psychology

The Real Restroom Dilemma

Last summer, Momsy and I attended an Arts and Crafts Fair. After bopping around from one crafter to the next, we needed a bathroom pit stop. Luckily for us, there were actual bathrooms at this fair – not a porta potty in sight. Unfortunately for me, those bathrooms were very noisy, and included my least favorite thing ever: air-powered hand dryers.

At the bathroom building, I informed Momsy that I did not, in fact, have to pee.

I lied.

i lied

Was my bladder going to explode if the internal pressure was not released at that very moment? Probs not. But there was no way I was going into the noisy restroom.

I waited patiently outside for Momsy, watching women join the long line for the restrooms, then watching them exit after several minutes. The roar of the hand dryers, women talking, and the toilets flushing collided with the quieter sounds of the world outside as I stood baking in the bright sun, like a cookie.

Walking past me came a woman pushing another woman in a wheelchair. The woman in the wheelchair was missing her one leg below her knee. The pair were heading towards the restroom line.

Suddenly, a young volunteer working at the fair asked the woman, “are you headed to the bathrooms?

The woman in the wheelchair replied, “yes.”

The volunteer said, “oh, come this way, this the employee bathroom, but you can use it.”

The two women thanked her casually and followed her past a security gate and into another small building.

That moment resonated with me. The woman in the wheelchair was clearly disabled – anyone could see both the wheelchair and the fact that half her leg was not there. The volunteer did the right thing by trying to make life easier for her by accommodating her needs and allowing her to use a separate, less crowded bathroom.

I began to imagine if I had asked that same volunteer if I could also use the private bathroom. I envisioned myself explaining – in my awkward-while-trying-to-be-confident manner –  about my sensory processing disorder, and how the normal bathrooms were very uncomfortable – in this case, impossible – for me to use.

I could see her making that “ehhh” face, the one where she isn’t buying it, but she doesn’t want to look like an absolute idiot either. She responds with something along the lines of “well, you see, that bathroom is for employees only. I’m sorry but I don’t really work here. I’m just a volunteer, and I don’t think it would be allowed.”

the ehh face

If I was a true badass of disability equality and advocacy, I might say something along the lines of, “But I noticed you allowed that other disabled woman to use that restroom. I was hoping I could also be accommodated because of my special needs.”

Next, perhaps, she would create some kind of excuse for her decision, like “I allowed that woman to use the other restroom because her wheelchair would be too big for the regular restroom.”

OrI didn’t want her to have to wait on the long line.”

Or maybe even, “She is in a wheelchair so she has a disability. You are clearly a fully-functioning person because I cannot see any visible sign of a problem. So you cannot use the other bathroom because you are a liar and you are trying to mooch the system. SHAME….SHAAAAAAMMEE.”

Was there a small chance that this volunteer would allow me to use the private restroom after I politely explained my situation? Of course. But that small chance was probably very, very small. And for some reason, I would end up feeling guilty asking for this accommodation in the first place.

The whole moment made me think about every person with an invisible illness or disability or condition. Our lives are spent trying to make the best of a world that doesn’t seem too eager to accommodate our particular needs. Whether those needs are closer parking spaces, equal treatment in school or at work, or the need to use a different restroom when one is available.

As a teenager, I used to wear brightly colored earplugs to visually remind those around me about my condition (aside from using them for hearing protection, too). Without them, I’m certain most people would have completely forgotten about my severe sensitivity to sound and things would have been more miserable then they already were. I used to jokingly tell Momsy that I wished I was in a wheelchair because maybe then people would respect and understand my needs once they saw a visual sign of a problem. How sad is that?

Would it be tacky of me to walk around with a massive sign drapped over my shoulders, reading: PERSON WITH NEUROLOGICAL CONDITION. MAY REQUIRE SPECIAL SERVICES?

perosn with condition

I wish I didn’t have to feel that way, but that’s how much of our society thinks of differently-abled people, and that’s how desperate I am to make things easier.

As we left the arts and crafts fair that day, Momsy and I talked about it. I said, “What if a mother and her young, autistic son asked to use separate bathroom and were turned down, even after the mother explained her situation?” Momsy replied, “They would’ve had to use the regular restroom and the boy would’ve been very upset in there, and the mother would be frustrated and tired.”

