Monday, September 24, 2018

The Great Weighted Sleep Mask Hunt

Yes, I know - I have become an unreliable blogger! I am so sorry for that. If you've ever had SPD, a toddler, a husband, and a full-time job, then you know that blogging is a luxury reserved for stolen moments of solitude - or if you just must share something new and exciting.

And that's what brings me here today.

Sensory Friends - after seven years . . . I have finally found - and purchased - a new, ever-elusive weighted sleep mask!

Tada
What's that? I think I hear one sort-of bored reader mouthing a half-hearted yay

Sorry if this isn't as exciting as you'd hoped. It's not always exciting over here. Or maybe it's that as a mom, things are rarely for me or about me. But imagine this: discovering a package at the door with your name on it. You forget, just for a brief moment, that you placed an order for something you need and haven't been able to find, and you tear open the yellow packaging with your hands and extract the precious bundle. The reason this particular bundle is especially precious is that, for the past six years, I have been looking for a weighted sleep mask. Any weighted sleep mask. 

You may remember this post from August 2011 when, inspired by a simple action by my clever handler, I bought a weighted sleep mask from a vendor on Etsy and my sleeping life changed forever. I loved it so much that I immediately bought a second one, and soon after, the shop closed - and then morphed. Whatever the case, the sleep mask with the strap disappeared.

I watched my beloved masks deteriorate with quiet worry. I'd googled "weighted sleep mask" multiple times over the past few years to find nothing. I went so far as to accost a lovely husband-wife weighted product maker team at an SPD conference on the west coast to encourage them to develop one for me. The wife said she'd never heard of weighted sleep masks for people with sensory issues.

Apparently, I was the only sensory weirdo who needed to sleep with weight on my face. 

Seven years later, after wearing it for over 2,500 nights, my newest mask was crumbling into bits in my hand. What was once a luxurious poofy pink mask had turned into what amounted to a drowned Muppet on a thinning string. And then last week, just when I thought my search was futile, I stumbled upon this beauty:


The only problem? It's made by Gravity, a company I'd seen crop up on the news in the past year touting weighted blankets as if they invented them. As a person with a neurological difference who's been using a weighted blanket since my diagnosis, I sneered at Gravity. Surely, I thought, you can't believe you came up with this concept - you just captured the collective's attention by marketing your products better. But you know the old adage, sleep mask beggers can't be sleep mask choosers  (or something like that), and I bought one. 

Aside from the satin lining on the side that goes against my eyes (a short-lasting chilly, awkward sensation when I'm used to warm fluffy against my eyelids), the mask is perfect. The strap seems hearty and there's no velcro looming that might cause the strap to pull away from the sides (or scratch a delicate face in a sleepy state). The website says it's about a pound of weight distributed across the face, which - to me, at least - feels ideal. 

Want the best weighted blanket of your life? Go see Keith Zivalich at Magic Weighted Blanket - I own two chenille blankets and one weighted scarf that acts as a multipurpose wonder-weight for every situation. I'd bet many nights' sleep that you'd love their delicious blankets.

But if you want to take your need for deep-pressure touch and proprioceptive-grounding to the next level with a weighted sleep mask, Gravity is the best game in town.


Sweet sensory dreams, friends.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise

Dear Sensory Friends,

I have a confession: I am injury-prone.

I'm sticking to this story.

Actually, saying that is like saying I like dark chocolate, when in reality, the truth is much closer to if I don't eat at least a square of dark chocolate once a day, I turn into a red-eyed demonic force haunted by the very thought that chocolate exists and I presently don't have any in my possession. 

So maybe it's more like: I am a human bruise. I am the human embodiment of bruising.

I honestly don't think my body is ever entirely unbruised, if that's even a word. Instead, I am like a madman's canvas of blues and purples, and 95% of the time, I can't tell you what I walked into or what object tumbled down on me to cause such epidermal trauma. What's this from? a caring friend or family member might ask, pointing at my colorful calf or forearm. Huh, I'll say, momentarily regarding the spot, this is the first time I'm seeing it. (What I can tell you with certainty is based on my perpetual bruising, I must always, always, always walking and banging into things.)

About 5% of the time, I am all too aware of the bruise's origin. Like the moment last week, with my toddler daughter's dinner in both hands, that I walked straight into the metal-tipped edge of a safety gate so hard that a dime-sized spot, rimmed in crimson, immediately appeared on my leg. I can't remember what unfortunate obscenities I screamed (or how loudly the sound), but I watched with fascination as the patch spread and changed colors over the course of the next few days, until it faded away.

