Sensory Processing Disorder, or Sensory Integration Disorder; It’s not talked about much. Occasionally you may hear of a child who has this, but rarely of adults. Sadly, I don’t believe this problem gets enough recognition, especially for adults, which can make life harder for those of us who have it. Do you know someone who cringes when you touch them? Covers their ears and tries to leave the room when certain music is playing? Or avoids things that most people consider fun such as parties, concerts, large groups of people, or theaters? All of these, and many more, can be symptoms of SPD.
When I was around four I was diagnosed with both SPD and Auditory Processing Disorder. At the time we did not know the cause of this, but now looking back and knowing that it can be caused by diseases, we believe it was an early onset symptom of my Lyme (which was unknowingly passed to me while my mom was still pregnant with me). This made my childhood difficult in many areas for both myself and those around me. I would constantly pull off socks and shoes because the texture overstimulated me and my brain could not handle it. I was sensitive to many touches, but that also meant I craved touch because I could not get it in ways most people do.
For a short time I went to an occupational therapist which helped me learn how to cope with it, and over the years my SPD bothered me less and less. For a long time I still would not wear jeans because of the way the denim hit my feet, I would not wear socks, and I was sensitive to most music, but for the most part I got along without paying much attention to it. That all changed several years back, when my Lyme started attacking my brain. For days I was stuck in bed with a fan blowing pointing at the wall to block out sounds but not blow on me, earplugs in, wrapped in a soft blanket, and unable to eat without gagging. Thankfully it only lasted that badly for a few days, though occasionally it still gets that bad. It can be very difficult, and I have to fight against it everyday.
I’ve tried looking into dealing with SPD in adulthood, but sadly could not find much. I did read a book on SPD, but was only able to find books centered on children, so much of the information was not applicable. It was a wonderful resource and I loved learning why I’ve always done certain things, but I do wish there had been more to help me.
While it can be difficult to deal with all my senses overwhelming my brain, there are a few things I’ve found to help, and I hope sharing them here can help others.
- Essential Oils: I’ve found Peace & Calming by Young Living to be the most helpful. However, the Young Living brand does carry a hefty price tag, so often I make do with lavender or other stress blends by more reasonably priced brands. I’m hoping to soon create my own blend similar to Peace & Calming, and if I do so I will share the recipe here.
- Dry Brushing: This helps with the craving of deep touch which those with SPD often are unable to get due to our sensitivity. If I apply lavender oil to the dry brush and use it before bed it can also help me settle down and helps the bedding irritate me less.
- Keep it Comfortable: Try to avoid clothing that will keep you on edge, because if there is a loud noise or something else that sets you off, it will be hard to stay calm and clear headed if you have the added stress of uncomfortable clothing. The same goes for bedding. I’ve always hated sheets, and still do. Instead of a sheet I use a soft blanket.
- Use Weight: When I was little I had a large snake weighted with beans. When my SPD was bothering me I would wear it around my neck and that weight helped me greatly. Now I use a wrist support for the computer, though I’m considering making my own with cute soft fabric to fill with beans or rice. There have been a few times when it was necessary to wear this out and about, but at times like that I’ve been able to disguise it with a scarf.
- Music: Due to SPD and APD I’ve always been very choosy on what music I could handle (thankfully this is something I’m continuously able to improve), but there is some music that just relaxes me immediately and makes me feel immensely better. I find it helpful to keep an mp3 player and earbuds with me so that if I’m overwhelmed I can easily listen to music and tune all other sounds out. The music I found most helpful is Owl City, Mindy Gledhill’s album Anchor, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I love the lyrics to all of those songs, but what really helps me usually is the sound of the music. I’m not sure what it is about it, but each of them has something about the way they sound which releases my stress.
- Sweaters and Sleeveless Tops: Often when my senses are overwhelming me I find either a comfortable sweater or a sleeveless top necessary. Either I need something covering my whole arms or nothing touching them. The same goes for wrist warmers. I received a lovely pair for Christmas and often when I feel like I just can’t handle anything (including the air) touching me any longer I find putting the wrist warmers on greatly helps. The wonderful thing about these wrist warmers is that the fabric is soft, they are beautiful, and I can wrap them very tightly.
Besides this I don’t really know of anything else I can do for my SPD and APD, other than avoiding triggers, but all of these things can be very useful. I hope that these tips will help someone else out there. You can start learning more about SPD in adults here, or about SPD in children here.
Have you or someone else close to you had any experience with SPD? Do you have any helpful tricks?
Yes, I did edit this again. Apparently that’s what’s needed when you originally write and edit a post during the middle of the night with Lyme brain.