When I was a young child, there was no such term as sensory issues or sensory processing issues. So, when I acted out in surprising and weird ways, it was attributed to me just being the youngest of 4 kids, being a redhead, or being just strange.
Now that my son also deals with sensory issues, I know now what I have as well. Sensory processing is best described as the the brain cannot process sensory information in regular ways. There’s a lot of science that goes into this, but basically people with sensory issues either get not enough sensory feedback, too much, or crave sensory feedback in irregular ways.
That’s why a kid like me hated the color white for a year and screamed when the sunlight hit me. Most kids can sense that the sunlight isn’t harmful, and thus when sunlight goes on them, their brain says “not a big deal” and it moves far back in their minds. Not so with a sensory kid. Their brains have a hard time distinguishing whether this is harmful or not. And the other side of the coin happens too. Ever heard of a friend who had an extremely high pain tolerance? Their brain may not sense pain as much, which can be dangerous if they put their hand near a fire and don’t get the alarms in the brain to take your hand away from fire.
So, because I have some sensory issues and I have now done lots of research because of my son, I know right now I am very, very disregulated. Everything that kept my sensory processing issues in check have been taken away, very abruptly, with little sign they will return anytime soon.
Things that helped me feel more regulated were: climbing at the rock gym with friends, the social and physical interaction makes me feel really good, which is why I was attracted to sports at a very young age. I’ve only had a couple years in my life where I wasn’t involved in some sport. Recently, going to my favorite coffee shops, listening to music, playing a game, talking to the baristas all gave me sensory input that I craved. And then, all my volunteering, being part of something bigger, leading kids toward Christ. Being a positive influence in kids’ lives and seeing them change month by month.
Every single one of these things were taken away in a matter of a week. And now have been for a month, looking at it maybe more months of this. For a lot of people, they are like “well, you have a good home and your husband still has huge job and your son is doing well, so why complain?”
And they are right, I shouldn’t complain. But that doesn’t discount my feelings, my brain, my body from feeling utterly lost. I struggle with anxiety too, a by product of sensory processing issues. All of my stress relief techniques have been taken away, and then the byproduct of news fear mongering has left me in dire straights.
Now I am a Christian. And I know that this is all temporary. I know that at the end of the day, Jesus will reign, we will have a new heaven and new Earth and we won’t know fear or pain. I know this. And I know some would say “just give your anxieties to Christ.” And I have been. But I also know that things that helped regulate my senses are gone too. I’m aware of the mental and emotional toll this past month has put me on. That doesn’t discount the mental and emotional and sensory issues I am having right now.
And so, what do I do?
I need to pray. Start every day in prayer and end every day in prayer. This will not only help my senses but it will connect me to the Living God who is ever present to help. I need to seek his Word and Will in ways I’ve never done before. Instead of relying on my intellect and knowledge of Christ, I need to rely on Christ.
If all my sensory regulation activities and habits have been taken away, I need to find new sensory regulation and habits that I can do during this time. This might be the hardest. I’ve had my sensory regulation stuff in place for years, so changing it in just a month is going to take some serious brain storming. Thankfully, I have some books about sensory processing that I’ve been reading, as well as some blogs that have some great resources. I might even talk to my son’s occupational therapist, and see if there’s someone I can talk to and get help for myself as well. Or talk to one of my pastor friends and see if I can even set up some sessions to help me regulate my mental and emotional state as well as my sensory.
I need to allow myself to feel, but also recognize that much of my emotions are self brought on. Because I feel so disregulated, I’m finding anyone or anything to blame for how I feel. Instead of being responsible for my own emotions, I lash out for anyone with an ear about the injustices of our station. That’s not healthy, and it’s not the right way to go about things.
I wish I was riding this stay at home mandate like a champ. Some are taking it in stride, being able to organize their houses and doing amazing things, being so creative and smart. I wish I could be those people. I’ve been just barely staying above water. I help my son with his schoolwork, trying to keep him regulated, which is a challenge especially during creative writing. His anxiety fuels my anxiety and the other way around, and I just have barely enough energy to keep him calm through it all.
Which means I have no energy to keep myself regulated and calm. But I need to change that. I will start with seeking the Lord. And start seeking help if I do feel like I need it. I don’t want to be someone whose always anxious, angry, and lost. Maybe all I need to do is seek the Lord. Maybe I need to seek the Lord and seek Christian help for my sensory and anxiety issues. I’m not sure right now, but first thing is prayer, the Word, and talking to some people I trust.
I’ve never been super open about my issues, and part of that has been I’ve barely begun to understand them myself. I know some people don’t believe sensory processing issues exist, but I know they do, as they happen to myself, my son, and other people and friends. It doesn’t excuse my behavior or my anger, but it does help answer some questions I’ve always had.
Like why do things like crunching noises make me so freaked out and annoyed? Like why I do have an extremely laser focus on one thing. Why do I get extremely obsessive about things? Why do I get so lost when the routine is gone? Why do I get so anxious when there isn’t a plan or the plan keeps changing?
By understanding my own brain processing issues, my anxiety, my anger, and my relationship with God, I know with God’s help and maybe the help of pastors or friends or an OT or some other professional can lead me to becoming more calm, regulated, trusting, peaceful person. The person I have always wanted to be. The person I know God created me to be.
Would love to hear any other adults and if you’ve dealt with sensory processing issues in your life, or know someone that does have that. How are you dealing with this state at home mandate? What things are you doing to help regulate yourself? What resources can you share? What ways are you having God teach you about yourself and about him? I’m gonna need help through this and I know that I can’t do it on my own.