When I was a child I always knew I was different. I reacted to things quicker than most kids. My life was ruled by what I did or didn’t like in everything from clothing to food.
But my biggest struggle was against the lies that I am worthless, lazy, and stupid.
I saw myself as clumsy, fearful, nervous, and highly sensitive. Frustrated that my body required more sleep and more down time than most people.
No one put those labels on me, my heart was just slowly fed these lies through the way I saw myself in the world.
But those labels were lies, and I was telling myself those lies because I hadn’t accepted the fact that I had and have special needs.
I always knew I was different, but to see myself as having special needs is very new!
Being different is one thing, having special needs is another. Admitting I have special needs means admitting that:
1. I have real limitations
2. That I have odd behaviors
3. And that I require things that most people don’t require.
When you are physically disabled, most people see you have special needs right from the get go, but with a subtle disability like Sensory Processing Disorder most people don’t see it visibly until I put on my noise canceling headphones or sit on my CoreDisk.
Because the world often mistakes me as not having special needs, I forget that I have special needs. Why is this so bad? Because when I forget I have special needs that also means I can’t accept that I have special needs either. And when I can’t accept that I have special needs, I begin to feel discouraged and I punish myself for not being “normal”, thus creating the lies in my head.
Trying to get out into the world, to reach beyond my limitations, and improve my SPD is still important, don’t get me wrong! I am continually trying to push my limitations and make my life better, BUT instead of shooting for “normal”, what I really need to shoot for is the best that I can be: special needs included.
Last night I went to a fundraiser with my young adult group, which happened to be at a very cluttered, noisy restaurant. When I heard that my group was going to this fundraiser the first thought in my head was, “Oh, boy! This is going to be bad for my SPD,” and I almost decided to stay home, but in the end I decided to go.
It was 7:30pm when I got to the restaurant and it was packed. Filled with people, voices, loud music, and antiques covering the walls. Within seconds of walking in my SPD started sending out warning signals.
I had three options:
2. Leave and go home.
3. Use my sensory tools and give it a try.
There is a strong temptation to go with the first option. It is embarrassing to wear big honkin’ headphones in a group of people. It looks strange when I pull out my big, colorful, CoreDisk cushion. It’s weird to have a 22 year old playing with a Koosh ball in public!
Everything in me wanted to be normal, but if I tried to be normal I knew that my body would suffer. I would probably have a panic attack or a complete sensory overload (which isn’t pretty).
The second option would mean accepting my limitations, but it would also mean hiding them; not even trying to push my limitations.
Going home would be easy and that would always be an option no matter what happened, but I knew if I left right away, I would be running away.
I’m not saying leaving is bad, but leaving before I tried my sensory tools is.
Having special needs doesn’t mean you avoid all situations where your disability would be a problem.
Excepting your special needs means doing what you need to do to help your body/mind live the best life you can have.
In the end I chose option three and not only did I have a great time, but I also built up my self esteem, my courage, and I beat back those lies a little more!
Yes, using my sensory tools was awkward at first, but in order to except the fact that I have special needs, I need to do what I need to do to help my body.
Don’t ever be ashamed of using the tools and techniques that help your body function in the world!
I have special needs, so I am going to sleep a lot more than most- and that’s ok.
I have special needs, so I am going to use sensory tools in my life- and that’s ok.
I have special needs, so I am going to have bad days- and that’s ok too!
This is a new mindset for me. To see myself as having limitations and special needs is very new, but it is very freeing.
Day by day I am learning to accept that I have special needs. I hope you will do the same.
Want to read more about this topic? Here are some other blog posts related to this one:
Overload alert!- What it feels like to have Sensory Processing Disorder overload.
I Am Still Me- I am more than my SPD!
Stop Avoiding Sensory Processing Disorder and Pick It Up!
Sensory Tools and Toys For Sensory Processing Disorder- Part 1.
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