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Why I Hate the 4th of July as an Autistic Person

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The 4th of July is one of my least favorite holidays. One of my autistic sensory issues is my hatred of loud noises. In fact, it was one of the earliest signs of my autism. Whenever there was a thunderstorm or even a hint that one might be on the horizon, child me would be terrified. I would have so much anxiety over the loud, unpredictable noises and would often just end up throwing up until it was over. I am still trying to get over my fear of thunderstorms, but I have gotten better. Fireworks are another story.

The 4th of July poses its own set of problems, both sensory-wise and social-wise. Sensory-wise, the aforementioned loud noises are overwhelming. I loathe when people set fireworks off in their backyard, which seems to be a common theme where I live. I constantly feel under attack, not knowing from which direction or when the loud noise will occur.

Socially, it is the holiday that makes me feel the most alone. As a kid, I would have to watch my family set off to have fun at the fireworks show, while I was left at home. I tried going with them a couple of times, but it always ended up with me locking myself in the car, terrified at the sensory battlefield happening around me. As an adult, my ex-spouse would force me to go to fireworks shows by exploiting my autism. They would tell me it wasn’t fair that they had to miss everything, just because I “couldn’t handle it” and was “ruining things like always.” That would make me feel so guilty that I made myself suffer through the festivities. I am very happy to be out of that toxic relationship.

I was invited to a barbeque this year, but I can’t go because they are insisting on setting off fireworks in the backyard. Since it was my fiancé’s family, we tried to ask them to accommodate me and not set off loud flammable objects in a residential neighborhood, but they just told him to come by himself. Luckily, he refuses to leave me alone on a day that scares me so much.

To anyone looking to set off fireworks at home this year, please think about the people (and dogs) living around you. This might be a bit of playful fun for you, but for me and anyone else who shares my terror of loud noises, it can be incredibly difficult to get through. You never know who is in their house crying because noise-canceling headphones can’t block out the unpredictable explosions happening around them.

Getty image by How to Go to.

Originally published: July 1, 2022
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