Modulation Madness

Picture of a running Tyrannosaurus Rex

Small-scale Modulation Madness

Think of what it would be like if every time you wanted to exit the freeway you had to overcome the concrete barrier, crash down the grassy hill, jump the curb and merge with street traffic driving at one third your speed.

My guess is you would just keep driving on the freeway until you ran out of gas.

Sensory modulation is the entrance ramps and acceleration lanes of the normal human brain.

From major life changes to small everyday activities, people with atypical sensory modulation abilities may struggle with transition.

My own personal transition struggles begin first thing in the morning and are complicated by not having traditional employment that requires I be at a specific place at a specific time, dressed in a specific way.  

Anytime executive function meets with spontaneous decision, the Bad Ass Lizard of Homeostasis leans toward not doing it, whatever it is. She is freakishly attached to the status quo. The madness looks something like this:

Blog Writer of Human Intellect: “It’s time to get up.”

Lizzy:  “I don’t feel like it.”

Blogger: “But you really should.”

L: “Why?”

B: “Because you will feel like shit if you lie in bed too long.”

L: “I don’t have anything pressing and I need to rest.”

B: “You said you were going to the edit chapter three and go to the grocery store.”

L: “That can wait until tomorrow.”

B: “You are not going to feel any better tomorrow.”

L: “I don’t want to get up!”

B: “Just get up!”


B: “What the hell is your problem?”

It is hard on Blogger’s self-esteem to begin each day in this manner.

Add to the modulation problem an extreme sensitivity to sensation, and you can just imagine what the process of getting dressed sounds like.

Sensory processing disorder answered the following questions:

“Why do you have 16 black cotton shirts?”

“Why do you have 6 pairs of comfortable black shoes?”

Until I learned about Sensory Processing Disorder, I could not imagine why I was the only middle-class woman in the US who wore the same thing every day.

My friends have such a good time shopping, building and rotating their wardrobes. Normal women in creative plumage with stylish accessories are a joy to behold. But if I had to choose from a myriad of styles and colors every day I would never make it out of my closet.

“Just wear the black one.”

Routine is the modu-madness person’s best friend. We may not have a built in off-ramp and deceleration lane every other mile, but give us enough time and repetition and we will drag that lizard over the rubble pile we busted through the concrete barrier.

Grand-scale Modulation Madness

Major life changes create grand scale difficulty for the modulation-impaired. My Blog Writer of Human Intellect believes life changes should be much less traumatic than they actually turn out to be.

Give me a major life challenge and I will show you some major dysfunction.

Blogger believes that change is good. She knows from reading literature and philosophy that major change is stimulating, life enhancing and character building.

But to Lizzy, major upheaval is tantamount to torture, one short step from absolute annihilation. Consequently she works hard to avoid change.

She is a stealthy little avoider. She throws up one obstacle after another. These obstacles wear the clever disguise of very important preparation for whatever ultimate action I plan to accomplish.  It’s quite simple for Lizzy to hold up the show in this fashion as all three levels of my brain are most content when they have me sitting safely at my desk learning new information and strategizing new processes. Lizzy simply declares that for success, something must be learned or built. I cozy up to the project, brain fully engaged and don’t emerge for hours, weeks, months or years depending on exactly what I am “preparing” to accomplish.

Take my most recent major upheaval.

In June of 2009, I sold the company I began in 1984 and nurtured for 25 years.

Blogger had petitioned for the change for over a decade. In ten years the intention grew from a modest molehill into an elaborate mountain kingdom, a delusional vacation spot I visited regularly whenever my mind was not otherwise occupied.

I finally began concrete action in 2007. I calculated getting the company ready to sell would take approximately six months. I was demoralized to discover it took two years. During those two years Lizzy convinced Blogger that the business needed a new website. This blossomed into a project that required I learn three software applications plus HTML, CSS and a little Java Script.

When the website was finally “almost good enough,” I rolled up my sleeves and got to work rebuilding my database. That was an even longer process that involved learning how to build complex joined tables, elaborate forms and reports and even a bit of SQL.

Maybe this is just the process. Maybe Lizzy put Blogger to work on a task she was good at to keep her occupied. While Blogger was hard at work, Lizzy walked the length of the concrete barrier looking for a spot that she wouldn’t mind being drug over.

At the two year mark I came to realize that my company would never be “ready.” It would never even remotely resemble the Disneyland of capitalistic success I had envisioned. I spent many tearful episodes in Watson’s lap, with him assuring me in every possible configuration of words that I was not an utter failure and that I could in fact move forward from this humble spot. He never told me, but I figured out for myself, what I was suffering from was a grand-scale brain hijack by my life-long tormentor Procrastination and her evil henchman Perfectionism.

That realization pissed me off. I went right to the phone and called the broker. The company sold quickly and efficiently for exactly the modest price the broker and I had expected.

My after-sale plan was to actualize my “real” career as a writer – the career I was supposed to have in the life that had been denied me by some confluence of horrible forces and events I had yet to understand.

My plan was simple. I would write the novel pent up inside me and be catapulted instantly over the wall of obscurity and into economic utopia. I figured that should take a year.

Coincidentally a year was the exact amount of time I calculated I could live comfortably on the proceeds of the sale of the business.

What a chi latte is to the everyday transition, grandiose optimism is to the major life change.

Now we are approaching the end of year two. The manuscript is three-quarters completed, abandoned for the moment because I simply cannot imagine how to rework it in such a way as to not alienate my entire extended family.

The proceeds of the sale are spent. However we are managing, sparsely, on Watson’s income.

And Lizzy is having convulsions at the thought of anyone – except my dearest friends and supporting writers – laying a critical eye on my work.

I am writing this particular blog post after

1)    A four-tissue melt down with my critique group Monday night, me despairing that I will ever be brave enough to take any of my writing public,

2)    A bout of insomnia that, despite sleeping medication, left me groggy and miserable the next morning,

3)    Two hours of forcing myself to lie still and not micromanage a very expensive therapeutic massage that was intended to relax me,

4)    Several compulsive tasks I did not enjoy, all the while coaxing myself –wheedling, whining, begging, bribing myself — to sit down and write for “just one productivity block and then you can have a cookie.”

Half the block was spent on Wikipedia looking up various pages regarding obsession. Technically, I should have denied myself the cookie.

I am now on my thirty-fourth half-hour productivity block and will most likely edit this piece obsessively for the rest of the week before I take it to my critique group Monday.

If you are actually reading this piece on my blog, you are witnessing a sensory processing miracle.

Be inspired.

6 Replies to “Modulation Madness”

  1. “Until I learned about Sensory Processing Disorder, I could not imagine why I was the only middle-class woman in the US who wore the same thing every day.”
    haha yeah as a kid I always wanted to wear the same outfit. and now all my clothes feel similar. and it’s most important for my sleep clothes to all feel the same. I think I can desensitize to clothes if they always feel similar.

    1. Uncomfortable clothes are a deal-breaker for me. I can’t stand the texture of certain fabrics. Can’t stand anything stiff or tight or with a waist-band. Necklines and sleeves have to be just right. I can wear pantyhose and heels if I absolutely have to but they take their toll.

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