I grew up in a small town in South Carolina with two dedicated and involved parents and an older brother. Having an older brother meant Mom had some idea of what to expect and when certain milestones should be achieved. She recognized many differences in my progress and differences in my reactions to things. And I’m sure when she raised alarm at these, many people tried to shrug it off as “children grow at difference paces.”
But when I was about 2 or 3 years old, Mom recalls that I fell out of my chair at the kitchen table for no real reason at all; nothing seemed to prompt it. I would run in the backyard and pitch forward instead of being able to run with a straight back. She noticed as a baby that I didn’t like to be held much unless I was sick. I didn’t like to cuddle. Instead of enjoying having her play with my hair, brush it and style it, I had a negative reaction to that. I didn’t like having barrettes in my hair or having my hair pulled back tight.
Finally, Mom raised her concerns with her father, who was a general physician, and he recommended that I get evaluated at a local occupational therapy office. About the age of 4, I was diagnosed with what was then called sensory integration dysfunction, now known as sensory processing disorder.
My parents gave me opportunities for various forms of therapy and worked with my physical symptoms. After all, those are the ones they could see and the ones that could be measured. And over time, those issues became less pronounced or even completely resolved.
The interesting thing, though, is that I didn’t know for myself that I had this problem until I was 27. I was visiting my parents in 2010, celebrating my birthday, when I had an impromptu conversation with my dad about my job. I shared about the last minute changes, the deadlines and the need to be flexible. And he was amazed that I could enjoy and succeed at such a job. He was remembering spending many nights at the kitchen table with me, going over homework and me freezing up and getting frustrated. And then he let slip the term “sensory integration” and mentioned a few other situations where I had trouble.
I had never heard this term before. I had never heard about this diagnosis. Maybe they tried to explain it, but it didn’t make sense to me. After all, it’s not an easy thing to discuss with a moody preschooler. Maybe they thought I just knew, something I came to understand about myself as I got older.
But at the age of 27, I was introduced to a whole new way of looking back at my past. A way to better understand and make sense of my behavior and the way I reacted to different situations. I knew I was different from my classmates and that things did not come as easily to me as it seemed to for them, but I didn’t know the extent of it. I just thought I was quirky and overly sensitive, taking things too personally. But there was much more to it.
With this blog, I’d like to explore those initial characteristics that made me different, what my parents saw and the therapy I received. I want to take a closer look at how things have progressed since my childhood and what I’m still working through as an adult. For the most part, I’m going to try to go chronologically.
But please bare in mind that everything I’m sharing comes from the reflection I’ve done since 2010. There isn’t much that was documented from those early years. I’m merely trying to recall how I felt; the major events that have stuck with me. Beginning in college, I started to do a lot of journal writing, so I have quite a bit recorded that way, although it takes time to sift through.
As the reader on this journey, feel free to comment or send a note if something needs more clarification. When writing about yourself, it can be easy to take for granted certain background information.