Sensory Anxiety: Not your ordinary anxiety

I’m reblogging this from Eating Off Plastic.

I never considered my anxiety being different because of Sensory Processing Disorder. But after reading this, it makes a lot of sense. I think this also helps explain why repeatedly trying to face situations doesn’t always make it easier or less stressful. In many instances, the physical symptoms keep showing up with the same intensity.

This is probably a good explanation for why I’m jolted awake by my neighbor and experience the rapid heart beat. I mean, this has been going on for months. My body still isn’t adjusting to it. It still reacts as if this is the first time.

For those who don’t experience anxiety in this way, perhaps this post will offer some insight for why saying “just keep trying” doesn’t always help.

Before you dive in, a quick note. This article was written for the STAR Institute for SPD for Sensory Awareness Month 2017. Sensory anxiety is a topic near and dear to my heart. After it was published, I heard from so many people around the world about how this particular article had really moved them. […]

via Sensory Anxiety: Not your ordinary anxiety — Eating Off Plastic

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From happy to angry in 2 seconds

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The holiday season reminds me of times when I was a kid and we had relatives come for a visit, especially those we didn’t see often. We might spend the day together or just a few hours. I was happy around them. The visit was pleasant without any hiccups.

I remember being on the front porch waving goodbye to them. And there would be a very real and noticeable internal shift. It was like a flipped switch; I went from happy to annoyed in an instant.

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Learning through example of family life

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As junior year began, I no longer had 8 am classes yet I wanted to continue going to daily mass. There was some relief. The time was changed to 7, so I could sleep in some!

The later time brought in a new demographic of the parish. No longer solely retirees and individuals rushing off to work, now there were also mothers with children. The home schooling crowd.

There was a wide range in ages. I was impressed by their reverence, how serious they were about being there. The younger ones weren’t always cooperative; they are human of course. Generally speaking, though, they seemed to have a greater sense of awareness of what was going on than I did at that age.

Introductions were made. Though life was busy and chaotic for them, I was fortunate to meet women who had found a sense of calm within their routines so they could be open to welcoming a stranger.

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College poetry readings

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So the coffee shop location where the readings happened was small like this. Not as tight quarters with the tables crammed together, but there is a similar vibe.

My second semester writing course focused more on persuasive writing. There was a structured formula to follow that included making an assertion, backing it up with examples and research, providing a rebuttal, refuting that, and then offering conclusions.

The structured part was intimidating, but I remember that it helped me see how it was possible to write a 5-10 page paper on the same topic.

I liked my professor. Something about her made me trust her judgement, not just in class but in general. Perhaps she mentioned her personal writing, offering a sense of more happening besides teaching classes. I forget how it happened, but her opinion was one I trusted and I shared one of my poems with her. She referred me to a friend of hers who hosted monthly poetry open mic nights in nearby Charlotte and edited a literary magazine.

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Addressing sensory issues: Am I sharing a problem or demanding others to change?

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In the previous post I shared how the sensory modulation side of my experience with Sensory Processing Disorder is still a problem. I explained a little bit of how previous efforts to address these problems were met with unhelpful advice, especially since I didn’t have a means of explaining why things bothered me.

Now as an adult, I do have more awareness of why a seemingly random noise can have such a strong impact on me. So why isn’t it easy to tell people?

Continue reading “Addressing sensory issues: Am I sharing a problem or demanding others to change?”

Visible and invisible sides of Sensory Processing Disorder: A recap

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As I finish discussing my high school years and transition to college, I wanted to do another recap of where I stood with sensory processing problems.

The big list details all the different ways I was impacted by my environment and the way I interpreted the sensory data I received. I’ve also done a recap from preschool through eighth grade to show the progress of these sensory issues.

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The fear of driving

I came off the excitement of Governor’s School to begin my junior year with braces. The wires, rubber bands and brackets on my teeth were cumbersome. Using wax didn’t help much to protect my gums from stray wires that poked out. Braces were challenging to clean, and wearing headgear at night was just a pain. I wasn’t a very cooperative patient, but eventually the braces did their thing and helped to correct an overbite. Mine stayed with me through at least the first year of college.

Junior year meant officially being considered an upperclassman. Many, well most, of my classmates were now driving to school. I was 17 at the start of the year and still hadn’t shown much interest in driving. I knew how much responsibility I would be taking on by driving, and I was scared.

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Preschool through 8th grade: Where do things stand?

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Since my preschool diagnosis of sensory processing disorder and the completion of eighth grade means about 10 years have passed, I thought I would do a review of how things have progressed. I’m looking to address these questions:

  • What areas seemed to have improved?
  • Have I grown out of anything?
  • What am I still struggling with?
  • Has anything new developed?

If you missed my big rundown of sensory issues, you can find it here. And don’t worry, throughout this list, there will be links back to appropriate blog posts to offer further explanation. 

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The rowdy school bus

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Our bus never did any two-wheeled turns, but it was crowded.

Last year I read “Sensational Kids” where, among other things, it gives a day in the life of five students, one typical child and four who exhibit different characteristics of sensory processing disorder. The idea is to illustrate how each child encounters similar environments.

One girl had sensory modulation problems, like me, and she was hypersensitive to sounds and light, touch etc.

She was overwhelmed on the bus because of all the loud noise from the other children talking, she didn’t like being crowded on there with extra touching. Basically riding the bus further stressed her out before school even began.

It’s an interesting comparison.
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Engaging the senses with a sensory diet

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A weighted sensory snake

With a bank account, you make deposits and withdrawals throughout the day. In a metaphoric sense, we have an emotional bank account too. We receive deposits through kind words or seeing someone unload the dishwasher without being asked. We also have emotional withdrawals throughout the day with working hard, facing stress or deadlines.

For someone with sensory processing problems, those account deposits are crucial and often times lacking.

Every day there are annoyances, challenges and various stimuli that aren’t getting processed and regulated properly. All of these things drain on the sensory and emotional account, making far too many withdrawals.

Continue reading “Engaging the senses with a sensory diet”