The Mighty Logo

My Answer to the Question, ‘How Does Autism Affect Your Life?’

Bright lights, loud noises, my breath catches in my chest. I force it out, gasp it back in.

People everywhere, every one of them a threat to me. I feel the panic rising, getting stronger. Someone bumps into me and my heart rate jumps a thousand feet.

You can get through. You’ve done this before. It doesn’t have to end in panic. Just get though. Just get through. Just get through.

I can’t see. I see too much. I hear everything, the noises constantly growing louder. I can’t drown then out. My own heartbeat is agony; it’s so loud. My body isn’t responding. I try to walk to somewhere I can sit down; somewhere I can be alone.

Mom, Dad, where are you? I need you. I don’t want to do this. I’m alone and so scared. Help me. I can feel tears coming. I try to scream, but the most I can manage is gasping. The world is spinning. I feel myself falling, but everything is in slow motion. I sense my body hit the floor, but I don’t feel it. I don’t feel anything.

Nothing but panic.

I can’t see. I gasp in, in, in, in, but can’t breathe out. I feel hot tears streaming down my temples. Everything is spinning. I am screaming, but I can’t hear myself. I am aware of only one thought. I feel like I am going to die.

As a 17-year-old with autism and generalized anxiety disorder, every day is difficult, but some more than others. This is something I was born with. My life is hard, but rewarding.

I am an introvert, and what I call “me time” is necessary to my ability to function.

One of the questions I am often asked is, “How does autism affect your life?” 

My answer? 

I have a hard time in any public place, whether it’s a mall or the doctor’s.

Loud noises are extremely painful. I not only hear the noise, I feel the sound waves hitting my eardrums.

Florescent lights are a unique kind of torture. They flicker, not enough for most people to see, but to me, it feels like someone is hammering my eyes from inside my skull.

I hate it when people touch me, especially on my skin. The feel of someone touching my skin almost always feels so cold it burns me.

I have a large “personal bubble.” I don’t like people I don’t know well within five or six feet of me.

I can read people well, and most people are an open book to me. I can’t really explain it. It’s like trying to explain why you’re good at science or physics. It’s just the way your brain is wired.

I love animals, most of all horses and dogs. They are what I connect with best. I believe I can tell what a horse is thinking and if it is feeling pain anywhere in its body. I can open myself up to understand what is going on in their mind. I have been called a horse whisperer several times. I know that’s what it probably seems like to someone watching me with a horse. I wouldn’t know — I just know that when I’m with a horse, or a dog, everything feels right. Everything is in place, and I am completely calm. It’s the only time in my life when I have no anxiety. It’s just perfect.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Images via Thinkstock

Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home