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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Jack of All Excuses, Master of None

In what feels like another lifetime, and many years ago, I sat in my (now) ex-fiance's tiny studio apartment one evening and stared at his faux brick fireplace. Actually, "stared" is wrong, I attempted to bore flaming, angry holes into the wall with my eyes. It was late by my standards, way too late for any last minute surprises, and yet here we were, he and I, debating the merits of meeting up with two of his old college friends who "just happened to be in town for the night" and wanted to grab a quick drink and catch up. I was already in my comfiest of around-the-house clothes, having peeled off my work-casual attire hours before. I was unfamiliar with his neighborhood, as he'd just moved into the tiny postage stamp of an apartment to share a city with me. And did I mention that it was late and a surprise? It was late. And. A. Surprise.

Me, near tears: "There's no way that I'm going out now. I can't handle it."

Him, frustrated: "Well, what do you want me to tell them? They're going to ask why you didn't come! They're going to think that you don't like them."

Me: "Tell them I'm sick. Tell them I'm on a work deadline. Tell them I'm busy. Tell them anything you want."

This was about half a decade before I even knew that my rigidity and sensitivities had a name and a neurological origin, five years before I'd meet the man I was supposed to marry - the one who knew how to accompany me on my complex journey, and one year before I'd wriggle away from the well-meaning but undesirable clutches of the man who made my excuses that evening to some nameless college friends, a lifetime ago.

I can't remember if I sat alone and cried, terribly ashamed for my perceived shortcomings (most likely what happened), or if he popped down to meet his friends for just a few minutes while I calmly watched TV (highly unlikely), or what happened next, really. Time is kind and polishes even life's roughest edges down to a shine.

But the point is that for the first 27 years of my life, I was the Queen of Excuses.

HRH, Queen Rachel of Excusington
*waves*

Holiday party? Doctor's appointment, sorry. Birthday dinner? Cousins are in town! Dance troupe performing in an abandoned warehouse downtown? Can't get over this damn flu. I kept a running list in my head of all of the reasons - sensical and nonsensical - that a typical human wouldn't be able to go places, and I accessed them like a pocket-full of candy: grandma died, cat is sick, menstrual cramps, slipped and fell, rescuing lost puppy, joined a cult, forced religious fast day, mild hypothermia from a brisk run in the park. 

The truth was I didn't know why it was so hard for me to not only get around, but be around. I knew that there were many things that I didn't feel comfortable doing, and I didn't have the words to express why. I also knew that, "sometimes having fun in new and busy places is actually scary for me because it feels weird in my body and I want to hide and I can't see things and sound gets weird and I feel embarrassed and get anxious and want to negate myself" just wasn't going to cut it. 

And so, from the outside and for most of my 20s, I was the busiest and most unlucky girl alive - always filled with plausible excuses for how I was spending my free time. I didn't make it to group gatherings, especially late at night, especially in unfamiliar and busy places. Instead, feeling guilty for lying and ashamed of being different without knowing what or why, I sat at my laptop in my comfiest around-the-house clothes and cried as I flipped through photos of my friends, my family, and my coworkers having fun. It was in these moments that my inner voice turned punitive. "What is wrong with you?" I said to myself, sharp and unforgiving. "Why can't you have fun for a change? Why aren't you normal?" Jealousy and self-hatred ran through my veins. 

You'll be glad to hear that I'm no longer the jack of all excuses. These days, I know much more about who I am and how I'm wired. I advocate for people like me. Hell, I even wrote a book on the topic. When someone invites me to something I can't handle due to my SPD, I tell them so. If they've never heard of Sensory Processing Disorder, or sensory issues in general, I use it as an opportunity to teach them about my challenges. I even begin the conversation sooner, when I meet someone and we get to know each other for the first time, so that when they invite me to that midnight rave/flashing-light-parade/impromptu ironic sockhop, they're not surprised to hear that I'm not coming. With the truth, I've also freed myself from the pit of shame. I no longer have to make excuses for being different, for being me. 

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Shameless Self Promotion: Want to learn about SPD from a delayed-diagnosis sensory adult's perspective and hear more from yours truly? Pre-order Making Sense: A Guide to Sensory Issues today!


1 comment:

  1. Oh my... this literally brought tears to me. (Easy to do now as I'm pregnant.) I stumbled across your page looking for some answers. I have recently (as in about 2 years ago) come to the conclusion that I have SPD... very much the same fashion as you wrote about here. During my 2nd pregnancy issues I suffered from as a child came rearing their head again forcing me to ask myself "what is wrong with me". I thought i had outgrown those childhood "quirks". I'd like to get a formal diagnosis, but I'm not sure where to start. Also a bit afraid my family practitioner might think I'm "crazy". What might you suggest? Therapist? medical practitioner? Psychologist? Neurologist? How did you come about being diagnosed as an adult? Sorry for the long comment... I just have more questions than answers right now.

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