Sometimes, I feel like there are so many figurative closets.
In high school, I came out as bisexual.
More recently, I’ve shared about my experience with anxiety and depression.
Now, I look at my sensory processing issues and realize that I have yet another part of me I can choose to share with others, openly or selectively.
And all of these are identifying factors, factors that people may or may not judge. These factors are part of me, and they are also not all of me. They may define part of my experience and affect how I experience life.
I realize that when it comes to sensory processing disorder, I feel cautious. I am afraid that people won’t believe me. I imagine a scenario where I tell someone the root of many of my issues is neurological, not psychological, and they tell me that I’m wrong, or that it’s an excuse or a crutch. I know that it’s not recognized in all medical circles. I was grateful and relieved when my primary doctor hardly blinked an eye when I asked her for the referral to the occupational therapist. She just said, “and what should I put that under?” when she was looking for a diagnostic code in the computer. (If you are curious, she put it under something like “childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, not otherwise specified).
There’s also part of me that wants to say to people from my past, “Ha! See! You were all wrong! There is a logical explanation!” and feel vindicated. I’m relieved to have a diagnosis, but I am also bitter about how others invalidated me in overstimulating situations. I am sad about how I, in turn, treated myself. Sharing about my sensory processing issues is a proclamation, a declaration, saying that this is part of who I am. I see it as a step towards self-acceptance.
In the end, I realize that my decision is not about other people. It’s about me, what I choose to share, how I choose to advocate for myself in my day-to-day life. Being “out” is choosing to actively fight stigma in a personal and public way. It’s choosing to make the invisible visible.
I currently feel comfortable sharing in this context. But I haven’t shared this blog on Facebook or other social media. I’m gradually sharing with friends what I’ve discovered about my sensory processing issues, and so far, the responses have been curious, understanding and warm.
I don’t have to decide right now whether or when to make a sweeping announcement in a public forum where people know me in real life. I do know that I don’t want to be invisible anymore, especially in the long-term. And so I take small steps, person by person, sharing new pieces of information that explain so much about me.
Side note: I’m still wavering between whether to say sensory processing issues or sensory processing disorder. I suppose that I am currently more comfortable with my anxiety and depression diagnoses than considering this particular aspect of myself a disorder. The word disorder definitely has stigma around it. But then I break down the word: The way I process sensory information is disorganized, and can create disorder in my life. In that way, the term certainly resonates. This is certainly a process of learning, discovering, and adapting.