Surviving Sensory Overload

The hardest part about having Sensory Processing Disorder is never knowing when sensory overload might occur.  There are certain environments I know will create anxiety and stress for me, and I avoid them as much as I can. But there are other times when a whirlwind of sensory input might assault me suddenly and without warning. The result is a seemingly random meltdown (at least to innocent bystanders, or to my mother who usually gets frantic text messages from me).

When I get overwhelmed, my brain immediately goes into survival mode. If I have no control over the bombarding stimuli, then my heart races at full panic mode until I’m able to escape. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself that there’s no real threat, or that the sounds wouldn’t bother a “normal” person. It still hurts. I guess my brain has a mind of its own.

I recently discovered that if I get involved in a project, like drawing or painting,  I can cope with a LOT more sensory input than usual. My focus is so intense when I draw that the world just melts away…along with my anxiety, doubt and pain. 

The Truth About Prince Charming

Once upon a time, I truly believed I had found my prince charming, only to find out later that he was just wearing a disguise. As I was pondering how hard it is for me to understand men, this cartoon idea came to mind.

Two Frogs

My drawings that are posted on www.jenniferleighallison.com and my social networks are ©Copyright Jennifer Allison. They shall not be used for any reason without prior written permission.

Flexing My Right Brain

Growing up I spent a lot of time drawing and painting. I dreamed of being a cartoonist one day. However, I was hired right out of art school to do web design and I’ve been on the computer ever since (over 20 years now). And while I enjoy that type of work too, I have really missed the feeling of a pencil in my fingers and the ability to let my mind wander on creating something whimsical. So, I got out some paper last night and decided to get my right brain in gear again.

First, I searched for a photo I could use for inspiration and I found this:

oak tree

As soon as I saw this tree I wanted to climb it…or even LIVE in it. Its long, flowing branches look just like strong arms welcoming me in for a big hug. I LOVE it. So, I set out to draw this tree and this is what happened:

Treehouse

I wouldn’t call it photorealistic (ha!) but it was still fun. I need to invest in some nicer markers and paper now, then hopefully you’ll start to see some more drawings from me.

My drawings that are posted on www.jenniferleighallison.com and my social networks are ©Copyright Jennifer Allison. They shall not be used for any reason without prior written permission.

How to Be Even More Awesome

SupermanReady to start a new year? Afraid of failure? Not sure what to do next? Even if you’ve got it all together it’s still a good time to shake things up a bit. Here are several things you can do to reach a whole new level of awesome, which will ultimately inspire others to do the same.

Dream BIG
If you think your dreams are too big or impossible, dream even bigger. Stretch yourself to go further and reach higher than you’ve ever done before.  Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  If you allow God to work through you, you can definitely accomplish the impossible. He created you with gifts and talents to fulfill a mission. Trust Him.

Be Insanely Passionate
Being passionate keeps you motivated, but your zeal and enthusiasm is also inspiring to others. They may think you’re a little crazy for a while, but they’ll eventually watch your dreams come true. At that point you can stick your tongue out to all the haters and proclaim, “Who is crazy now?” It may very well still be you, but that’s okay.

10 Resolutions I Won’t Be Making

Girl holding a sparklerIt’s that time of year when everyone is setting personal resolutions for losing weight, saving money, or trying to be less of an idiot in some way. For me, here’s ten resolutions that I WON’T be making:

1. Be Less Rambunctious
I have a curious mind. I love to explore, test, try, push boundaries and take risks. I learn best by trial and error. It’s how I discover things and engage with the world around me. Sure, it gets me in trouble sometimes (er, a lot of times) but I learn from my mistakes. Usually.

2. Grow Up and Act My Age
I’ll never be too old for crayons, costumes, treehouses, or sugar-infused giggling. It’s how I stay grounded and relieve stress. Work hard but play even harder!!

3. Hide My Inner Nerd
I love books, science, toys and movies to a nerdy degree. I even have my own mutant super-human powers like some of my favorite childhood superheroes (read my post about Sensory Processing Disorder to see what I mean). I’ve been through a lot in my life, so I feel a responsibility to inspire others to overcome their personal nemesis as well…which means I’m highly likely to make a lot of Star Wars or Princess Bride references in conversation. It just happens.

A Gift to Bring That’s Fit to Give Our King

Drum Christmas tree ornamentOne of my favorite Christmas songs has always been “Little Drummer Boy”. Partly because I love drums and percussion, but more so because of the boy’s amazing courage to bring all he had to the newborn King. As I listened to the song again this year, I was so moved by the story that I want to share what it means to me.

Here are five important things I believe we can learn from the little drummer boy:

Keeping Christmas Truly Magical

Christmas MagicI love the weeks preceding Christmas when the night skies are flickering with multi-colored lights and the house smells of logs burning in the fireplace. I even enjoy the crisp cold bite in the air when I walk outside. I just wish there was a thick blanket of snow on the ground so I could go sledding, but that rarely happens in the South.

There’s something truly magical in the air as the world anticipates the Christmas holiday. However, for some kids, it can be a time of hurt and disappointment, or even confusion.

When I was 7 years old, that Christmas magic was suddenly ripped out of my life when another kid told me the truth about Santa. I felt abandoned, angry and foolish for believing such an elaborate lie. All my hope and trust was vanquished the moment my eyes were opened to the harsh reality that I had been conned…by my own parents. And as a natural consequence, I doubted everything else they tried to teach me…like who God is. For many years I struggled to know who I could trust to keep me informed of  the truths in life, and to help me navigate the tumultuous world of uncertainty that surrounded me.

So, here are four ways I believe we can help avoid doubt and confusion for our kids and keep the Christmas magic alive:

Crazy Things We Do For Love

Funny boy holding flowerMost of us have probably done some pretty crazy things to draw the attention of someone we love.  My little brother used to spend every dime of his hard-earned lawn mowing money each week on the girl next door. He lavished her with ridiculous amounts of candy and stuffed animals, just in hopes that she would talk to him.  I truly believe that falling in love makes us temporarily insane, because I’ve done some pretty crazy things myself.

One time, when I was about fourteen years old, I was invited to a lake party where a boy I really liked was going to be. I asked my best friend to come too, so she could provide moral support since I was nervous about seeing my crush.  But before we left, I decided to take her for a quick thrill ride on my motorcycle first.

As usual, I showed off by kicking up dust and rocks as I gunned the engine and went as fast as I could up a hill. It was a lot of fun. But when we descended the steep path to head back home for the party, I suddenly lost control of the bike as we rounded a sharp turn.  It had rained the night before so the mud and gravel were more slippery than usual and we suddenly found ourselves body surfing on the rocky ground alongside the motorcycle. Our bumpy slide finally ended when we fell into a ditch surrounded by boulders and trees on the other side. But then the heavy motorcycle fell right on top of me and I became pinned inside the trench.