The struggle with sensorial discomfort is a looming feature of daily life for autistic individuals. Fortunately, a Ph.D scholar is expected to be somewhat reclusive – even for ‘normal’ folks (but… how many ‘normal’ folks want to do a Ph.D anyway?) – and hence I am enjoying a good measure of isolation now, without the social remonstration that often comes with choosing peace and quiet above meaningless socialising. It helps me to be alone when my body is in pain. The wet weather does not make it easier to navigate, the smell of rot is cloying and nauseating, and I am less able to shake away the chemical onslaught of depression.
A bowl of hot rice congee with salty preserved soy beancurd always helps to settle my frayed senses at times like these. Of course, Lucy helps so much. She is sensory and emotional comfort to me in a way that no human ever could be, she is beautiful, a visual balm, and she makes me laugh too.
Sensory pain is something that most people cannot grasp the concept of, let alone empathise with (unless they themselves are thusly afflicted). It isn’t just a matter of too-loud sounds, too-bright lights, too-stinky smells, too-rough textures etc. Physical reactions can often be impossible to ‘control’ so please don’t make stupid remarks at us like, “Just bear with it and stop being so precious!” If we could help it, we would, believe me.
I am feeling that I have done myself a disservice by becoming so proficient with this ‘normality’ pretext, suffering sensory assault with a smile, such that when I teeter to the edge of a meltdown, people react with horror and even sometimes mockery at my ‘drama.’ However, being able to perform ‘normality’ is so crucial to many autistics who simply need to carve out their own independent survival in this harsh alien neurotypical social landscape. I do suspect we are not alone, because such is the nature of the world at large, a mega masquerade party, it seems to me. I guess it is just that much more exhausting for our autistic mindsets, that is all. We do not enjoy the fake-ness of it at all, and the cost is much higher for us in every way. Nevertheless, we don’t have a choice. So… “let’s go on with the show” !
(I grew up on a diet of this stuff. I effectively learned everything I know now about navigating the neurotypical world from the vast collection of MGM musical movies that my father collected and I imbibed voraciously. This number in Annie Get Your Gun has appealed to me in its poignancy since I first watched it as a child. Showbusiness isn’t all glamour is it?)