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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Past Five Months in Review

Wow, it's been a long time, hasn't it? The past five months have been complex and wonderful in turn; a labyrinth of tricky situations, life-changing moments, and the complexity of the daily grind.

In November, we had the most beautiful wedding. As planned, the room was sensory friendly with calming shades of blue, no unnatural lighting, and equipped with an understanding DJ who checked in with me periodically on sound levels. It was possibly the happiest day of my life, partnering - officially - with my other half. By the very end of the party, I felt safe and accepted. It was as if I had casted off all vestiges of my SPD, and I danced and celebrated without a care. He and I took a simple honeymoon in Vermont, and spent most of the time being pampered at the hotel's spa, which felt amazing after the year of stress we had endured.

Since then, I've been sick twice, progressed through two marking periods in school, and my husband lost his job. It's been a challenge to stay positive in general, and especially difficult to keep my SPD and related anxiety in check. With tough times comes a necessary sensory withdrawal.

Perhaps one of the most valuable things I have learned in occupational therapy is giving myself permission to say no to an event when I feel uncomfortable attending. Although the habitual guilt and shame follows the decline of an invite, I know logically that I am respecting myself and my own limits. During especially trying times, I have noticed my SPD symptoms are heightened, and my anxiety blooms. It is at these moments that I must especially stay true to my honest feelings. If an event pushes me beyond my comfort zone, and I am unable to feel grounded and sensory-stable in a situation, it will discourage me from attempting similar outings in the future.

In some ways, this goes against most of what I learned in psychotherapy, where persistent challenge reaps rewards. With SPD, I am learning that it's okay to have limits during more tenuous times, and to work within them to live my best life. I have also learned, through my early years of a different diagnosis, to read my abilities, and push myself beyond bounds when feeling stronger. It is a push-pull - hard for me to explain to others, and I presume even harder for others to understand. It's tough to say to someone: hey, today is a good day, let's push my limits, and equally so to say: hey, I'm not feeling great today, let's find a way for me to step back. Not feeling great, what do you mean? I've been asked. It's hard to explain. My personal understanding of SPD and my newly-reframed world is still in its toddlerhood.

In time, I hope to develop a better vocabulary to be able to explain these pendulum moments to others. I also hope to continue working on my own feelings about my 'unique needs.' I still wear the guilt and shame of being 'different' and 'difficult' like an itchy sweater. Hopefully, in time, I will learn to be kind to myself with reckless abandon. Until then, a few steps forward, and a few steps back.