How Sensory Overload Feels When You’re Autistic
It’s hard being Autistic in a noisy and bright world
The lights in the courtyard are burning much brighter than before. Our building’s maintenance guy must have been told to switch them out. There have been problems with people smoking by the doors, leaving their cigarette butts in the grass overnight. Maybe the lights were changed in hopes of making the area less inviting to the smokers. The bulbs used to give off a soft yellow glow that the Venetian blinds of our bedroom could almost block out. But now the light is cold, clinical, and painful to take in. I only just noticed, but I’m furious about it already.
I jam my eyes shut and roll over, turning my face to the wall. The light casts a cool bright rectangle across the wall and the bookcase. As my vision adjusts, it starts to seem like the whole room is bathed in bright light. I huff with frustration and press my face to the pillow. My partner asks me what is wrong, though he knows, and knows he can’t fix it.
My head already feels tense from trying to jam my eyes shut so forcefully. The nerves are worming themselves tighter and tighter around my forehead and my temples, the veins thudding angrily with blood. There is no escaping this, no willing myself to ignore it. I have no control over it, this thing that’s unwittingly been done to me.
Later, I will go out into the courtyard to look at the fresh, bright bulbs and find that they’re encased in small protective cages. I can’t shatter them and I can’t unscrew them. I will search the whole building for a light switch and never find it because it must be hidden behind some locked door.
I could call the main office and complain, but they won’t understand it. How could a light hurt somebody? They won’t change a thing. I am the one who is unreasonable, too sensitive, bordering on crazy with how bothered I am by these harmless little bulbs.
There is no escaping this, no willing myself to ignore it. I have no control over it, this thing that’s unwittingly been done to me.