Sand & ‘The Spectrum’

It isn’t about beating.

It isn’t about overcoming.

It is just about embracing, accepting, and enjoying the wild ride that in so many ways I have so little control over.


It’s an obsession. I am a control-freak by definition; the desire to be in control and oversee every little thing is not due to being an egomaniac, it is out of the innate desire to be safe. If I can control the environment around me, in turn I feel safer about my surroundings. Life has always been that way, and it most likely will always be like that.


It started with sand.

It always starts with sand. On the list of things that I cannot handle in my life; sand is at the absolute top of the list. It isn’t because I hate beaches, rocks, or anything between the two. It’s because, well, sand. The grit, the sensation between fingers often equates to the same sensation between your teeth. I know you know what I’m talking about. Additionally, sand winds up everywhere. You can go on a vacation to the beach and two years later still find the frustrating microbes within your suitcase. Sand is toxic. Sand is death. Sand is sadness.

It started with sand. It started with sand in Sabrina’s office; play-therapy is frequent within her office when I am not there, so at times there is sand. There’s sand. Sitting there, noting the sand, the entire conversation was about sand. I could not let the sand go. I could not switch topics. I started rubbing the top of my pants, my head, on a swivel, started to analyze every little detail inside the room.

It started with sand.

Sabrina, not one to be caught off guard, noted a slight hatred towards sand. Also, the strange, obsessive attitude towards sand. Though I hadn’t made any contact with it. The reality is this; in my head, sand is an awful item. Just thinking about it makes my teeth hurt, and I began to wipe my hands on my pants.

I am not making this up.

Sand is horrible. Thank you for glass, but keep me away from sand.

We learn to suppress our own thoughts at an early age. “Keep it in your head”, “We’re in public”, “Stop being dramatic”…all phrases many of us are all-to-familiar with. It causes a sensation to not act ourselves when around others. Not uncommon to the parental wish when a child, but what happens when the same notion exists at an adult level? What happens when we begin to suppress our identity in our every day lives?

What happens when those walls we build, to hide all of that, begin to crumble?

Over the past year and a half I’ve gone on an exciting, very difficult adventure, of learning more about myself. What should be the easiest topic turned out to be hardest because of realities I did not want to face through my childhood and even through today (including sand).

So many questions…

Why did I struggle so much with exploring friendship in elementary school? Why did I hate school so much all the way through college? What’s the deal with relationships? Why can’t I sit still? Sleep? Focus? Why do I get so irritated when someone is speaking so, so, so, so slow. At work, do I really have to work at the same pace as my peers?

…which led to so many “moments”…also known as problems (in my head).

I haven’t written in months because I’m not sure how to transcribe my own thoughts of identity on paper for someone else to read. Do I just show myself without emotion and let bygones be bygones? Do I attempt to explain every little detail? What about just ranting for 10,000 words and calling it a night?

I suppose I’ll just start with a statement, something that everyone needs to hear and we all battle with.

You are not broken.

In the past year I have received more news about myself from professional health instructors then I care to ever mention. The high blood pressure, the enlarged heart, the high blood pressure (again), and the high blood pressure (and again). The attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that I was never tested for. The anxiety that keeps me awake, that plagues me with some of the most horrific nightmares you couldn’t even dream up. The darkness (or dark void as I tell Sabrina) that I slip into every-so-often late at night, or on the open road. The place where I dare not tell anyone because it is so sad, it is so traumatic, it is so unsafe….it is so…depressing. Turns out season depression is a real thing, and it can really mess you up for several months out of the year. Go figure.

It hurt hearing people joking about the ADHD, about how “yep, that made sense”, or “I could have told you that”, knowing how much I absolutely hated being in school. The blood pressure was so irritating because even thought I do amazing things physically, I’m stuck on medication for my entire life because ‘genetics’. The season depression was blatantly harmful because it was just another chink in my armor, a crack in my impenetrable wall.

Yes, I felt broken.

Then, there was the sand.

The construction paper.

The overhead lights.

The crowded shopping center.

