrigued by the weighted blanket, and emailed my OT to ask whether this was something I should pursue. She responded simply,  "YES, YES, YES!" 


I'm in the process of researching the right weighted blanket - mostly because they're over $200 each, and sadly not a cheap mistake to make for a graduate student on zero budget. Research recommends getting a blanket that equals 10% of your body weight, plus a pound for distribution. I can't imagine sleeping under 16-17 lbs of weight, but perhaps 'they' know more than I do. 


I'm entering my sixth month as an adult with Sensory Processing Disorder, amazingly enough. I can no longer fathom the time I spent before I was armed with information. I look back at things like my anxiety blog, and smile sadly at the woman groping in the dark for any explanation available; different, frustrated. Soon, I will add another item to my SPD arsenal, making yet another attempt to lasso the senses that keep me on the fringe of the norm - deeply hoping I'm doing my 27.5 undiagnosed years justice. 



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