I'm Neurodivergent Part 3: Going to Parties and the Safe and Sound Protocol

Big thanks to Lisa Williams at Magnolia Wellness! Lisa facilitated the Safe and Sound Protocol for me. Her expertise and guidance throughout the program were integral to the amazing results I experienced. I am forever grateful that she provides access to this intervention.


Check out part 2 of this series, here.

Last week I talked about starting the Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP). This is an audio-based therapy for nervous system regulation based on Dr. Stephen Porges Polyvagal Theory. 

SSP can help with a variety of things including:

  • Sleep issues
  • Anxiety
  • Auditory Sensitivities
  • Inattention
  • Trauma
  • Social Engagement

The program is divided into 10 half-hour sessions of specially filtered music that you can listen to while doing any calm activity. The only stipulation is that you can’t look at screens (phone, tablet, computer, TVs) while you’re listening to the music. I found myself cooking, cleaning, playing with my daughter, or meditating during my audio sessions.

I decided to try SSP to help with nervous system regulation, social engagement, and auditory sensitivities. Specifically, my hope was that SSP could help me feel more comfortable around people outside of my “core group” and help me with auditory sensitivities in group settings. If I’m talking one on one with someone, I have no issue. But parties and large gatherings tend to be overstimulating for me as I can hear conversations happening across the room very clearly, making it hard to focus on the conversation happening in front of me.

To make matters worse, if I’m in a situation where people are deliberately talking over one another, my anxiety usually shoots through the roof as I struggle to figure out which person to focus on.

When I started the Safe and Sound Protocol, I had three social events on my calendar that I could put this therapy to the test. 

Event #1 – A Child’s Birthday Party

By the time this event came around, I had completed four half-hour sessions of the program, and I was already seeing results. I knew the audio program was doing something as each time I started the sessions, I had a myriad of different physical sensations throughout my body. These feelings ranged from tingling, slight aching in my arms and legs, tightening and loosening of muscles in my core, and digestive changes. On session four, I had an unusual experience of feeling like I was “floating and rotating”. Not an unpleasant experience at all, but definitely not what I was anticipating.

The birthday party was what you might expect – very loud, as children ran around and played with various toys. Still, even with the cacophony of noise, I was able to hold conversations with the adults without zeroing in on clattering across the house or getting distracted by other conversations happening around the room. I wouldn’t say I was completely comfortable, but I was not so overstimulated that I needed to leave. For me, that was a huge win.

Event #2 – Brunch with Moms

This event was the day after the child’s birthday party, so I only completed one more SSP session, putting me right at the halfway point in the program. This was a casual brunch with about 14 women at a long table in an outdoor restaurant. To test how SSP was going, I deliberately chose to sit in the middle of the table where I would be surrounded by different people on both sides..

Surprisingly, this event went off without a hitch for me. Even though there were at least five to six separate conversations taking place on either side of me the entire meal (about three hours), I had no issue staying focused on whomever I was talking to, and switching seamlessly between conversations.

One woman actually told me near the end of brunch that she thought I was a “great conversationalist”. A very unexpected compliment that made me feel really good about myself and my progress.

Event #3 – Sushi Lunch with Neurodivergent Folks

I recently discovered a local group in my area specifically for neurodivergent adults and I decided to check it out and join them for their latest event.

Coincidentally, this event was scheduled to take place after I completed all 10 half-hour sessions of the Safe and Sound Protocol. By the time the day came for this event, I was noticing a big difference in myself on a day-to-day basis. I was more relaxed, getting to sleep faster at night, and getting back to a calm baseline more quickly if I dealt with a stressful situation. 

In the hours leading up to the lunch, I noticed that I was completely calm, which was unusual for me. I was expecting to feel at least a little nervous to meet a new group of people. 

At the event, I found myself talking opening about issues I’ve had with ADHD, including struggles I had as a child that flew under the radar because I was “good at school” and wasn’t disruptive. When I talked about my reliance on my calendar, reminders, and checklists to stay organized and not forget things, I noticed another woman nodding her head. She chimed in that she too had inattentive-type ADHD and relied on the same methods to get through her PhD program. 

Being in a group of only neurodivergent folks for an afternoon was incredibly healing.

I didn’t have to mask or pretend to be someone I wasn’t. We were all able to share openly the joys and sorrows of our experiences. We were able to swap tips and strategies with out each other in a supportive, nonjudgemental way. We were able to talk about the advantages of our neurodivergence. 

And we were able to laugh.

We laughed at how goofy, silly, weird, and amazing we all could be in our own unique ways. We let ourselves be vulnerable, and have fun, and not worry about being “different” for a few hours. 

I plan to see these folks again in the near future, but in the meantime, I’m trying to find ways to take those amazing feelings with me into my everyday life. 

While it’s beautiful that I have so many amazing neurodivergent people in my life now, my ultimate goal is to be completely comfortable being my full authentic self in any setting.

I’m still working on that. 🌟 

Check out part 4 here.

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