Our Sensory Toys

Over the years we’ve slowly accumulated a rather nice collection of sensory toys. These toys, often aimed at children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
and/or Sensory Processing Disorder, are also helpful for people with anxiety and trauma based disorders.

We have a complicated list of different diagnoses including both physiological and psychological. I’ve seen so many different doctors, specialists, therapists, and allied health professionals. All have given different advice and guidance on managing my symptoms.

When it comes to my mental health the things I’ve found most helpful are the ones I’ve discovered on my own, or suggestions from professionals that I’ve tweaked to better suit my needs.

No one every suggested sensory toys for grounding. Ever. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon them. Mostly they were fun toys. I knew I’d pick at skin, fingernails, and clothing when feeling anxious, so something to play with helped. Sometimes that meant taking a soft toy to therapy to hold and play with. Now I usually sit and run my fingers over the plastic bottle of Diet Vanilla Coke I have before/during therapy. It has raised bumps, lines, and the label, plus the lid. Lots of different textures.

At home I have more choice: a weighted soft toy, a fidget cube, two different tangle toys, and a weighted blanket with fiddle tags.

DID_Dissociative_Identity_Disorder_Dissociation_Trauma_Complex_Trauma_Post_Traumatic_Stress_Disorder_Grounding_techniques_Managing_Dissociation_Sensory_Toy_Mindfulness_Textures_Shapes_Colours_Weighted_Blanket_Fidget_Cube_Weighted_Toy

Our collection of sensory toys: A weighted hedgehog soft toy, a fidget cube, two tangle toys (smooth, and textured), and our 8kg (17.5 pounds) weighted blanket with our DIY fiddle tags.

Different parts have preferred items. The pastel tangle toy is Miss 12 G’s, but not the textured tangle toy. That hasn’t been claimed by anyone yet, but I quite like it. I close my eyes and focus on the texture of each piece, try to describe it, then picture it. The fidget cube is relatively new, and liked by several of us – Miss 5 likes the colours, Miss 12 G likes pressing/touching different parts of it in order (all about patterns with her!).

The big weighted hedgehog toy belongs to all of us. Not only is it weighted (I think it’s 1-2kg), but the fabric it’s made of is all different textures that can be touched, rubbed, ruffled, and played with for all different sensations. It’s comforting (the weight), and distracting (the textures) for all of us.

That brings me to our 8kg (17.5 pounds) weighted blanket. I still have absolutely no regrets about buying it, and spending so much time sewing fiddle tags on. We still find the weight calming and reassuring, and the fiddle tags good for grounding like the sensory toys.
.

Shit Has Hit The Fan

Maybe things aren’t going so well. I keep trying to convince myself that things aren’t so bad, that they could be worse, that nothing is really wrong.

Yet today, when my groceries were delivered, I hurriedly hid alcohol and sharps in my room so if my housemate came home she wouldn’t see them. A few minutes after the delivery driver left my housemate came home. My secrets were hidden. Along with a second carton of diet soft drink, and eating disorder ‘safe’ food.

All are flashing neon warning signs that I’m not okay, and my housemate is well and truly aware of them. I’m scared my housemate will find out and confront me. I’m scared my friends will find out and do the same. I’m scared of where I’m headed.

I’m going around in circles of crippling depression, overwhelming emotions, and destructive behaviours. I’m not proud. I don’t want people to know. I’m desperate to hide these behaviours from friends and family.

Yet with hiding the behaviours comes enormous guilt. Guilt from lying to friends and family about behaviours, about how I really am. Guilt at even the thought of telling any friends or family a watered down version of the truth. Guilt because alcohol abuse runs in my family, and it’s a path I’ve always sworn I wouldn’t go down.

The guilt adds fuel to the fire that’s already burning strongly. I’m desperately clutching at behaviours that slowly destroy me. Healthy coping mechanisms are long gone. I’m trying to hold on, but can see the mess my day-to-day life has become, and have given up. Might as well have another drink, or use another unhelpful behaviour to keep holding on.

Shit has hit the fan.

Drifting

As I write this I’m dissociated. I’m detached from my body, from my emotions, from the world around me. I’ve tried drinking coffee, hoping that the caffeine kick will get me more connected with my body, but nope.

I’ve aimlessly don’t more chores than my body can usually tolerate all because I can’t quite feel my body, the pain, the deadening fatigue.

Grounding? I can’t think what helps. I can’t think what I’ve done in the past.

I’m drifting. Staring blankly into space before realising I’m doing so and trying to jerk myself back to reality, then drifting again.

I know self-harming would be grounding. The sudden pain would bring me back into my body. That’s not something I want to do, or something I’d ever recommend though!

I thought getting my brain working, writing blog posts, would help. It hasn’t. This is the third post I’ve worked on today and I’m quite rapidly becoming more and more dissociated.

Thankfully there isn’t anything that I need to do today. No work, no obligations outside of the house. I just need to eat, drink, and take care of myself.

There’s so many grounding skills I could try, but I’ve been here before and they tend not to make much difference.

  • Counting everything I can see around me that is red (or blue or yellow)
  • Drinking icy cold water quickly
  • Putting an ice pack under my feet (and focussing on the sensation, not dissociating from it)
  • Counting backwards from one hundred in multiples of three
  • Saying the alphabet backwards

Art Therapy

We’ve recently started a self-paced art therapy course on Udemy. We got it for a bargain $64AUD instead of $410AUD, so signed up straight away. The first link (above) will allow you to purchase it for the same price, but I don’t know how long it will last.

We’ve always loved art therapy. It’s a very easy way to get out what’s going on inside. Sometimes words just don’t work. Sometimes there aren’t words for what we’re thinking or feeling. Some younger parts don’t have the language needed to express themselves in writing. Drawing on the other hand – everything comes out!

Art therapy based exercises (even if self, not therapist, directed) will usually get many of our parts talking. Sometimes we’ll even cooperate on an artwork with different parts contributing different bits. We’ve done art therapy in individual and group settings, and definitely prefer to do it individually because of how much it can bring up.

I’m hoping we’ll learn some new skills as well as become familiar with different mediums. Having a chronic physical illness limits how much we’ll be able to do. At the moment it’s one exercise per week which is painfully slow, but still enjoyable.

The following was an exercise about mindful breathing. Noticing your breath going in and out of your body. Feeling where it goes, visualising what colour it is entering and exiting your body. I used kids watercolours. Nothing fancy. Also doesn’t require any skill!Art Therapy Watercolours Watercolors Paint Painting Mindfulness Breathing Visualising Visualizing Life As A Committee