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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Come Pick Me Up, I've Landed

Last week, I begrudgingly sat strapped in on a cross-country flight from San Diego to New York City. I know very few people who love the process of flying - assuming an I-surrender-position as the full-body-scan whirs around their torso, the seat assignments and mis-assignments, the valiant hunt for the right piece of luggage. Flying for SPDummies (trademark pending?) is even more of a process. Picture this: feeling ungrounded and detached most days. Needing to walk with a heavier gait just to give your body the sense of where it is in space. And now picture placing this weird, wonderful body in a winged vessel and sending it sailing into the clouds for hours. Don't forget the endless grinding sound of the engine, the shouts from toddlers a few rows back, the nosy row neighbor who wants many details about where you got your particular neck pillow, and the flight attendant who is just too attentive. Keep in mind the bathroom is the size of a postage stamp, and the toilet roars angrily - and seemingly suddenly - when flushed. And let's not forget the Fasten Seatbelt sign. Oh, and the time change.

I find a plane ride on a good day to be incredibly discombobulating. Last week, our plane out of San Diego was delayed, 15 minutes at a time, for nearly two hours. Pacing short lengths of the airport, flinging my arms and legs against any available wall, I was already impatient and uncomfortable before boarding the aircraft and contending with the tiny straws that typically break an SPDers proverbial back. I was thankful to be haunting a window seat, and was resigned to have patience with myself. We flew Jet Blue, and so next to my ever-loving husband I sat, determined to focus solely on the t.v. screen in my seat back while holding his hand. For hours we were motionless as we were escorted through the air. Instead of checking the time, I gauged the distance by the number of episodes of t.v. that passed. I was thankful for my weighted lap belt with a fuzzy tiger face - a random purchase made months ago from a local home store, but was too uncomfortable to unfurl myself from my seat and use my sensory tools to regulate. Instead, I continued to stare at the screen, striking up bargains with the gods to somehow get me home as quickly and as unscathed as possible.

About an hour outside of New York City, confident that I had made it most of the trip sensorily-safely, and moments after the sun slipped somewhere behind the Earth, I finally turned my eyes to take in a large sip of the endless sky outside my window. The land below was a rich, inky-blackness. As we flew over small cities - perhaps Philadelphia, maybe Baltimore - tiny orange lights, like volcanic pin pricks - turned the ground into a beautiful, pulsing light show. I caught my breath in surprise - I hadn't flown at night in a very long time, and I had forgotten the glow that emerged once the darkness had settled; the towns remarkable from the air solely for their visible lights. A not-so-subtle reminder to this SDPer that sometimes pushing sensory boundaries results in sensory delights.

4 comments:

  1. I've asked you questions about SPD before keeping a low cover as though I were asking for a friend but I'm happy to say I've come out of the closet and am no longer afraid to tell people that I have SPD.
    This doesn't really have anything to do with your post but I'm just so frustrated. I want to be a normal adult. I wasn't diagnosed until I was 25. I'm now 28. We live in an area where there isn't Therapy for adults with SPD and I'm really having a hard time. Probably the worst is with driving! Whenever I drive I freak out! It's just too noisy and bright and busy! But it's a skill I need as an adult. It's also embarrassing when a friend wants to meet me somewhere and I'm to scared to drive to that place. I'm fine in quiet neighborhoods but I hit a busy intersection and I want to pass out. Will I ever live a normal, independent life?

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  2. I love this comment - even though you're having a tough time. The first step is really owning the SPD and not being ashamed of it. I think many adult SPDers spent their childhoods apologizing for some unnamed condition, always blaming themselves for perceived "short comings." But I promise you things will get better. Are there any OTs by you at all? I also hugely recommend talking to a psychotherapist of some sort to work out those issues of guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression that seem inherent to being an adult with SPD. You will start to live your best life once you work to make peace with your own personal parameters.

    Does this mean you'll lead a "normal" life? Maybe, maybe not. What's really normal, anyhow. It'll be what's normal for you, working within your abilities to be your best. I also can legally drive, but choose not to, as it's way too overwhelming, much like you describe. I think it's ok to own up to the fact that this can be hard for you, and make accommodations. Can you call a cab/car instead to pick you up sometimes? Can you take a bus or call a friend? This is what I mean by living within your parameters. The more you fight against them, the less happy you'll be. See those friends. Go places. Challenge yourself. But give yourself permission to make accommodations when you can to help you feel well. I don't think anyone will think lesser of you, especially when they know your story.

    Most importantly - you're not alone! The plight of the SPD adult continues :)

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  3. I stumbled across your blog and wanted to cheer for you. My daughter (3years old) has SPD. We have been in intensive daily therapy for a year and have seen huge progress. However, it's reading about successful adults like yourself that really gives me hope for her. Best wishes!

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  4. Thank you so much for the kind words. Hearing from parents like you give me hope as well!

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