Let's begin with an analogy.
Having SPD is like having a sensory bank account. When you're respectful of your quirky neuro-needs and dedicated to your sensory-occupational-physical-psychotherapeutic diet of Wilbarger, exercise, breathing, cognitive reframing, rest, and endless omega-3s, your bank account is full. These are the banner, blue-sky days when you forget you even have a sensory bank account. You are perhaps calmer than usual in the face of sirens/screaming babies/undulating crowds/packed subway cars. You may surprise yourself by seeking out challenges. You may sit an extra half hour with friends at a popular new restaurant with pulsing lights and an unnecessarily-hopping bar scene. You may open a bottle of ketchup without banging it on the counter and breaking it in a fit of exhausted rage. You may not even walk directly into your armchair. Bruise free, baby!
When your sensory bank account is full, it's easier to make these withdrawals. You are personnel on pay day. You are the sultan of salary. You can make it rain. And this makes sense. When you keep your sensory bank account balanced, you're able to spend like you're neurotypical and ready to roll - as long as you make periodical deposits.
There are times, though, when life makes it difficult to strike this balance - when work needs you for a few extra hours, when your friend is in crisis, when there are occasions to plan for and celebrate; when your weekends become checklists. Suddenly, you are withdrawing all of your savings at once. You are watching your nest egg deplete. You are thumbing through the stats and frowning at the final tally. Account overdrawn.
This is where I am today, in the red.
How I got here is no mystery, and I admit that I actively witnessed the depletion of my sensory bank account for the umpteenth time in my life. This isn't a society where SPDers can say "hey (insert name of company/friend/family member/situation), my sensory bank account is incredibly low, and I need to fill it before I become incapacitated. I need some unimpeded rest and a bear hug! Cancel my plans, I'm feeding my sensory needs today, yessir." To a neurotypical person, this makes little sense. "Get some sleep," they might say, the way most humans deal with exhaustion, unaware that when a sensory bank account is empty, stranger things happen. The body feels extra disconnected from the ground and walls. Sounds become piercing and unbearable. Movement is unthinkable. The brain becomes an ancient Victrola; a single, scratched record spins round and round. It cannot be toggled off.
Nonetheless, once overdrawn, the mind and body get what they need regardless of what's proper or truthful or acceptable to the general public. For hours last night, I twisted between blue modal sheets and my 17-pound weighted blanket. My skin was on fire, and my horizontal body felt as if it was being pitched backward. Every breath my husband took was loud and immediate - and this through the 33 db earplugs I typically covet. My brain screamed songs and thoughts and images at me, a zoetrope of piecey, circular movement.
I barely slept, and I awoke with a sharp startle.
When I saw my husband this morning, he looked at my drooping eyelids and curled form, and said, simply, kindly, "looks like you need to replenish your bank account."
Guess what I'm doing today.
I am so thankful to have my own personal sensory banker.