themighty logo

How Autism Affects My Perception of Pain

As a kid I would constantly come home with cuts and bruises. I couldn’t explain or remember where they came from. Teachers would be suspicious of my “I don’t know” answers when they asked about injuries. But I just don’t feel pain the same as everyone else.

In elementary school, it was a normal basketball practice. Running back and forth from basket to basket, I tripped (we joke it was over the blue line) and face-planted. The coach made me sit out for a few minutes because it was a nasty fall. I continued with practice and then walked home.

My ankle hurt like a minor sprain and tingled a bit, but nothing major. I took a shower and then watched TV. A couple hours later I looked down and my ankle had blown up. It was five times the size. Scared, I called for my mum. My parents took me to the ER and X-rays revealed a broken ankle.

The next year I got pushed playing soccer and fell onto my hands. It kind of hurt, so I came off and we iced it. My parents were concerned after the game since it wouldn’t move, and we got X-rays. Fractured wrist. The surprise and confusion on my teachers’ faces the next day has been humorously imprinted in my mind.

When hiking, I walk through rose bushes and weeds without so much as flinching, my legs getting cut up from the thorns. But tags on shirts scratch me; they feel like I’m being rubbed with sandpaper. Loud noises hurt a lot too. Brushing my hair causes pain that makes my eyes water.

I haven’t outgrown this like the doctors thought.

Just last week I was at work and dealing with hot ovens. I walked into a rack and it took a few seconds to realize it had just come out of the oven. It hurt for a moment, and then it just felt itchy and like there was pressure on it. Of course we all had a laugh that I walked into a rack when filling out the incident report. I swear the amount of incident reports I’ve filled out at my job must have their own filing cabinet by now.

Getty image by Anetlanda.