Thursday, May 29, 2014

Aaron vs. Motorcycles

I've remained in Indy this week after the 500 as I'm working a race in Kalamazoo, Michigan this upcoming week and it's been a much needed time of decompression which has been one of the reasons, I think, my blog is back to the quality I expect of myself. Anyway, yesterday while walking towards an entrance of a store, I happened to pass two motorcycles and the riders had just gotten on to them which means one of the scariest things I know was about to happen.

Motorcycles and myself have never gotten along. A friend I had when I was young had a dad that rode a motorcycle and so many times I was asked if I wanted to ride along even if it was just for 1,000 yards. My answer was always no (and sometimes a sobbing no) because of the scariest aspect of them; noise.

At the store as I walked behind the motorcycles my anxiety and internal defenses were on maximum alert as I waited, waited, and waited for the inevitable moment where the engines roar to life with the noise that shakes the earth. Even to this day the noise bothers me albeit not as bad as it was when I was younger.

When I was young I remember one instance I was standing with my back to my friend's dad's motorcycle and the engine was turned on and I proceeded to run as fast as I could away from that place screaming. I was in a state of pure panic and thinking back I can remember the responses from those around me in that there was no understanding. To everyone else there was nothing abnormal about an engine being turned on. Was it louder? Sure it was, but loud enough to induce the state of being it put me in? To those around me the answer was clearly no.

This was my fear as I was even with the motorcycles as I didn't want a repeat of twentysomething years ago. The other thing I thought was this; it's odd that I can work at a race track with zero issues but just two random motorcycles in a parking lot on the north side of Indianapolis was creating an anxiety event. There's a difference, and I mention this often when inquired about it at presentations, and that is when I'm at a race track I have ear protection. They work amazing and you'll never see me at a track without them.

Back when I was young I had no idea how anyone tolerated such unfiltered and loud noise that is the roar of the engine from a motorcycle. For those around me they too couldn't understand how the unfiltered noise created such a severe response. It got to the point that if the motorcycle was parked out front I would no play outside, or even go over to the house, because of the threat of the noise because it was that bad.

Yesterday I made it past the motorcycles before the engines turned on and I was right by the door when they did fire up but I was in the clear as the doors swooped open. A great relief came about me and the anxiety buildup that was there was quickly receding. A miniature crisis had been averted and I was elated. Perhaps it isn't very often one has to deal with something that scared them when they were a child, but when it comes to sensory issues it isn't a fear in the sense that one might fear the boogeyman or any other ghastly being. Instead, this issue is one of the brain in the way my body reacts to it; I don't simply hear the noise I feel the noise and the feeling is one of pain. A couple weeks ago while in extreme southwest Missouri I was riding with a coworker and a school district director of special ed and they had heard my presentations several times in which I describe a sensory issue as, "comparable to being in a car and having a near miss; that feeling of extreme adrenaline that creates a sensation as if the bodies insides are trying to jump out" and in the middle of my second day of presenting we were driving from one school to another when this pug ran out into the street. The dog looked as if it was going to get to the other side when it froze due to a car coming in the other lane (this was two-way, one lane each way road) and quickly darted into our lane. Instead of running to safety the pug froze in out lane and the driver stabbed the breaks as we all feared the outcome for this poor little pug. We came to a stop just inches away from the dog and luckily for us the semi-truck behind us stopped inches from going through our car. Not missing a beat I said, "That feeling you're feeling... that's the one I feel in a sensory issue." In might have been a bit more tasteful to wait 15 minutes or so, but since everyone was all right I wanted to drive the message home as to what the feeling of fear, panic, and pain a sensory issue can create.

Going back to when I was young there was no way anyone could've known what was going on with me. And why should they? I was unaware of myself and couldn't describe the feeling and if I did what type of response would I have received? Tough it out? It doesn't hurt? Actually, I had a music teacher tell me "it doesn't hurt" one time when I complained about the class in which we learned what bass was. And that's the difference between back then and today and this is why awareness and understanding is oh so vitally important. If a child isn't diagnosed how could the parents possibly know why their child is having the reaction to a loud noise, like a motorcycle, without a proper diagnosis?

This title of this post may seem like I'm anti-motorcycle but I'm not, I'm just against them firing up when I'm standing behind. This is something a lot of people probably aren't a fan of, but for myself it is something that, as I look back on my life, is one of the greater things that caused deep issues. Even today, if you were unaware of the autism spectrum, this is something that might be hard to grasp. For myself, others on the spectrum, and family members of those that are on the autism spectrum this is something that may just be all too familiar. 

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