October 26, 2018

“It won’t hurt you!”

For someone with sensory sensitivity, who takes things literally, this is confusing and unhelpful to hear.

Before I found out that I take in more sensory data than most people, I wasn’t able to explain that water is physically painful for me. I didn’t “know” that rain hurts my skin, because every time I flinched at it, people would say, “It won’t hurt you!”

That’s inaccurate. What they really meant was that it won’t HARM me. But because I took them literally, I never thought to label the feeling as pain.

Normally, when something hurts you, it causes you to stop and think about how much danger you’re in. For example, a papercut may hurt a lot, but when you realize it’s just a papercut, you know you’ll be okay.

It’s hard to do this without first recognizing the feeling.

When I began to accept that water actually DOES hurt me, I was able to realize that it won’t HARM me, and that the pain I feel is disproportionate to the actual danger.

Knowing this, I have a bit more courage to face the rain. I also feel less silly putting up an umbrella when I need to!

Trust the words people use to describe their experiences, but also pay attention to what they’re communicating through behavior. If someone had trusted that my reactions to rain were reasonable, I might have trusted myself a lot sooner too.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.