December 29, 2021

Everyone who knows me can tell you that there’s no way I would give up my autism, if that were ever an option.

But my boyfriend was recently surprised to learn that I also wouldn’t change my sensory sensitivity, one of the many challenges I face as an autistic.

I know autistic people who would, and I respect their preferences. It isn’t internalized ableism to wish for freedom from pain.

Personally, though, I believe that my greatest joys are inseparable from my greatest frustrations. Maybe it’s possible for music to be euphoric without sirens being torture, and hugs to be heavenly without cold wind being hell – but that isn’t a risk I would take.

So what traits, if any, would I eliminate instead? Assuming I can change nothing (or everything) about society and their response to people like me, what would I alter about my own experience of autism?

Just one thing: I would like to stop experiencing discomfort as a threat.

I flinch and feel terror at things I know will hurt, and also at their memory. Discomfort and pain are easier for me to handle than the constant vigilance needed to prevent them, and the lingering sense of danger when they’re gone.

This is very, very common among autistics. I don’t think I quite meet the diagnostic criteria for C-PTSD, but many do.

I guess it’s more of a comorbidity than a trait, since an autistic person would still be autistic without it. But it’s the first thing that came to mind when asked what I would change, and I can’t think of anything else.

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.