**DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is designed to provide helpful information to people with sensory disabilities, mental illnesses or other special needs. I do not own any rights from Build-A-Bear or Pokemon, or their affiliates. Any references are for informational use only. I understand Build-A-Bear and Pokemon are not responsible for any problems the product has after it’s alteration.**
If you follow my Instagram, you know I took a plane out west for vacation! It was an exciting adventure, but I had my fair share of nerves as well. When preparing for my trip last week, I knew I wanted to bring my weighted blanket to help me regulate my anxiety while on the plane and in a strange city, but the thought of lugging a 14lbs blanket through the airport was less than appealing. I began trying to think of solutions that were more practical for travel, but still gave me the benefits and feelings of security. If you look on Amazon, there are weighted lap pads and some weighted stuffed animals. I had found the solution! But pricing and the time it would take to ship were far less than ideal. So I called up a friend who’s a wizard at sewing, and we got to work.
I love Build-A-Bear and have been collecting for years. I had the idea to buy an unstuffed skin from them and stuff it at home with the poly pellets used to stuff weighted blankets. When I called my local Build-A-Bear, they informed me that their skins were not tested to hold weight inside of them and that they wouldn’t sell me an unstuffed skin if I planned to weight it. Upon further research (a call to the guest service line), I was told that while the animals were indeed not tested to hold weight, there wasn’t anything stopping me from unstuffing it at home and restuffing it myself, so that’s just what I did.
I picked Squirtle to be turned into my weighted stuffed animal. I liked the idea of having a Pokemon as my partner in crime to hang out with me, much like Pikachu does with Ash in the TV show. After stuffing Squirtle as usual at Build-A-Bear, we brought him to the sewing room at my friend’s house for some major surgery. We reopened the hole in his back and pulled out all the stuffing. It was an incredible sensory activity for me, I used it as a mindfulness activity, focusing on how the stuffing felt in my hand, how it looked, how it smelled… you get the idea.
Once Squirtle was unstuffed, the real work began. We sewed small pouches of fabric into sizes that represented the general shapes of his limbs, head and body shape. Those were stuffed into his body instead of regular stuffing. To make sure small things like his fingers and roundness of his head were preserved, I stuck small amounts of stuffing back into his body to give him the final shape he needed! After being stitched back up, he was all set and ready to go!
I couldn’t believe the effectiveness when I tested him out! We had been able to stuff about 5lbs of pellets into the skin, and while it wasn’t like my weighted blanket, it wasn’t nothing either. Placing Squirtle on my chest helped with my anxiety, and when my legs started to shake, placing him on my lap gave me a warm reminder that everything was okay. These positions are much like the ones a psychiatric service dog uses when it’s owner experiences the beginning stages of anxiety attacks. The dog with lay it’s head on your chest or put it’s front paws on your lap when you begin to feel anxious. Squirtle doesn’t feel unlike a newborn baby when you hold him, and it’s a very comforting feeling.
As predicted, I experienced a great deal of anxiety while on the plane and while taking a bus from my aunt and uncle’s house to downtown Portland. Squirtle was a real trooper and sat on my lap for the duration of my flight, occasionally crawling up onto my chest when I took a nap. It’s fun to imagine he’s alive, especially because he has the weight and density of a real animal. I feel like I’ve got a real travel pal who I can whisper my anxieties to, and know that he’ll keep the secret. Did I get some weird looks? Sure I did. It’s not every day a 21-year-old sits and talks to a stuffed animal in the middle of the Minneapolis/ St. Paul airport, but it got me through my flights!
Do you have a unique possession that helps you get through stressful experiences? I’d love to hear them- let me know in the comments below!