I mumbled something like, “that’s not fair. Life sucks. Can we get ice cream?”

tps

And so we got ice cream, and I peed when we got home (in case you were concerned).

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Personal Hell: Visiting a psychiatrist

When I’m being treated by a psychiatrist, I imagine I’m on the popular television show, Jeopardy. It goes like this:

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Throughout my twenty-four years of existence, I’ve had a heaping amount of visits to doctors of all kinds in an attempt to manage my numerous life issues – my sensory processing disorder being at the forefront.

I believe psychiatric/psychological help is imperative when dealing with physical illness. So darn it all, I’ve got to pull on my big girl panties and get stuff done, no matter how miserable it is to visit a psychiatrist.

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I never enjoy going to see a psychiatrist. If I had $5 for every bizarre session with a psychiatrist, I could probably afford to go to medical school, become a psychiatrist, and THERAPEUTIZE myself.

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As usual, I just made up another word: therapeutize.

Definition: Therapeutize: to use therapeutic techniques.

In a sentence: “I’m going through a tough time with my wife, if I could only therapeutize my marriage back to where it used to be, we’d be happy again.”

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Psychiatrists never seem to pick good locations for their offices. Unfortunately for me, these locations are sensory UNFRIENDLY. I’m uncertain whether or not these locations are chosen on purpose.

One psychiatrist had the office lights so bright, I almost couldn’t open my eyes. That was a fun visit.

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Another had a million winding stairs up to the office, like one of those M.C. Escher paintings. I felt like I could die at any moment whilst making my way to the top. Additionally, it was nearby a train station, so periodically, the train would blare its horn and I would feel my lungs give out from the intensity of the sound. I’d grip the staircase railing, waiting for death.

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Some psychiatrists have leather couches to sit on. I don’t know about you, but my body doesn’t understand leather. It’s shiny, and rubbery. My body actually hates me when I sit on leathery surfaces, as I find myself sliding right off and into a pathetic puddle on the floor.

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Some psychiatrists don’t understand my sensory needs at all, which is both humorous and sadly ironic. For example, everything they do is often very noisy, including speaking. It’s not done intentionally, but most of them are so oblivious that they don’t even notice how sensory unfriendly they are. Even if I tell them directly about the nature of my issues, all psychiatrists seem to live in their own psychiatric bubble. Must be nice there…

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well times up

Even WORSE is when I’m in the middle of an appointment, and I REALIZE the absurdity of what is happening. I want to explode with rage and hurl various sized fruits at the ignorant person in front of me. Problem is, I never remember to bring the fruit with me.

so anxiety

fascinating

why yes i am

wow congrats

thank you darling

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Still, the most difficult part of all of these psychiatric visits is when I have to think critically about myself and answer endless complicated questions.

How do you feel? How are you feeling? Describe that process? Can you give me an example of a time when your SPD did this or that and why it made you behave in this or that manner? The severity of anxiety and depression dissociative tendencies increases or decreases when compounded with the negative associations of certain stimuli with which you are negatively associated on the grounds ohfds  hfds hjbdnjcfnd sun43uhu nfjdnsf

My brain, now reduced to a mushy potato, replies:

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When it’s all over, I have an overwhelming urge to fill a void in my delicate psyche (created by psychiatrists poking at it too much). There is only one remedy for this kind of destruction:

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xo kelly

p.s. Please send all cake to me, I will stuff it into my psyche void. Thank you.

 

 

Food Shopping Part 2: Big Decisions

I recently had another ridiculous food shopping experience. Afterward, I realized it would make an absolutely marvelous blog post. So ladies and gents, here we go:

After shopping with momsy for what seemed like several hours in preparation for a BBQ, we finally reach the frozen food aisle in the grocery store. We decided to pick a frozen meal to have for lunch because:

a. We never have frozen meals, therefor it would be different and exciting

b. We were tired and hungry and the frozen food is for the lazy.

Momsy quickly selects her frozen lunch. Some chicken pot pie thinger-whatever. Good for her, I thought to myself. Now it was my turn.

