5 Steps for Dealing with SPD as an Adult
For when you just found out that you have Sensory Processing Disorder. 5 steps that can help you through this challanging ordeal.
At the dawn of the year 2008, I was depressed, confused, and desperate. I simply couldn't figure myself out. I had no idea why I was so irritable, so edgy, so easily set off by what was going on in my surroundings and inside my body. I was weary, exhausted, but I couldn't even sleep. My restless nights were often consumed in tears, and my days had become monotonous and dreary. I spent no time socializing and had begun to lose all hope that things would someday get better. I knew there was something wrong, but frantic Internet searches were getting me nowhere.
Nowhere, that is, until I found this: A little thing called Sensory Processing Disorder. I can honestly say that my life will likely never be the same. For once, I had found the answer to all my questions. I also found that I wasn't alone; that at least five percent of the nation has similar problems, and that many are still searching for answers. It is for those people, once like me, that I write this.
When you first find out about Sensory Processing Disorder, a sudden moment of awareness takes place. You discover things about yourself that you had no idea were, in fact, symptoms of an underlying neurological condition. This discovery brings up a ton of questions, and the biggest one of all is, "Where do I go from here?"
Well, here is a five-step process that should help you through one of the roughest, yet most important, periods of your life, the period that comes right after discovery. Read through this list, and remember, there is no magic order in doing these. Usually, you will end up doing all five steps at once. Sometimes, one step may not happen for a little while; however, it is very important that all of these five steps occur.
REsearch SPD to see how it has impacted your daily life. Join an online group and study the archives and files of knowledgeable people. The more you learn, the more you'll understand, and the sooner your previously unanswerable questions about yourself will be solved. Trust me, reading everything available is worth the time and effort.
Step 2: REframe
REframe your perspective on your daily actions, decisions, memories, and thoughts. Now that you understand SPD, you will be able to see the many ways in which your life is formed around it, or even run by it. It may be a difficult revelation, as it can alter your whole outlook on yourself, but often, knowing which of your quirks have a sensory base will allow you to take the blame off yourself and improve your self-image. Changing the way you look at your behavior will allow you to navigate through life better and to anticipate when things may upset you.
Step 3: RElive
RElive all the times in which your sensory issues have made your life miserable or even unbearable. As soon as you begin to investigate your SPD, you will become aware that you truly do perceive the world differently from the way others do. You will probably feel trapped, now aware that you are imprisoned in a body that is always on edge or uncomfortable, a body that chronically perceives the outside world as bombarding and overwhelming. Life is not fair to you, and it hasn't been fair for a long time, if ever.
A long time has passed, and a lot has happened. Most of what you're going to read about SPD discusses its effect on children. You remember being that child struggling with SPD, and now the world expects you to be a strong, solid, and responsible adult. However, you didn't receive the treatment, guidance, or information that you have so badly needed all these years. Damage has been done. You have been hurt, crushed, left out, and defeated in many cases. At times when you needed the most help, people might have made negative comments, ignored you, or called you names. Now you know what's wrong, and you know why you have had to endure all of these hardships. Most reassuringly, you've discovered that you are not to blame!
This is huge! Take time to allow yourself to grieve. Grieve your losses, your hardships, your pain, and the times you badly needed an advocate but didn't have anyone. Vent in online communities and support groups, and talk to people who are knowledgeable about SPD and can provide you with the emotional support and understanding you need. It's hard, it hurts, it can take a long time, probably years – and it can get better. Forgive yourself for the things you did when you really couldn't have done any better to cope, and remove all of those harsh and false labels that many have given you, or that you have given yourself.
Step 4: REward
REward yourself for all that you have been able to accomplish in life before you even first heard the acronym SPD. Even if you can't think of much in the way of personal success, remember that most people couldn't stand to live more than a few minutes in your body, yet after all these years of being stuck, struggling through life in that body, you are still here! You are still alive! You are a survivor, and a very strong person, no matter what you or anyone else thought in the past.
One thing that makes finding out about SPD particularly challenging is reading the success stories of some children who have received treatment for SPD. Reading about their accomplishments and how happy they are now can easily make you upset. You had also wanted and maybe even tried to obtain similar successes, but because of your untreated sensory issues, you failed. But you have to remind yourself, these children had advocates, answers, and the treatment they needed. They grew up knowing what was "wrong" with them, and that knowledge has helped them immensely. Without the help you needed, it was no wonder you hadn't succeeded. You have to learn to reward yourself for all the things you had even attempted to do before getting your answers, and stop being so hard on yourself for your failures. They certainly aren't your fault.
Step 5: REwire
REwire your brain through Sensory Integrative Occupational Therapy. OT can do marvels with the human brain. It is not too late to make changes in your sensory systems. Love yourself enough to want to make this amazing change. Find an OT in your area that is experienced and trained in Sensory Integrative Therapy and is willing and able to treat an adult. Working on your issues can be difficult, as you are still grieving all of your losses and are aware that these issues won't just go away through some prescription drug. It will take a lot of work on your part for things to get better. This will take time, but change can, and does, come. While the grief may remain, treating the issues that caused it can only help you.
Your life has not been easy. It is time to stop listening to those who don't truly understand you and to start believing those who see the wonderful person you are, in spite of all your quirks and behavioral issues. You are not alone any more. You have a home in the SPD community, where people will understand and support you every step of the way. At last, you have found help and hope.
Going through these 5 RE steps will be painful. At times, you may even wonder if you can make it. You might find it hopeless, that no one will ever love, cherish, and support you in the unique way you need to be supported. However, you will get to a point where look back in awe, amazed at the progress you've made, the improvement in your standard of living, and, at long last, the newly formed foundation of a better life.
The preceding article can be found in the Spring 2009 issue of S.I. Focus