Usually I’m good at using
strategies to cope with
the anxiety that comes hand in hand with sensory issues. But a few months ago, something threw off my ability to
self-regulate, and I had a meltdown—as an adult.
As you might imagine, I felt trapped and claustrophobic with my boot and crutches. Not only did my ankle hurt, but the feel of the rods and the Velcro that held the boot together was unbearable to me. Navigating on crutches nauseated me. And I had to manage everyday life and work like this for months.
It finally got to be too much for me to cope with and filter out, and one night I had a total meltdown. My husband asked me what I wanted for dinner after a day full of meetings and a miserable appointment with the doctor. That simple question was the trigger. Suddenly I was shaking in my chair, saying, “I don’t know, I just don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that. I can’t do this.”
Panic washed over me. I felt like I was going to be stuck in this place of overwhelming confusion and pain forever. Within seconds, I was beyond the point of being able to calm myself. And there was nothing to do but let it pass.
That episode did pass. But the feelings of overload continued for as long as I was in that cast and exposed to sensations I couldn’t tolerate. Periodically, I’d lose it, but not in the same, out-of-control way.
That’s where having kids with sensory issues is beneficial. My husband recognized when a meltdown was brewing. He could jump in to make decisions, such as talking to the doctor about ways to reduce the physical sensory input from the boot and the pain. Even my colleagues understood my need to take a day to regroup.
This experience helped me understand something, too. I need to be highly conscious of not minimizing my sons’ reactions to sensory input. Whether I hear it, see it, feel it or smell it is irrelevant—they do. I need to listen to them when they say it’s too much. Because now I know what “too much” feels like.