On coping and compensating.

Coping mechanisms and ways of compensating are tricky.

On one hand, they are protective.  For me, they have helped me manage my life, get through school, overcome obstacles, etc.

On the other hand, coping mechanisns can become shaky in the face of mental and physical health issues, stress, and aging.  They can also hide the truth of what’s going on – from me and from others.

In vision therapy, I’m discovering that I have a lot of ways of compensating.  If I lose focus or my place, I can find it again.  I help myself while driving at night by talking myself through it.  My brain prevents me from seeing double.  However, that doesn’t change the fact my eyes don’t work together well. My sensory and vision issues likely contributed to an overall sense of fatigue.
In the midst of my sensory processing issues, I worked really hard, harder than I knew at the time.  I learned to adapt – or at least make it look like I adapted (in which case, I even had myself fooled).
 I’ve realized that as a kid and young adult, I would come home at the end of the days and have meltdowns in front of my loved ones.  I once thought they were tantrums (fortunately, my parents didn’t see them that way).  Many things were likely overwhelming throughout the day but it’s like I put my responses on pause and reacted later.  So many people in the public sphere thought I was doing/feeling better than I really was.  I pushed through a lot of challenges, and sometimes went past my own limits.   At times, I managed my energy, picking and choosing what activities I did. In a lot of ways, I was like a full storage unit:  I sometimes created more space through recharging; at other times, I couldn’t manage the amount and it overflowed.
So, I am grateful for my former coping mechanisms.  I don’t know what I would have done or where I would be without them. They kept me moving and living.  I’m realizing now how much their protective layer hid from me.  And perhaps I wasn’t ready to deal with those aspects of myself yet.
I am also grateful for losing some of my ability to cope and compensate because it allowed me to see more of what was actually happening.  Yes, I felt disoriented and vulnerable, sometimes desperate and erratic.  Yes, I went through an incredibly challenging time – which included major surgery, depression, and transitions – to get to where I am now. But would I take back knowing about my SPD?  No way. Also, going through the DBT program helped me learn how to regulate my emotions and be more accepting of where I am at, and that has been incredibly valuable in doing sensory integration work.  I’m able to be like, “I feel disregulated,” and sometimes that acknowledgement is the best thing I can do in the moment.
Lately, I’ve often asked myself the question:  “Are things getting worse, or am I just more aware of them?”  I think it’s the latter.  Overall, I have fewer meltdowns.  I know what’s happening when I become overstimulated and can making decisions and act accordingly.  I am doing things I love in the midst of a lot of changes. I am making improvements, and I am more aware.  I have learned new ways of coping that help me stay more present.  I definitely like that better.

One response to this post.

  1. Discovering new ways of coping is always good.


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