Today’s Washington Post Magazine features a column by Gene Weingarten that – despite not actually naming it – addresses Sensory Processing Disorder, a topic I wrote about for Counseling Today in March. He describes his own “tactile heebie-jeebies” around the process of bed-making, saying it makes him feel like his palms are “being sandpapered,” and adding that he must “bolt from the room” to end his agony. He then catalogues the quirks of others he has polled, finding that many more people have their own brand of tactile difficulty – more than he ever thought possible. His take is funny, self-deprecating, but most intriguingly, relatable and published by a national news outlet.
It’s so interesting to me when the mainstream media picks up on a mental health topic. It seems like overnight, Asperger’s made its way out of textbooks and into sitcom character backstories. OCD and hoarding are subjects of popular reality TV shows. Couples therapy is part of every reality dating show. Recently, world-renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan revealed her own struggle with mental illness, which gave her remarkable insight into the struggles of those she has helped over the years (my colleague Meredith Janson blogged about this earlier this month).
I can see no downsides to showing how common such experiences are for us human beings. If more people learn about SPD, autism, bipolar disorder, the basic struggles of marriage, etc., we all might have more patience and empathy for those suffering around us. And within that empathic environment, more people could feel comfortable getting the very real help that’s available.