I’ve started wearing my ear muffs in public. Most people are gracious and curious. It’s lovely to be received in this way. At the store yesterday a group of adults laughed at me. I moved out of their way and they looked at me and all laughed as a group. I wish I could say I remember the kind people the most. But I don’t.
Going to the grocery store has always made my heart race. I get nauseas at the check out. I get overwhelmed and I can’t make words come out right when I’m asking for help.
People in line behind me glare and their frustration at how slow I am makes me stumble even more.
I’ve heard, “are you fucking kidding me?” I’ve seen people get out of line in frustration and sigh, and slam things on the counter.
I have audio processing and visual processing difficulty. I didn’t know this until this year at 35. The grocery store leaves me in a state of overwhelm that causes me to sit in the car afterwards for sometimes half an hour so that I can calm down to drive home.
And then I have to sit in the car to calm down again before going in the house and putting everything away. Then I have to eat and rock in my chair sometimes for the rest of the night so my senses can reintegrate themselves.
The stress from humans treating me poorly adds to all of this. I tried to tell my therapist once before I knew about my Autism that I had such a hard time thinking in the grocery store. Even she laughed at me.
It isn’t funny. Sometimes, I’m afraid I might throw up right there in line. I break out in sweats and feel like I am going to faint. And this society deems that I must hold all of this in so that I can function or appear normal. In Autism language we say “pass” as neurotypical (those with typical brains.)
I have always just pretended that I’m fine. I have mastered this ability of masking so well that now that I finally know about my Autism people think I am fine, have somehow mastered being Autistic, or that I am not Autistic at all. They think that I don’t actually struggle. This is a huge fallacy. I have broken bones in my hands having massive meltdowns.
I may look normal to those on the outside. But I promise you I need these ear muffs the way most people need air.
I’m wearing them out because it helps me hear. I hear better with them on. I think clearer. I don’t feel like I’m going to vomit anymore when I need to go food shopping. Please don’t ever judge people. They may be fighting a battle you can’t possibly imagine.
-Angel Marie Russell