Life with Sensory Processing Disorder

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Gift Giving Tips

The Holidays are a happy time and giving & receiving presents is fun & exciting. If someone you know is on the Spectrum or has SPD, please be considerate and make an effort to not gift anything that could cause discomfort. This could include:  perfume, scented lotion, soap & bath sets, lavender stuffed eye pillow, scented candles, clothing with a chemical smell, clothing with tags.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tips to Prevent Holiday Sensory Processing Meltdown

With all the noises, smells, activities, crowds, chaos of the holidays, it is pretty easy to get overwhelmed, even if you don't have SPD. But for those who do, it can be unbearable. So here are a few of my tips on how to prepare and get through...

  1. Qi Gong - Holistic doctors believe those with SPD have blocked Chi. My favorite practice is by Lee Holden; Qi Gong for Stress.
  2. Mantra - choose a mantra or prayer that is comforting to you and repeat it in your mind throughout the day/event.
  3. Deep Breathing - blow hard through open lips, then inhale deeply from your nose. Imagine you are breathing in positive energy and expelling negative.
  4. Good Posture - it is important with SPD to stand straight & tall for your spine & nervous system.
  5. Checklist - have a checklist of things to do, remember, say; so you are prepared & confident.
  6. Music - surround yourself with calming or uplifting music. Whatever makes you happy and relaxed. Mozart is often recommended by doctors & Occupational Therapists. Have noise cancelling headphones with you at all times.
  7. Loved Ones - surround yourself with those that love, support, and accept you as you are. Bring a friend or family member with you to any event in which you need support, understanding, or someone to talk to.
  8. Animals - if you can bring a pet or pet an animal, do so for immediate calming.
  9. Solitude - don't be afraid to step outside for a breath of fresh air or escape to a dark, cool room alone for a while to center yourself and breathe.
  10. Positive Thinking - remember why you are celebrating and remember it only is but once a year. Try to pick out the positives in your situation and find some enjoyment in your day.
  11. Laughter - if something goes wrong or not the way you planned, try to laugh about it. Find something to laugh about.
  12. Control What You Can - wear layered tag-less clothing so you can remove something and avoid getting overheated, or put on a sweater if chilled, have an exit strategy, or if you are holding an event, be sure to list a start & finish time on invitations so guest don't stay longer than you wish.
  13. Drink - I am certainly not suggesting you get drunk, but if you like, have one drink to help you relax if you are of legal drinking age and not on any medicines. -unless alcohol overstimulates you or makes you ill, than ignore this tip.
  14. Japa Mala - bring along a mala or rosary in your fingers to have something to focus on.
  15. Fidget Ring - wear a spin or fidget ring, or have any type of fidget in your pocket that you can stim to your hearts content without bringing any unwanted attention to yourself.
  16. Skin Brush - in your purse or pocket keep a Therapressure Brush and do some brushing and joint compressions in a room to yourself - repeat every 2 hours.
  17. Rock/Swing/Get Upside Down - if available, rock in a rocking chair, swing on a swing, or in a bedroom lie down with your head off the edge of the bed upside down or do a headstand against the wall.

~Wishing all Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!~

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Books on Sensory Processing

I finished the book Too Loud too Bright Too Fast Too Tight recently. I kept thinking that is so me! It was a relief to find something that explained what has been happening to me all these years, how I feel, why it happens, etc. This is the first in-depth book and major source of info I’ve ever come across regarding sensory processing. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking more info.

After finishing it I read The Highly Sensitive Person, which I do NOT recommend. It is offensive & not helpful eg: on page 96 she says, “you may want to make your life a little easier by acting a little more like everyone else does”. Don't waste your time on this one.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Story, Part 2

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been a picky eater. I didn’t know why, I just knew I did not like to eat anything but mainly two things. Now I understand it is & was because certain textures make me sick...anything bumpy, wet, mushy, slimy eg; cottage cheese, custard, wet eggs, browned eggs, flan, tapioca, soft cheeses, squash, quiche, dishes with corn kernels in it, Greek yogurt, meat.
I am hypersensitive to light, but not as much as the other senses. Flashing lights, dim lights, colored lights, strong light; sun or artificial hurt my eyes & head and make me feel sick.

I don’t like to be touched. I am very ticklish and jumpy. If you touch certain parts of my body I feel them elsewhere. If someone needs to touch me (doctor, dentist, etc.) they have to do it firmly or it tickles or hurts. I don’t like things; shoes, blankets, etc. on my feet, I can’t stand anything on my neck like turtlenecks, scarves, or jewelry. I buy t-shirts that are tag-less. I hate my face being touched by hands, hair, or anything else. I hate wearing restrictive, rough, or big seamed clothing and whenever I get home I will rip off my clothes and put on loose, cotton clothing. I hate putting my hands in water and I hate the feeling of dry skin –on me or others.

I am very sensitive to energy and cannot be around more than a few people for long. I feel weighed down, zapped of energy, sick, and disoriented from others’ energy, busy d├ęcor, negative moods, or environments. I cannot watch the news because it is so negative and draining. I don’t watch violent movies. I only listen to happy upbeat but not too energetic music in the car. I am especially sensitive to the moon when it is near being & full - even though I don’t follow its cycle, I can always feel it around that time - I feel & sometimes hear buzzing.