Let me remind everyone that again, this was the END of long day of shopping all over town, and if you have read my first post about food shopping (click here to read it) you will remember that food shopping can be a somewhat very extreme sensory nightmare.

So there I was, surrounded by freezers with dozens, if not HUNDREDS of options for what to have for lunch. I was overstimulated, COLD, tired, and very hungry.

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I had to make a decision.

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The task at hand was not really complicated: Choose a frozen meal to have for lunch. But it felt so much more intense:

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(If you’re interested, the choices on the wheel are: lava, darkness, sword, chocolate, sharks, ice, puppies, poo, spider, knife, water, snow, fire, bugs, snakes, and bieber…whose name I spelled incorrectly. Go me).

Neurotypical people, like momsy, for instance, make decisions based on the fact that their brain does not struggle to process sensory information. All that comes naturally, so when they are in an overstimulating environment, their brain can focus on important decisions….like what to have for lunch.

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Then there are people like me, whose SPD brain – when pushed to the brink – experiences difficulty when having to process anything other than sensory info because it’s so darn busy trying to process basic sensory info that it LITERALLY doesn’t have time for anything else. My brain was like:

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When deciding on what frozen thing I wanted, my brain would only respond by stating what it could process at the time:

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GENIUS. UGHHHH

I remember standing in the aisle, pacing back and forth in front of the freezers and nothing was making sense. It felt like forever.

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I couldn’t stand myself! How could I have possible graduated with honors from my university just months ago, yet I couldn’t pick a frozen lunch from a freezer? WTF, you guys. To hell with my SPD brain, I was hungry and incapable!

Luckily, my lady in waiting, momsy, was there and she recognized that I was overstimulated.

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(Note: someone please make this frozen meal a reality. I don’t know about you, but I would buy Mr. Miyagi’s Kung Pow In Your Face Super Asian Noodles with SAUCE.)

And with that, all was ok. My brain accepted this box of asian cuisine and I was thankful that my decision making nightmare was over. I realized I had pushed myself too much all day, and my frozen meal meltdown – a seemingly random event –  was actually the product of too much overstimulation. I WAS SO OVERSTIMULATED THAT I COULDN’T RECOGNIZE THAT I WAS OVERSTIMULATED. Oh the irony!

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xo kelly

I AM THE T-REX

So there’s this funny thing that happens to me when I experience sensory overload. Apparently I’ve had it for quite some time now, but I’ve only just given it a name and I’m working on stopping it. Sort of.

I call it, T-REX. It sounds way cooler than it actually is.

When I am over-stimulated, I struggle with what’s called proprioception. This is the ability to be aware of my own body movements and my spatial orientation, or position of my body and limbs.  In other words, it’s the ability of me knowing where my body is and what it’s doing. People with sensory difficulties may struggle with proprioception, although it’s not usually discussed because it’s not something general (like sound, touch, taste, etc).

In any case, when I experience this, my body and brain attempt to fix my sensory issues on their own and it doesn’t always work out so well for them.

It’s like when your husband says to you, “Honey, I’ll fix that leaking faucet even though I’ve never done so before but I totally can do it anyway.” The next thing you know, the faucet has exploded and there’s two inches of water in your home. Your husband put some duct tape around it and it’s “good enough I guess.” It has stopped leaking, but it’s certainly not fixed.

When my brain and body are over-run with sensory junk and they fail to fix it, they use their own version of duct tape. My brain tells my body to contort into the position of your average, everyday tyrannosaurus rex. It looks a little something like this:

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Not only is this embarrassing, but I have no awareness of doing it. When I try to change my position, it’s extremely difficult if not, impossible. The T-rex pose is the only way my body and brain have decided to put a temporary fix on a problem they cannot seem to solve. I can only assume this pose comes from my brain trying to find balance.

When my mom and I are out together and she sees me doing this, she whisper/yells “T-REX. T-REX. T-REX.”

My mom then suggests that I try to change my arm position into a more normal-looking one. She says, “swing your arms!” But my arms refuse to. Instead, they swing in unison and I look even worse. It gets me weird looks and small children cry at the sight of it.

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When all else fails, I must embrace it. I become the T-Rex, I AM THE T-REX.

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xoxo kelly