Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My survival kit

People have wondered, what are your tools for getting through the day? I carry things with me always, with more at home, so that I can cope. What I use varies on my situation, what I need varies on my situation, but I always make sure to have things available, because need frequently occurs.

I carry my backpack with me almost always. This is because its filled with tools that I need to assume I'll need except in unusual situations, and can be really awkward to swap stuff around for carrying things in alternate ways. When I need to assume I need everything, carrying a backpack is basically a necessity. When I'm not carrying my backpack its because I've pulled some of these things out, and also have a human there to assist me who knows how to if it is necessary to. I don't want to rely on my boyfriend if it is not necessary to though, so unless it is a minimal risk situation and he is there, I'm bringing my backpack.

Backpack's default set of items:

  • Medication: prescription meds and supplements organized in a 4x a day weekly pill box, OTC things in my keychain, migraine abortatives, medication is necessary to always have available with me, and organized where it is needed rather than just thrown into my backpack and expected for me to figure it out when its necessary

  • Earplugs: Noises are too loud and overwhelming. Earplugs are itchy and problematic, but laying hearing protection is sometimes necessary to survive without feeling like I'll explode. Also, I carry them on my keychain, so if I need to just pull my keys and wallet, I'll still have something to help reduce sensory input.
  • Earmuffs/Ear defenders/whatever you want to call them: Primary hearing protection, I use earmuffs despite them being more visible, because they don't itch inside my ears. Sounds are too loud, too painful, mess with my balance...No matter how much hearing protection I use they're still easily understandable, but sometimes its no so overwhelming when I'm using it, and worth the discomfort of wearing things that do something like squeeze my head.
  • (Folding) Long cane (also referred to as a white cane, though mine isn't white): Being able to always process vision isn't something I can do. How well I can understand what I see varies drastically, and how much it costs to go through that process of decoding what it means varies drastically. When it is more costly, or when no matter what I do I either am running on a few seconds delay for vision, extreme tunnel vision, or simply seeing but not understanding, I implement (more) strategies used by blind people. It allows me to use my mental power for things other than attempting to navigate the world by sight when sight isn't working with me.
  • Folding balance cane: My migraines come with bad vertigo at times. I vary from being able not being able to walk with my cane, to running up mountains which require awkward navigation. I plan for both. Sensory overload, migraines, vertigo setting in, my body might feel itself or the world moving, my leg might spasm and tense up, not wanting to work without being in pain. Whatever it is, I'll not be limited, so I'll move with things that I carry instead.

  • Tangle Jr: Such a useful stim toy! I carry the one which is covered by a squishy rubbery material, I don't remember what its called. So many reasons to want to pull out a toy and such a useful one to have
  • Rite in the Rain notebooks: Because my hands hurt when touching normal paper. They feel like the sound of nails on a chalkboard. I can't handle it, and it makes me want to bite myself, though I rarely follow through with the urge. Having paper that is coated for waterproofing changes the texture enough that it doesn't hurt anymore! And they're waterproof paper too which is awesome.
  • Compression gloves: My hands are the most reactive to everything texture, and frequently hurt. Showers hurt them badly. Sometimes simply the air hurts them. Compression gloves help, though don't get rid of it completely, so I wear them when it gets bad. They make it harder to do things, and make me prone to losing my medical alert bracelet, so I try to limit it to necessity, but when necessary, its the difference between being able to concentrate at all, and all my focus being on "my hands hurt".
  • Altoids: PEPPERMINT
  • the heaviest drafting pencil the stationary store had: Heavier pencil makes my handwriting so much neater, and makes it so much more comfortable to write.
  • Kindle: Always have something to turn to! I always can go to any of my books. I don't need to read paper books. I can always turn to my books no matter where I am or what I'm doing!

Other tools:

