It puts you out of touch with everything. And it’s not as if you don’t comprehend what is happening, either. That would be a blessing. But no, it’s more as if there is no buffer to soften in-coming shattered glass and shrapnel, all forming a pile front-and-center in your head.
You see it. It’s too big to ignore. You even know how the pieces fit together to form the irregular shape: the architecture of overwhelm is not pretty.
And you see the looks on the faces of your witnesses, and it adds to the pile.
Your dreams are out of reach, your intuition elusive. Your subtleties fly above you with your nuances. Your softness is ravaged. Your eyes are like cavities exposed to the air. Your ears are naked to the entire world, and the world is throwing stones.
Survival kicks in, regardless of decision. Instincts are the wayward king you cannot battle without armor or a weapon. You cannot even disarm him with love.
Your hands cover your ears tightly. You may rock yourself to illusory safety, trying to find some relief from the onslaught. There is no exit. You are locked in the siege.
You may moan against your will, to try and cancel out some of the noise, make a consistent tone, find a current you can follow in the nautical storm.
You may transform into something no one recognizes. And you can’t stop it if you try. It only gets worse with the attempt.
And there you are, a creature on the floor, on your knees maybe, a wounded animal in a sensory cage. You’ve lost days in a matter of minutes, and nobody knows.
When the battalion goes to sleep, your brain is swollen for at least 24 hours, maybe two days, three if it was really bad this time. It takes a long time to pull out the pieces that don’t belong in your brain.
You don’t recover as quickly as you’d like, and you feel guilty because life continues its demands and you cannot answer them. You cannot answer the phone, go to the store, pay the bills, have conversations, make decisions, make love with your partner, keep your eyes open for too long in daylight.
Everything is harder now, as if it wasn’t challenging enough before because so many things that are easy for others take more effort for you, even when they don’t appear to. You’re exhausted.
Nothing works right. You cannot depend on yourself the way you know. You may try, only to find that no matter how careful you try to be, the china falls through your hands and crashes to the floor. More broken pieces.
You need silence and darkness, and weight on your body to decompress, even-weight that doesn’t move or make a sound. And there is no such thing as no light at all. And there is no such thing as silence.
And everything moves at least a little, unless you’re dead. And even then, insects come and feast. Unless you’re ashes. And then, the wind blows you about, or the waves turn you over and over again.
You do not fully recover. And it gets harder every time. Takes a little more out of you that you don’t seem to get back.
People say you look great for your age, but you feel weathered and ancient: a relic, outdated and irrelevant to all but a few with special interests. And the dust and dirt keep toppling you, and the cave that swallows you gets deeper every year. And no one is funding the expedition to find you.
Some people judge you as if you chose this. As if you are autonomous to it and over-reacting. Dramatic. Too sensitive. Stuck in ‘victim consciousness.’
They tell you if you just ‘change your thinking’ and ‘stop thinking the world is out to get you,’ you could heal it, fix it, be more like them.
They don’t know your brain is built differently than theirs and that in the right setting, it’s a gift. It is flowers taken from pots, put in the ground and proliferating.
It’s taking the plastic out from the fish’s mouth so she can eat. Untangling the soda-can holders from around the bird’s neck so he can breathe. It’s cleaning the ocean of oil spills to save the eco-system, and a new species of wonderful creature is found.
They don’t realize you didn’t choose this any more than a bee chooses to be a pollinator, a spider decides she must weave webs, or a human decided one day it would be a terrific idea to require hydration in order to survive;
And you do much better in a natural setting, displaying new colors and new functions there, maybe even something that could be useful to them. But in artificial light and sound, overstimulation is your kryptonite, your nuclear aftermath.
They don’t want to see it any more than they want to look at the bees dropping off the planet, and the frogs in distress, because it means there’s something wrong, and not only with you, but with the way our species is doing things.
And because it means that what is affecting you so strongly, is probably impacting them subtly, and they were really hoping to ignore that pesky pain in their chest until it went away on its own.
They don’t want to see you are different, not less , or wrong. Because it means they are not better than you, or any safer. And it means the choice is not whether or not you will be sensitive, or whether you can be rebuilt to seem normal (if that were even possible).
And the choice isn’t about who is more worthy to be here and who is valuable enough to contribute something meaningful or beneficial for humanity.
Instead, the choice is on every single one of us, in how we live.
So for now, you tell them some medical words so maybe they will let up a little. You have Sensory Processing Disorder, you tell them. Car accident. Keep it simple and true. No filter for light and sound.
Don’t say ‘Neurodivergence,’ or anything more, because you don’t have the resources for the debate of validity, or the questioning why you are even out in public in the first place.
They will tell you that you need a keeper, a caretaker. Someone like them to watch over you. They will judge you even more and see only your challenges, never your gifts.
So just say ‘car accident, brain injuries.’ That way they can take their misconceptions with them, thinking you are too impaired to bother with any longer, and walk away.
And then you can make a rainbow behind them, with colors no one has seen before. Because even when you’re drained to the core, you can paint. And colors always make sense to a unicorn.
 Different Not Less is the name of a book by Temple Grandin, 2012, and a statement within the Autism community to highlight the gifts that come with being on the spectrum, and how those gifts can be an asset to humanity.
Copyright © 2018, Sheyorah Aossi
Art: Found on The Silent Wave blog in a post called Make It Stop.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a piece of Creative Writing and is not intended to stereotype others’ experiences or incite argument. It is both metaphorical and realistic to my own life. It is an opportunity to look at something more intimately, if you will. It required courage to share, and I thank you for taking the time to read it.]