I Have Sensory Processing Disorder and No Shame

By Rachel S. Schneider, M.A., MHC

I am bleary-eyed and under-slept and the shoulder of my shirt is gently stained by the drool of my sweet piranha of an eight-month-old whose teeth, it seems, will never, ever appear. From the outside, I look like a new mom, especially if you pay close attention to the generous darkness below my lashes. In the midst of morning and evening diaper-changes and peek-a-boos and spoonfuls of mashed fruit and heart-pounding giggles, I am fervently copywriting and in conference calls, an enthusiastic and ever passionate employee. I am asking my husband about his day, comparing our shared war-stories of our last collective 3am feeding. I am trying to remember to take his hand, to pull him close. I am calling and texting family and friends to sift for tidbits from their own life.

And yes. I have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Oh, and also, it was only diagnosed seven years ago.

My neurological makeup doesn’t (and shouldn’t) preclude me from playing the roles I’ve chosen in this lifetime – mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee, teammate – and even some that chose me. That’s where onlookers who know get things wrong about me sometimes. I am not exclusively my neurology. I am not just the human embodiment of a meltdown or a shutdown or the crawling of my skin when it’s time to change into a more comfortable outfit. I am not simply hanks of long hair that graze my face over and over until I overturn piles like a sensitive Godzilla in the search for a rubber band. I am all of these things, but I’m the person behind the needs and rigid schedule and the lowering of the lights so I can think. I’m green eyes and a clever sense of humor and an emotional harbor for my loved ones during life’s difficult storms. I have an advanced degree. I’m a published, award-winning author. I am accomplished for 34. Most importantly, I am happy for 34.

I suppose if I was a bumper sticker, I’d shout, “I have SPD, but SPD doesn’t have me!” in bright, bold font. I’m not garish, but my decal sure would be.

But to be honest, some days SPD does have me.

On those days, I wake up feeling intensely emotionally and physically sensitive. My body feels as if it’s been haphazardly colored in by a preschooler with crayon veering outside of the lines. My arms don’t feel connected to my torso nor do my hips feel connected to my legs and feet, and without a comprehensive, fleshy whole, I can’t ground my being to any surface. I’m like a helium balloon that’s been untied from its post and sent sailing into the vast sky. It’s then that my vision goes piecemeal and I can’t make out the wholes of what I’m seeing, just details – shadows and lines – sharp, blindingly bright. Simultaneously, I realize I can no longer trace sounds to external origins. Instead, sirens and chatter and bird calls blend into a hazy, loud sludge that lodges itself somewhere deep inside of my head. It’s a cacophony of confusion, a surge of sensation. These are the moments I hit the deck, as I call my penchant for pressing my frame against the floor in an attempt to reconnect to anything. I cry heavy, hard tears. I feel lost somewhere within the overload.

Is it any wonder that on these days, I shy away from even the simplest tasks that so many take for granted? Is it any wonder that I have a secondary diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder? The world outside can be unpredictable. I don’t often feel safe. I’m always trying to remind myself that I am, in fact, safer than my unique wiring lets on.

Many people live with many things, and I happen to live with SPD. I also live with occasional Asthma and an infant and a nagging sense that I’m living this lifetime for a reason. This is just the way my brain’s assembled. It’s who I am. It’s who I’ve always been. It’s who I’ll always be. There’s no reason for me not to embrace the various facets of my life and circumstances, including the challenges I face. I should never have to feel ashamed of my differences in the tranquil midst of peek-a-boos and hand-holding and tidbit-sifting.

Neither should you.

If you are looking for SPD treatment for yourself or your child fill out
a child or adult intake form now to be treated at STAR Institute Treatment
Center or search our Treatment Directory to find services in your area.

It's Sensory Awareness Month!

Will you give $25?

We need to raise $30,000 in October so we can keep up our cutting edge
treatment, research, and education of Sensory Processing Disorder.

Please donate!


RachelRachel S. Schneider, M.A., MHC

With a Bachelor's in Psychology from Brandeis University, a Master's in Mental Health Counseling from the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University, and through my own experiences as an adult with SPD, I advocate on behalf of those like me who searched for years to find the explanation for their particular sensory challenges. I am passionate about SPD and how it affects adults. In common parlance, SPD is a childhood disorder, but this fails to recognize the innumerable adults who lacked a proper diagnosis in childhood, and now must learn to redefine themselves and their abilities in adulthood.

After my own diagnosis, I hungrily searched for material to support and validate my own experiences, but very little existed for delayed-diagnosis sensory adults. I began writing my blog, Coming to My Senses, to serve as an intimate picture of SPD diagnosis and treatment in adulthood.