Perception of Pain
Updated: May 15
Few days back I was reading an article on how a boy who was on the Autism Spectrum showed a different response to pain and how his parents had to struggle in the hospital to get an x-ray as he was not responding like a neurotypical to a bad bruise and doctors assumed he is okay.
The article reminded me of my own struggles with expression of pain in general and how it used to amuse me. It took me more than 2 decades to understand that my response to pain is not like others. For the rest of the neurotypical world I was strong, weird, alien, emotionless as I didn’t cry on getting injured and used to brush away and walk off major injuries.
As a kid I was always tumbling over and running into things. I was very careless according to my family and school nurse, no one realised it could be lack of coordination between my head and my limbs which is a major issue in autistic people.
I remember the first time I had to get stitched, I was in shock and didn’t cry till I saw my parents at the hospital. I cried because I knew I am screwed and now I will get a good beating when I go back home. This is how it was at my place, you get injured and you will be scolded for walking or doing things carelessly. I was terrified and was screaming my head off as I wasn’t aware of how or what will happen. The doctor did a shady job by putting me to sleep but I clearly remember I used to open my eyes in between and ask them if it was over or not.
The next time I was about to go under the knife, I just made a silent scream which came out as a groan because the needle inserted on my lip was hurting a lot. I was brave enough to cut the stitches on my own a week later. This is when I was just 15 year old.
Few years later, one day I decided I will get a tattoo and went ahead with it. The tattoo artist told me it will hurt a bit as he will have to make sure it is done well. The next 45 minutes while he was working on me I kept on laughing. It was bad, the pain, i could feel it but I couldn’t stop laughing. I remember another customer came in and said he had heard it’s a painful procedure and the tattoo guy said please have a seat and watch this guy, he is enjoying this. I bet he would have had a bad time when he would have gone under the needle for his tattoo.
Recently, I had to get another minor surgery and this time it was for my eye and as a standard procedure the doctor inserted a needle in my eye to numb it and I was laughing. My heart rate was elevated as I could hear the machine beep the same but I was laughing and the staff was looking me with unbelief. The doctor told me during the procedure that I was the only person he has seen who has laughed while getting operated.
When I started with therapy, I told her I laugh at these moments where in I have got physically injured, I can feel the pain but my mind doesn’t process it properly. She told me it is because at some point of time this would have been perfect response to such a situation. I don’t know but to some extent I agree.
Over the period of time I have learnt that people on the spectrum or people who have autism have a different tendency to respond to pain. Since our head is already a jungle of mismatch wire it so happens that some of us don’t understand the aspect of pain properly and are unable to respond it in ways accepted by neurotypicals.
I am not a nature’s freak or an alien. I am not emotionless, I am not immune to pain. It’s just that I am on the spectrum, I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I am not shy to say it. The problem is acceptance, the moment you get to know I am a neurodiverse, your perception changes, it changes everything, the way one talks, greets, see me.
Neurodiversity is very common, there are thousands or maybe lakhs of undiagnosed people who are autistic and have been hiding among us. They have adapted to the ways accepted to neurotypicals and are constantly masking and imitating their peers so that they can be part of the group. We as a society have survived only because we stay together and can survive more only if we accept and understand the neurodiversity.