I am a super light sleeper and kept awake by the clock ticking, the refrigerator kicking on in the kitchen, the heat coming on.
Chemicals and materials give hives, rashes, headaches. I have odd reactions to elastic, adhesives, nylon, etc. Many soaps, food preservatives, aluminum also give reactions.

I get overheated easily and flush, feel faint, dizzy, panic. Then come the hives, itching, flushing, disorientation, headache.

My sense of hearing is super strong and I often hear things others don’t. I cannot tune out things like ticking clocks and watches (which is why I never wear a watch), background music, far away conversations, or someone chewing.
Someone who has never heard of SPD or has not experienced it may think it is crazy and at times it sure feels like it. It doesn’t make sense, it hurts, it makes daily life a struggle. Things you aren’t even aware of can make you cry, hurt, get sick, angry, dizzy, itchy, withdraw and you don’t always know why.

For instance, my entire life I have never liked showering but do it often daily because it is expected, needed, clean. I almost always cry during or after and hurt, feel irritated, and worn out after a shower. I never knew why and never really thought about it. After learning of SPD, I’ve come to realize showers completely overwhelm one's senses. I am overstimulated by the noise of the exhaust fan, the counter fan, the running water, the heat & temperature change from the water & getting out of the shower, smells from toothpaste, soap, shampoo, make-up, lotion, towels, the touch of the toothbrush, soap, shampoo, razor, towels, make-up brushes, comb, applying lotion. One who is not sensory defensive cannot comprehend, heck even I didn’t realize, how many senses and nerve endings are involved and get overwhelmed in such a normal activity.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Story


I am sensory defensive, an avoider - I am hypersensitive to light, energy, touch, textures, temperature, heights, and especially chemicals, noise, and smells. As I get older I find my sensitivities are getting worse, not so easy to hide anymore. I bounce between moderate to severe SPD symptoms. I’ve always been super picky about everything, like things a certain way, don’t like my things touched, and need routine. I feel pain more than others do; things like a dental cleaning, a cold, PMS are almost unbearable for me and require a long recovery. I have TMJ which can be very painful at times and I’ve read is common in those with SPD. I have the hardest time sleeping.
SPD is thought to be genetic. Others say an injury, too much stress, or various other things related to the nervous system, spine, or brain stem can cause SPD - eg: born via C-section, Scoliosis, brain injury, being over-vaccinated, stress. Holistic doctors believe SPD has to do with blocked Qi/Chi (energy).
SPD often goes hand-in-hand with Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The sense that gives me the most grief is smell. I always smell things that others do not or way before they do. When I smell something my ears start to hurt, then my throat, my head, my sinuses. I get nauseous, faint, dizzy, flush, get hives, sweat, and then I start to panic if I can’t get away from it. Most smells affect & hurt me; perfume, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, incense, candles, air fresheners, body odor, bad breath, food, flowers, essential oils, laundry detergent, cigarette or pot smoke, deodorant, camp fires or fireplaces, anything chemical or natural. I think the only smells I can tolerate for a very short while are peppermint, lemon, cucumber, fresh cut grass, the ocean, and my cooking (I don’t cook meat or anything particularly smelly). PMS heightens all of my senses, but especially smell and I feel nauseous very easily by anything that smells during that time.
It is hard to live normally when you get sick from smell. You can't control what others do. In the past I just told people I am allergic to chemicals and anything smelly, but some still would not believe me. I have to ask people not to wear perfume, strong deodorant, or hairspray if they want to spend time with me, have me over, or come to my house. 
I have to use fragrance-free, low chemical, and natural products, and even then I have to read ingredients carefully and stay away from certain things. Even most fragrance-free products have a smell, some very bothersome. Often I make my own cleansers, moisturizers, hair dye, make-up. One can get real crafty pretty darn fast and DIY when they need to!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Does SPD feel like?

SPD affects everyone differently and not all are bothered by each sense. Some are, I was.

Sometimes it may feel like a dull ache, disorientation, severe pain, itching, annoyance, anxiety, inability to regulate body temperature.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

So what the heck is SPD??

So for those that do not know, SPD, or Sensory Processing Disorder, is a condition in which there is trouble interpreting sensory input; difficulty processing information from the senses that can cause irritability, anxiety, pain, depression, mood swings, exhaustion, heightened sensitivity, fight or flight. One may have issue with one or multiple senses. As I have been finding, it can be called different things, such as Sensory Integration (SI), Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Sensory Defensive, or Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Not everyone affected experiences the same symptoms, one may be hypersensitive, under responsive, avoiders, or seekers. It is usually caught early when a baby or child is a very picky eater, is fussy, covers ears to drown out noises, withdraws, has mood swings, reacts unusually to pain.

Here are several websites with further info and symptoms checklists:

SPD Life

Sensory Processing Disorder

SPD Foundation

Sensory Processing Made Simple

Sensory Smarts

A Sensory Life

Monday, December 16, 2013

A New Beginning

I've decided to go back to the beginning and delete (parts of) my blog. Why? Well, when I started I didn't know anything about sensory issues and was newly diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. I tend to overshare and for safety & privacy reasons I am deleting some content.

Now, I have a handle on what works for me, I feel so much better, and I'd rather share what I learned, tried, what has helped & hasn't, and let others know they are not alone & not to feel discouraged. While everyone is different and not every therapy will work for all, many are worth trying.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical expert. I am writing about my own experiences. Please consult your doctor before beginning any therapies.