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Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Odd Couple: SPD Mind vs. SPD Body

It occurred to me this week, as I sprawled out on the floor deep in the throes of a new relaxation and visualization program, that I've been living under the same roof as the most unhappy couple I've ever met. Although these two occupy the same general space, they warm disparate corners. They make no effort to connect, aside from speaking ill of one another in off-handed, awkward comments to well-meaning, mutual friends. For the most part, their feud is silent - a behind-closed-doors iciness that escapes anyone who'd see them together pantomiming the actions of being fine. The truth is, it takes work for them to play pretend. They only stay together because they have no other option.

And no, I'm not talking about actual flesh-and-bones people whose relationship has been pushed past some emotional expiration date. It's something else entirely:

My brain and my body have become as foreign to one another as a couple on the brink of a divorce.


I know it's a strange concept; crunchy and froo-froo and oozing with images of healing crystals and long-haired hippies chanting Kumbaya. It was as uncomfortable for me to realize this as it may be for you to try to make sense of it. After all, aren't our minds and bodies part of the same entity, Team You? And don't they just automatically work together?

Clearly, they don't always.

Here's how it happened. The woman leading the guided visualization said, "now picture something in the natural world, like a mountain range, and see how it connects your brain and your body together. Allow them to have a dialogue." For a moment, I felt startled and forced my eyes open. "What do you mean, connect my brain and my body?!" I thought frenetically, on the verge of tears, "I can't connect my brain and my body!" And then it hit me hard as heavy, heaving cries began to erupt from somewhere deep in my stomach. My brain and my body hate each other. 

Let me explain. In living my life with SPD, I've come to accept a few unusual and necessary rules. I won't have a typical reaction to many typical scenarios, especially if sensation is required. I will lose my already tenuous connection to the sensory world if pushed too far. I will fight some primal urge to bite and cry and fling my body against hard surfaces when in public. I will hug every single person I meet without exception. These tenets, and actually my entire neurodiverse life, gravitate around one general concept: my brain processes differently, and so my body behaves differently. Because my brain is wired this way, I smash into most objects in my path. I can't always tell where my fingertips end and the outside world begins, so I lose my physical being in space. Sights become sharp and piece-y when I've reached some processing threshold and sounds feel as if they're trapped somewhere deep in my skull.

What's at the root of all of this? My brain. What suffers the consequences? My body. It's no surprise that the two refuse to get along.

I like to think that in between my brain and my body is my "mind" (or maybe even my "soul") - the piece of me that make me quintessentially "Rachel." This is the thoughtful, loving, empathetic bit of myself. When I share the message of acceptance and champion embracing differences, it comes from this area, and although I work with myself daily to nurture and accept my differently wired brain and celebrate and love my differently impacted body, I've never stopped to referee between the two of them before. I've never forced them to sit together in the same room and make peace.

If you're wondering, my "mind" (my "soul," my innermost-me, whatever you want to call it) chose a bright blue, flowing river as the natural imagery connecting my brain and my body, like a spine. I imagined that it was a chilly autumn day and the maple trees were turning shades of orange, yellow, and red. I hinged my being forward over the rushing water, trailing my fingertips along the stream, letting the motion move each digit. Faintly through the din, I thought I heard whispering. Something like, "I'll try to learn to trust you," and maybe even, "I love you" and "I'm sorry."

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

IT'S OFFICIAL - BOOK #2 COMING OUT THIS FALL!

My Friends!

It's been way, way too long since I've posted here, and I know I'm incredibly overdue for a proper blog post, but I wanted to share some exciting news. This Fall, Sensory World will be publishing my second book, a joint-venture between yours truly and the amazing Kelly Dillon of Eating Off Plastic (henceforth known as Our FIRST Jointly Created Book!). It's a children's book for kids with SPD about SPD and by adults with SPD - let's call it an insider's book about SPD for your sensory kiddos. It's based on this article I wrote for SPD kids last summer.

Kelly and I will release more info as we progress, so stay tuned here and on social media to learn more!



P.S. Where else have I been lately? In Chicago in early April, I spoke at the CCAC/SPD Parent Zone's first Sensory Friendly Summit  and in late April, I co-founded the grass-roots #SensoryIsReal movement with Kelly Jurecko of SPD Parent Zone, along with the support of sensory leaders across the community. Click the link above for our video and manifesto. I've also been profiled by two journalists for two major publications - one in the UK and one in the US - and these articles will be published sometime in late spring or summer. As soon as they've been made public, I'll share them (loudly and widely) with all of you.

 . . . and now this exciting new book, because truly, SPD advocacy never rests :)