“Sensitivities”

Things neurotypicals (most of them anyway, hopefully, really) now understand are not a “choice” but are genetic:

Being gay/bisexual

Being transgender

Things neurotypicals (most of them anyway) now understand are different brain processes:

Being colorblind

Having synesthesia

(maybe?) having prospoagnosia

The thing I still don’t understand is why can non-autistic people not believe that loud sounds, or bright lights, or light touch, can literally cause us physical pain? 

I don’t understand why non-autistic people can listen to someone who had a concussion, or who just got their eyes dilated, and so are sensitive to bright lights, and respect, understand, and accommodate them. In those conditions, people usually understand and go “oh ok I’ll turn the lights down.” But if for some reason you just grow up with that sensitivity, that you’ve always had – somehow it’s impossible for them to understand that that could be your life ALL the time. That it’s genetic. That that’s how someone processes information constantly.

Somehow non-autistic people still don’t believe autistic people’s sensory processing experiences, overwhelm, and pain.

Does it need to be called Sensory Processing Pain Disorder? Because that is what it is. It is pain, pure and simple. It is not anything less than pain. 

More Analogies

Do I need to make analogies of being disoriented and overwhelmed for NTs to understand? like being on a high dose of LSD constantly?

Imagine being on a high dose of LSD all of your life. Imagine going to school while being on LSD. Imagine not knowing how to talk to people on the playground because you’re taking in all this information because you’re on a high dose of LSD. Imagine people telling you to “get out more” and “go talk to people” and “stop worrying about things” when you’re scared because you don’t know what’s going on because there are so many things happening, sounds, lights, people talking to you, and you’re on a high dose of LSD. Imagine people reprimanding you because you didn’t do something right because you’re on a high dose of LSD. Imagine them just telling you to “try harder” or “stop complaining” while you’re already very overwhelmed because you’re on a high dose of LSD.

It’s ironic to me that being on drugs is a decent analogy for explaining sensory differences, when I have never done recreational drugs (including drinking alcohol) because I worry my sensory processing would go even more haywire. It’s also ironic because when I am particularly tired and cannot mask, people think I am stoned. I’ve been asked in college if I was stoned because I stop looking at people’s faces and I don’t have any energy to perform NT-speak. Turns out, I’m just autistic! I just experienced this rather recently as well because I was too tired to mask.

What do I need to do to make non-autistic people understand that we have different sensory experiences than them, and have had different sensory experiences since birth? They can be overwhelming, unpleasant, and painful. They can be beneficial in some circumstances, and honestly, debilitating in many neurotypical environments. They can be both. But one thing is certain: They exist, and are real. 

Why is it so “wild” that sounds could physically hurt you? or bright lights? Why is that where they draw the line on what could be a neurological difference?

It’s so hard to portray disorientation, sensory overwhelm, and sensory pain. And I don’t understand why it has to be so hard to do!

Why can’t people just believe us?

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4 thoughts on ““Sensitivities””

  1. I understand the frustration! I cannot stand heat and whenever I told people I grew up in Singapore, they would just assume I would be used to the hot weather and humidity. Same thing with my sensitivity to noise, people just assume I will get used to it if I am exposed to noise on a daily basis, I wish they would understand! You wouldn’t say to someone with food allergy to eat the very thing they’re allergic to, why can’t they understand it’s the same thing with sensory sensitivity!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know. I know other people are able to habituate to sound – and even when I was undiagnosed, I tried exposing myself to sound because I thought eventually I’ll “get over it” (since it’s what everyone else seems to imply). It didn’t work at all, it just made it worse. I guess people can’t fathom that some people’s brains actually don’t habituate to stimuli like theirs. Heat sensitivity sounds awful. Ironically I’m often cold – even air blowing on my skin can make me feel cold when it’s not necessarily “cold” to most people. It took a while for me to realize when I was saying I was “cold” it meant I have goosebumps because air’s blowing on my skin. Other times it can be cold outside (like 30 degrees F) and I won’t actually be “cold” because there’s no wind. I got told it “wasn’t cold in here” a lot.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I think normal pain itself is a contested term – people think of it as physical, but actually neurologically it involves various different types of sensory receptors (e.g. touch, vibration, temperature) as well as emotions; it involves complex neural pathways that both go from the site of pain to the brain, and back the other way or other pathways to modulate the pain that is felt. Maybe it’s better to use the term ‘intolerably intense sensation’? because that’s really what pain (e.g. if you break your leg) is. It is really frustrating though, because I think you need to have studied some neuroscience to realise this.

    Liked by 2 people

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