And then there was the incident Monday night, when I managed to lose my grasp on a rather large can as I attempted to put it on a rather high pantry shelf, and it came crashing down on my toe. I'm pretty sure I blacked out for a few minutes there as I knelt over my foot, mewing and crying like an injured cat. With the intensity of pain came the waves of nausea and then, for me at least, the inevitable feeling that I was, indeed, going to pass out - something that I found both comforting confusing in the moment. I was so close to the floor I wouldn't have far to go if I fainted. My Handler, having run into our living room from the kitchen with a bag of ice, helped me sprawl out as I made animal noises that echoed down the hallway. Mine was a distracting, throbbing pain. I popped a few Advil, gingerly taped the poor toe to its neighbor, and woke up in the morning hoping it wasn't actually broken. Spoiler alert: it wasn't. (I can do many things, but tending to a spirited 13-month-old while wearing a cast is not on my most immediate bucket list.)


We all bruise, I hear you say. Everyone gets hurt! And yes, this is true, but for those of us with SPD, especially those of us who find it impossible to connect our bodies to the outside world, we are even more at risk. If I can't properly locate my hand in space and how it connects to my wrist, and my hand is holding a sizable, heavy can, then it only makes sense that I would find a way to drop it. If I can't properly locate my leg in space and how it connects to my knee and ankle, then it only makes sense that I would find a way to smash into a gate meant to keep my daughter safe. (The irony of getting injured on the safety gate hasn't escaped me. You failed your one task, gate.)

Note to anyone with proprioceptive concerns from your pal Rachel: maybe don't put groceries away late at night, when your already tenuous connection to your body and the outside world has been further taxed by the day's activities, and is essentially non-existent. Maybe abandon heavy cans with sluggish glee. Tuck them away in the corner for the night in their little paper bags, and then fold yourself under the hug of a weighted blanket and dim the lights.

Your toes will thank you.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sensory Mom Turns One

This Saturday, our delicious, sassy, smart, hilarious, spitfire of a baby girl turns ONE - something that I couldn't begin to fathom back when I was pregnant, and something that I have trouble even believing today. And because she's turning one, in many ways, so am I.

Motherhood changes a woman.

Before our girl was born, so much of my life centered around what sensory stimuli I could and could not handle. I talked about it, I wrote about it, I laughed about it, I cried about it. I felt around it and outlined parameters. I measured my abilities for size.

I'm so glad I took the time to really engage with my SPD when I did. What I couldn't see last year that I see now is how much mental space and energy I had for myself pre-parenthood. Well-established parents who are reading this are probably shaking their heads at me. Of course you had mental space and energy, silly girl, you didn't yet have a baby. As the rest of us (and I) now know, parenthood, in many ways, is the true suspension of the self for the enhancement of someone else. How many times this year have I said: it doesn't matter, as long as she is rested/fed/happy? (Answer, for those of you who are not my Handler: MANY.)

Funny thing is it feels natural for me to go: yup, you first. In many ways, as exhausting as it is, it's simpler and nicer to put my sensory issues on the back burner for a bit. This isn't to say that I don't still use my Wilbarger brush or fidgets (I do!) or that I don't have sensory overload followed by a full-on meltdown or shutdown (I do!) - it just means something different to me now. If I can survive pregnancy, a complicated delivery, Newborn Bootcamp (as my friend so eloquently puts it), and a full year of a human's infancy, then I can survive just about anything. Bring on the strobe lights and patter-speak!

Or maybe don't.

This Saturday is not only our daughter's first birthday, it's my first birthday as this modified version of myself. I am still working to remind myself that I am still me: the sensitive poet-writer who loves to bake desserts and lounge in lavender-scented baths and listen to music. I am the girl who was undiagnosed, the teen who longed to know more, the young adult who found answers, and the woman who blogs before you today. I've had to reconnect with these different sides of myself in this first postpartum year, and I am still making tenuous connections with the aspects of my life that came before the toughest and most worthy transition I've ever experienced.

The word I'd use to sum up my first year as a mom with SPD: pride. I'm proud of our baby girl, I'm proud of my Handler and I for learning how to hold on tight and establish a family, and I'm proud of myself for being a wonderful mother. Yes, I'm wired differently. Yes, things can be especially challenging for me. But boy, does it make the reward of every small success even sweeter.

And yes, this small success is truly my biggest.