The Reality of Pain

I may not register pain in the same way other people do because I do not know what it is like to NOT be in pain.

My life has been filled with pain and so I sometimes don’t really realize when I am in pain or why I am in pain. I experience pain from sounds, sights, emotions, stress, touch. Normal everyday life constantly causes me pain. Sometimes it is bearable and sometimes it is unbearable, but it is always there.

So when people say that people with autism don’t experience pain or don’t register pain, I cringe inside. When life is pain, how could you not experience pain? The thing is though, when life is pain, how do you know the difference between the pain of sensory disturbance and pain that signifies a medical condition? How do you know when the pain is preventable and when it’s not? How do you know that pain is a sign that something is wrong when your body is constantly telling you that the world is wrong?

To me, there are many different types of pain and sometimes one pain can masquerade as another pain. Sometimes I feel a tingling pain like when your foot falls asleep, only it happens when someone touches me. Sometimes I feel stabbing or throbbing pain when I hear a loud or prolonged noise. Sometimes I feel a dull ache when I’ve been in the same room for too long. Sometimes I feel a choking pain like the gripping pain of frostbite when I see someone else hurting or lonely.

All of these types of pains are normal to me. I feel them nearly every day. However, they can also signify that something is wrong. They can be signs of a medical condition or a danger in the environment. The problem is telling the difference. The problem is knowing when your normal pains aren’t normal.

So before you think that someone won’t be able to feel pain because they self injure or because they don’t seem to respond to pain, maybe think about some other reasons they may not seem to feel pain. Lack of emotion to pain doesn’t necessarily mean that the pain isn’t felt. It just may not be fully understood.

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11 thoughts on “The Reality of Pain

  1. Great post! I often struggle with this myself. I have a hard time explaining to people how I feel pain. I break a toe and my left arm hurts. I sprain an ankle and my tongue hurts. It is like it is all wrongly wired. I also struggle to differentiate between throbbing pain, stabbing pain and achy pain. I can’t describe pain other than to say I am in it. I have a high tolerance to pain (I can tolerate all dental work and many surgeries without an numbing agent), which adds to the belief I can’t feel pain. I feel it, but it isn’t something I can react to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm, that’s interesting. I think pain is always hard to describe. I mean, we come up with all these terms for pain like stabbing and throbbing, but unless you feel it it’s hard to get an accurate description of what the pain is like.
      Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

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  2. First off; thank you so much for taking the time to write about your experiences! It is so important to give people proper psycho-education on not only different aspects of mental health, but on experiences outside of their own. I applaud your bravery! (Too many people lack this quality and it is one that I hold near and dear to me)

    Second, this post really spoke to me. Especially the part where you mention say “How do you know that pain is a sign that something is wrong when your body is constantly telling you that the world is wrong?” I have a different, yet similar experience when I am about to experience an anxiety attack. It is very difficult because someone who does not cope with it has a gut instinct that they are usually able to trust. But due to my anxiety disorder, I may become afraid and feel threatened thereby triggering a fight or flight response and then i’m left trying to figure out if there really is a threat.

    Thanks for sharing! : )

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    • To be honest, I never thought I was being brave. I just have to be honest. It’s in my nature to be subconsciously direct and open. And well, this blog is the first time I’ve really been able to share with the world so I say what I feel.
      I’m glad you can relate. (well, not glad that you experience that, but glad that my post connected with you.) Figuring out the world is a very interesting experience sometimes and I always find it interesting how we’re all so different and yet so similar.

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  3. Hey there. First of all, let me just say thank you for following my blog.
    I’m extremely interested in yours, being that I have a 7 year old son that has Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m so glad you’re sharing your first-hand experiences. It can help me understand my little guy a bit better. I also have an older brother that has autism, so I’ve been around autistic people all my life.

    “I experience pain from sounds, sights, emotions, stress, touch. Normal everyday life constantly causes me pain.”
    –Very interesting. Maybe this is why my son has such a hard time stopping and reading with me. We live in Brazil, but I’m Canadian. So, in our home I speak only English with my kids and am teaching them to read in English. It is sooooo frustrating with my son because every time we’re going to read he freaks out and doesn’t want to do it. Then it takes him forever to read just one sentence. I was thinking it could be a focus thing or maybe having so many words together on the page and seeing them all together causes him stress. Who knows?

    Thanks a ton Julia.
    πŸ™‚

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    • No problem. Thanks for reading! As far as the aversion to reading thing goes, it could be a lot of different things from the environment to scheduling to sensory input. That’s the beauty and difficulty of autism. There’s no one answer to any question. Everyone is unique and individual in how they react to things.

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  4. Oh yes, I know it could be any number of things. I fully believe that every person is an individual and that there are no pat answers. It’s frustrating for me because it is difficult pinpointing exactly how to deal with his resistance and know what it is about it that bothers him.
    πŸ™‚

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