Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The Fear of Saying "I Hurt"


One of the chapters I remember writing the most from my first book was, “If I were dying from thirst would I ask for a glass of water?” because I still struggle for asking for things even if I truly need it. A good example of this happened to me back in 2010 as I was flagging a USAC quarter midget race at Eldora Speedway. The weather was hot and the winds were gusting to tropical storm levels and this made the air very dusty. This combo made it a dehydrating experience and I was in need for water. There was a person designated as a person to hand out water to workers and all one had to do was state over the radio that they were in need. I was unable to.

            Even though it was blistering hot, and the winds sucked whatever moisture one had in them out, I could not ask for water. If offered I would gladly accept, but I could not say I was in need.

            This trait has been with me for as long as I can remember and stating what I feel or stating what I need has been a challenge. It was only when I started to write that I became comfortable expressing my feelings and stating that things do hurt.

            One great example I can think of happened to me in 2nd grade. This example came to me as I wrote the previous chapter and I think illustrates several points. The first is being afraid to mention one’s weakness or need, and the second is perhaps the awareness of what creates the pain may not have been there. Anyway, in 2nd grade on one afternoon this robot like creature came to school. I don’t know if it was an anti-drug robot, or a self-esteem boosting robot, and its mission for existence isn’t relevant; what is relevant is that this robot’s purpose in life, in my mind, was to be loud and obnoxious. I mean, this robot’s voice shook the floor it was so loud.

            In my mind it achieved my perceived mission it had because I quickly became ill with so much anxiety. I can think back now and know why it happened and why I felt as if I had fire flowing through my veins. But here’s the thing, I was a 2nd grader in a public school and I could not simply get up and walk out. I also could not raise my hand and say, “Sir robot, could you please quiet down and use an inside voice?”

            I was essentially trapped and was suffering. The robot was annoying, ahem, I mean presenting for the whole school and the robot had at least an hour. With each quarter minute that passed I got more and more pain throughout my body. While the other students in the school thought this was the coolest thing ever, I became distant and confused. I mean, I didn’t realize that I was different and didn’t realize why no one else was sharing my discomfort.

            After ten minutes I had to go to my playbook. Much like a coach has a play for almost every situation I too had my ways get out of unpleasant situations. I learned at a young age it was acceptable for someone to have an ill tummy, so I quickly turned on my sick face (which wasn’t that hard because I was already in a state of pure discomfort) and got the teacher’s attention.

            Being the “good” student I was allowed to leave the room and I quickly made my way to the restroom. I stayed for five minutes and plotted my next move. As I left the bathroom the teacher was in the hall and I said that I was, “dizzy and had a bad headache”. Seeing that it was almost time for us to be released I was hoping to be able to serve the rest of my school time in the classroom and I knew the word, “dizzy” would get me that ticket. It worked.

            Saying that I was dizzy and had a headache was only a half lie. I did have a headache from all the stress, anxiety, and processing that was going on from the devil robot that had made it its mission to educate us students. It was so loud that even in the classroom I could still hear its loud voice and it was all the way in the gymnasium!

            My 2nd grade experience is a great example of my inability to state what was going on. I don’t think I realized what was going on or why I felt the way I did, and what I did feel I knew I could not share for fear or being mocked. I did know that no one gets mocked for throwing up so I had to have that symptom to mask the true issue.

            I have talked about my issues in school before in my previous books, but I can now look at it and realize that I became fearful of the afternoons. I could handle the morning, but the afternoons were a challenge because of the “life: unfiltered” concept. At the time though I was unable to put into words how I felt and how much I feared the feelings of utter tiredness and edginess. Of course how many kids in elementary school can put into words the feelings of life? How could I have been expected to state in words that could be understood what it was like? Even if I did would I have been taken seriously?

            I don’t know what it is like in schools today, but back then weaknesses were mocked and one did everything they could to not make a scene. Using my “firsts” concept this is very bad because this way of life becomes instilled in one’s mind. When one is not willing to ask for help one becomes oblivious as to what is causing the issue. The end result of this is constant self hate because the true reason for the pain is not recognized.

            I wonder how many people out there suffer through each day without knowing why because they simply ignore the sensations and emotions. Instead of realizing that they are tired from the sensory input of life they simply lash out. This is where I am different because my self-awareness is such that I can identify what the issue is. Now this doesn’t mean I can do something about it as I did go thirsty at the race at Eldora, but at least I am able to know why.

            Knowing why is critical for growth because I thought I was so bad and weak for having such an issue with that robot. I kept it to myself because I did not want anyone to know. I am glad I got my diagnosis because I have a reason why I had the issues.

            There may be no easy way to get one to open up and state the actual cause of their discomfort. If I would have been pressed as to why I was sick back in 2nd grade I would have stated that I threw up to my grave. Did I throw up? No and I knew that telling a lie was wrong, but I also knew that I had to get away from that monstrosity of a creature. Even if I were asked, “Aaron, did you find that robot to be loud and it made you feel pain throughout your body?” I would have denied it. When it comes to pain, and what causes it, a denial can possibly be a lie.

            Looking back I know my life would have been much easier had I just spoke up for myself and stated how I felt. But autism, first and foremost, is a communication issue and there is no more personal level of communication than expressing one’s feelings and struggles. If I would have stated what was wrong how could my 2nd grade mind realize that I, perhaps, would not be ridiculed or that someone may understand how I felt? I thought I was alone in my discomfort therefore why ask for help? I had to put on the “trooper face” and attempt to overcome. The fight though can only be prolonged and simply overcoming the issues I had, as equipped as I was, was impossible.

            To this day I still struggle with advocating for myself and stating what I need even when it is obvious that I need it. I mean, don’t we all need water on a hot day? This is the hazards of my “firsts/film theory” concept. I can’t afford to be weak and I can’t afford to share how I feel because I can’t judge your response. What I mean by “can’t judge your response” is that I don’t know if you are going to laugh or yell at me. If you yell or laugh I will experience emotion and because emotions are felt at level 10 only I would much rather live life dehydrated than deal with the potential emotions that come along with being yelled at.

            If I didn’t start writing I am sure I would still be closed off as to why I do things I do. I may still be fearful in person, but that’s why I write. I think each of us can find a way to express ourselves, but because each person on the spectrum is unique finding each person’s way may be confusing. The only way the world may have known I had any issues was the pattern of my “headaches” and “ill tummy”. I was communicating, but it needed translation so, as I did in my last chapter, I urge you to keep an open mind and if there are behaviors at certain times look around and listen. If something is going on the person may be unable to tell you up front, but maybe they are telling you by going to their playbook on how to get out of the activity without telling you the real reason because, of all things in life, there is nothing worse than saying, “Help me, I hurt”.

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