Gating & Road Trips

And the countdown continues!  We’re two and a half weeks away from our big launch date. I find myself driving around Dallas, stuck in traffic, so much noise, and saying to myself, “Just two and a half weeks, just two and a half weeks…”

I don’t really know when the transition happened that I felt more at home driving in a car then I did in my house.  Wait, actually I do, it was the first road trip I took with Andrew.  We flew to Seattle then road tripped down the coast to see one of our favorite musicians.  Andrew has a great post about it here.  Check it out.

We drank beer in little hole in the wall dive bars.  We wandered up and down the beach.  We listened to music, Andrew singing in his tenor and me super low alto.  We laughed, had long non-fight “discussions”, worked out a lot of kinks and just explored.  I started dreaming then of never coming home.  Of ways that I can just keep driving, keep exploring, and now I can’t believe that, years later, it’s actually happening.

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I’m looking forward to living more simply, carrying around less, sitting outside and watching the sunset and taking proactive steps to better mental health.  I’m not saying that going on the road will fix all my problems, but I do feel much more at ease when I’m living outside.

There is this thing called Sensory Gating.  It where the brain filters out unimportant stimuli.  For example, when most people drive down the street, they see the cars in front of them and traffic lights and stop signs.  Those who’s brains do not Gate see the cyclist three blocks down on a side street, hear every song in nearby cars all playing at the same time, people walking in and out of stores and what their t-shirt says, the people sitting in their cars waiting at the red light and what their hair looks like, as well as sounds…  So many car sounds, street sounds, people sounds.  It can be wee bit overwhelming.  Every sound, every color, every person is important information.  Nothing is filtered out.  My doctor told me that I can know when my medicine is not working when my brain stops Sensory Gating.  It’s time to give him a call.

I have a feeling that many people struggle with this to some degree.  If chewing is annoying, the music is too loud at restaurants so you can’t follow your conversation, other people’s conversations keep interrupting your own, then you might have a problem with Gating.  If the lights at Target are too loud then you have a problem with Gating.  Some times I walk into that place and turn right back around.  I then hole up in my quiet home and drink hot tea.  Some days I just have to just chalk it up to “one of those days.”

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Combine not Gating with extreme mood swings and you got one hot mess of a girl, haha.  An anxious, on edge girl.  I’ve had very caring people question my decision of going on the road because of my mental health.  And let me tell you, my brain is the most quiet when I’m outside.  My brain still struggles with Gating but the information that I’m taking in is bird calls, squirrels playing, flies buzzing, leaves rustling and all of these things are very calming to my brain.

So going on the road is the most proactive thing I can do.  It helps to remove myself from the stimuli that is overwhelming.  I’m not saying that Full Timing it will solve all my problems.  I still struggle, I just don’t struggle nearly as much.

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We all have our things that we struggle with.  If it’s not Gating then it’s depression, mood swings, extreme PMS, weight issues, Mama guilt, comparing, anxiety, or something else.  I open up on this blog with my issues so perhaps you feel less alone in what you’re going through.  We all got our stuff.

So how do I work through my Gating issue?  Well, I’m outside as much as possible, I’m on medication that helps with it, I eat the best that I can, exercise regularly and I take lots of deep breaths.  All of these things affect mental health.

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I want this blog to be a place where real issues are discussed and not shamed.  It would make my heart so happy if after reading this you went and had a vulnerable conversation with a friend about whatever you struggle with.  I’ve been so ashamed of my issues for so long, and writing about them has brought a lot of light to dark recesses of my mind.

As usual, I would love your thoughts.  Does any of this sound familiar?  Perhaps you think you know a family member that is struggling with this.  I’d love your feedback.

You are not alone in your struggles.  We all have our stuff.  I think that is one of the most powerful lies about mental health: “No one understands, no one can help me.”  It’s in these vulnerable places that powerful conversations can happen.  Find a friend, open up, and keep taking deep breaths!

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9 thoughts on “Gating & Road Trips

  1. I have never heard of Sensory Gating! And yes, I think I have a bit of an issue with it. I think it probably goes hand-in-hand with being a severe migraine sufferer, as we tend to be sensitive to sounds, lights and other input, and to notice it more than most people. Immediately upon sitting down for lunch in a restaurant, I will so often ask for the music to be turned down, and this is after I’ve made sure we’re not under a fan or near a large party. Last week, I even jokingly asked the waitress if she could turn down the crying baby. It all comes in and makes it hard for me to focus on my conversation. Thank you for letting me put a name to it!

    1. Yes Debi yes!! Restaurants are hard for me and fans drive me crazy!! I’m so sorry you have migraines. I can only imagine how painful and frustrating that is.

  2. I love this post. There is something so wonderful about being real and not hiding behind a mask that seems to get glued to our faces over time. I, too, (and 99% of other people in the world) have dealt with such shame. But once the facade is dropped, healing has a better chance. Thank you for sharing and for welcoming others to do the same. I hope that as you enjoy your new freedom on the road, a deeper freedom will take root inside of you. ❤️

    1. Amy thank you so so much for your comment! I have found such healing by finally opening up in this space. It’s also encouraged me to open up to my friends. Thank you again for commenting!!

  3. Great post, Thanks for sharing so honestly! I hope this next experience on the road brings you even closer to “Home” and feeling better and at peace.

  4. Hi Ellen. I’m a friend of Debi Morton who introduced me to your husband’s amazing photos. I’m excited for you to hit the road full time, and a wee bit envious. I love being outside as well. Thank you for sharing. I’m delighted to have a name for noise annoyance! Restaurants are fast becoming nearly intolerable, especially when people talk on their cell phones! I can barely be in a room when someone is eating popcorn, but interestingly enough, I can sit by the ocean all afternoon and listen to roaring waves and feel completely at peace. I hope your road trip brings a wealth of fabulous new experiences.

    1. Hi Beth!! I’m so happy you’re following along on our adventure! Yes, when my doctor first told me about Gating so many things clicked into place. I’m so glad the same can happen with you. Thank you for commenting!!

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