  • Smartphone/tablet (7"): I use both my phone and tablet (both android) heavily. I have communication apps, stimming apps, executive functioning apps. I use alarms to help me organize my day, complete with different sounds for different things. Having a computer on me always has been a thing I've relied on, but with smartphones I've been capable of swapping to just having my phone, though my laptop is very important to me.
  • Tinted lenses: I wear greyish blue tinted lenses in order to help with visual processing. They help with having fewer visual distortions, fewer headaches, better depth perception, and generally, better visual processing.
  • Medical alert bracelet: I'm always wearing a medical alert bracelet that tells people about my migraines, autism, and medication allergies. I've needed to use it before to communicate to people on my behalf.
  • Compression shirts: Compression shirts are very useful for deep pressure that you wear on your body and carry with you always. Wearing them under whatever you'd wear that day for clothing, just works well. For extra compression, breast binders work well but some people would prefer not to use such a thing.
  • Weighted blanket: I spend most my time at home under my weighted blanket, despite some people saying this is a bad idea. Without my weighted blanket I struggle with understanding where I am in space. With it, I can think clearer, and am more aware of how things are supposed to be, rather than the weird feelings of wrongness that exist in my limbs.
  • Weighted vest: While the weighted vest doesn't work as well as the weighted blanket, it is a useful tool to add when going in public along with the compression shirts.
  • Vibram Five Fingers: We have a theme here on the propioception impairments...Using minimalist shoes means that despite propioception impairments, I don't have issues with things like constantly spraining my ankle anymore! I'm able to use touch - feeling the ground beneath my feet - in order to adapt for the fact that my propioception is impaired.
  • Peppermint oil mixture: I carry this in my backpack if I have a choice, but at the moment its in a bottle where the lid might get broken :(. A mixture of 50% peppermint oil/50% everclear, its useful for so many things! Topically its a good muscle relaxant. It's a strong peppermint oil, so it can be added to drinks, for peppermint flavoring, dealing with the fact that I can't drink water straight. The fact that I seek peppermint also has great benefits with such a mixture...
  • My swing: I have a swing in my bedroom! It's awesome. It's an egg-swing I describe it as. Whether I'm actively swinging, just sitting in it hanging from it rather than sitting on something stationary, it is calming, and gives me a different sort of sensory input than not being in my swing does.
  • My cat: She does so much for me. She's my ESA, my migraine alert cat, just my cat. She could easily be a service cat if I lived somewhere where I could have a public access service cat. I can't read my own emotions, but she can, and I can read hers, reading them off of her. She leads me away from situations when I'm getting overwhelmed. She helps with meltdowns. She alerts to migraines. She is too smart of a cat, and the perfect cat for me, doing so much for me.
  • My cloak: In the winter, or fall or spring really, I wear a cloak for a coat. It's like a portable blanket! As well as all the other benefits of wearing a cloak (really, they're just better in so many ways), I get the feeling of wrapped up like I do in a blanket, and can use it like a blanket in public. When I prefer to wrap up in a blanket so strongly, this is so useful.
  • Cefaly: This is an incredibly useful and incredibly interesting device. It's frequently referred to on the internet as a space crown or a space tiara. It's a device you wear on your forehead, have do electrotherapy for 20 minutes a day, and it reduces the number of migraines you have. Also, if you wear it during a migraine it can reduce the severity or even get rid of the migraine! It's really awesome, and my favorite part of my migraine treatment.

Other sensory things that I'm not currently using as much

  • Brush for Wilbarger's brushing protocol: This protocol has been very useful! I still have brushes for "tune ups", though I don't do so frequently, just because of being out of habit. It's useful to have for when I need and remember, even if being out of habit makes it hard to use every time I'd prefer to. And the protocol was drastically useful when I went through the protocol.
  • CDs and Headphones for Therapeutic Listening: Similar to Wilbarger's Brushing Protocol, I went through this program, and use these for tune ups now when I'm most sensorily in need. In these one's case it has more to do with when I have the time to be spending 20 minutes no doing anything mentally stimulating, and not moving (because while you're allowed to move around during the program, my body cannot handle moving at all).
  • Theraputty: Great stim toy, even better for strengthening wrists when you've injured yourself stimming. I have the set of 6 different colors and will work my way up to the second to strongest from usually the second to weakest if I've done something like bothered my wrist. Otherwise, I like the second or third to strongest to play with.
  • More stim toys: Description unnecessary in my opinion.
  • Noise cancelling headphones: Really useful to have some proper noise cancelling headphones, but it requires having good noise to play with them. Wrong noises and I can't focus on what I want to focus on.
  • Respro Mask: I have an activated charcoal/HEPA combo filter mask, for dealing with smells, how toxic the air is, etc. It used to be one of my commonly used items and always in my backpack. The issue is that my face is too small for it now :( and in order to get a smaller one I need to buy both a more expensive mask and a filter that isn't the filter it originally comes with so I keep forgetting to order it.

Plus, on top of my tools, I have many coping strategies that are internal. I have taught myself how to use sensory information that isn't the "expected" one for a situation. I will visibly stim. I will use things like walking following lines, with my hand on the wall, or feeling where the grass is and where the sidewalk is. I've taught myself how to turn off processing for senses at will, allowing me to not be overloaded by them, or to be more easily able to process other senses, or other ability (such as speech). I've taught myself how to alternate necessary skills, in order to get through a situation, when I should need all of them, but can't do all of them simultaneously, by turning off everything that isn't completely necessary; keeping myself balancing, walking, seeing, speaking, in turn.

I have lots of skills, lots of tools, and use them. Because I know I am impaired, but I want to do things anyways. If that means doing them in odd ways, where I end up exhausted, dependent, and in pain, I'll do them anyways, because I'm going to choose at times its worth it and know how to do it when it is worth it.

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