The phrase, “Please do not touch me”*, resounding in my head, but being afraid to say anything to kind people.

The debate tournaments.

The staff meetings.

The assemblies.

The tension.

The stress.

The heat.

The light.

The humming.

The smells.

Everything was/is so overwhelming. Imagine wearing sound canceling headphones to a crowded grocery store, or sunglasses to an indoor speech and debate tournament. Even the weighted blanket and a dark, quiet room in the office at your work.

Welcome to ASD (also referred to as “the spectrum” by some).

Sabrina picked up on it first. The sensory stories that I came in with started to paint a very clear picture to her. Then came the emotional balance issue of not relating to other people, failing to read them, missing sarcasm, and the obsessiveness on everything. That mixed with the ADHD created hyper-obsessive moments of analyzing every single detail to its fault. Identify a plan, with a back-up to that, with a back-up to that, with multiple back-ups to that. So that control would never be lost, and people would always be predicated on prediction of their movements, actions, thoughts, and words. Unless of course you wind up losing your specific coffee cup at a national debate tournament, have a full blown panic attack during the awards ceremony, and find yourself pacing through the hotel retracing every step to try to find said cup. Those moments exist too.

-deep breath-

It’s been hard to internalize, to justify, to rationalize everything all at once. I’ve felt extreme embarrassment so many times, “Oh my gosh. I’m being overdramatic. I just need to suck it up. People are staring at me. I’m an idiot. Why do I keep snapping my fingers? Ugh. This is annoying. I need to escape.” All times brought upon by myself. Having to explain to students why I’m wearing sunglasses inside during a tournament, and still feeling dumb after doing your best to justify. Or…just waking up and knowing that you’re going to struggle to make it through the day, advising those around you at work to ensure that support is in place, etc….

I am not broken.

It has taken some time to rebuild the world around me, especially when it comes to support. Being more transparent, my wife now knows what to do when I get into a manic state, or when I have a complete breakdown. It’s our communication system, but it has taken some serious time. My students watch for any signs, and they are so, so awesome in relation to oddities. Coworkers support in the sake of knowing where I can go, where the weighted blanket is, and also doing random things like supplying latex gloves when I knew I was working with construction paper.

Is this new? Sounds like a disease, shouldn’t it be something you were born with?

Nope. Nothing new, I’ve always been like this. However, instead of creating support systems to lessen the anxiety. Instead I would either run away from problems (literally), completely snap in a rage of anger (Chipotle, three months ago, still happens), or just bottle it up, allow my anxiety to grip me, and stare into space at night wondering what on earth was so, so wrong with me. Trust me, nothing about that is healthy, but historically, those were the cards I was dealt.

Why write about it? Looking for some attention ‘snowflake’?

I mean; I have a man-bun, tattoos, and sometimes I have vegan meals; perhaps the terminology fits? Part of talking to Sabrina was being able to get it out on paper (digital). I’ve been afraid to write, and I absolutely love writing. The reality was a massive writers blocks (along with some events from the running world), so there was a challenge I gave myself to write everything out and see where it goes.

As for the ‘snowflake’ comment. Inside my mind I think about how someone can take my own thoughts and contribute it to the movement of millennials, safe spaces, and granola crunchy, tree-huggers. To this I have only one response…

Ok, boomer.

The truth is, in the end, I can hold my own in a ring (metaphor, I think). I’m still a crazy teacher, an insane runner, and someone that has more opinions than anyone knows what to do with. I will also say, after watching and working with trauma in young people for half a decade now, the concept of internalization of ones self is not healthy; physically or mentally, and it is not helping our society as whole. Need evidence? Hop on Twitter a random morning and check what’s trending, or the most recent body count.

There is nothing to beat in relation to myself though. There isn’t something to overcome either. God knew what He was doing when He decided to let me loose on the planet. I am me, and the only thing I’m having to figure out is how to accept me for me, and not just be content, but to be happy.

We’ll get there eventually.

…without any sand…

*In case anyone was wondering. To clarify there are set, specific people that are permitted to touch me. However, know that it has taken a long, long, long time to establish that kind of trust.





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