Physical pain and autism

I just got back from the oral surgeon. Before he started, I told him I was autistic and I’d need extra anesthesia. He said I wouldn’t. Just like that. Just no.

When he went to pull the tooth, he told me I’d feel pressure but not pain. Bullshit. I felt pain. I started to protest, with a mouth full of fingers and torture devices. He told me to stop moving and that I didn’t know what was happening. That he’d stop if I raised my hand again. So I just didn’t move and felt pain as he drilled and then broke my tooth apart and extracted it.

After the procedure, I explained to the assistant that I did, in fact, feel pain and started to cry. She said that if I had felt pain, I’d have jumped out of the seat.

I didn’t jump though. I don’t react to pain or trauma the way one would expect. What I went through today was awful. And no one seems to understand. It isn’t the first time.

When I was eight, I broke my two front teeth at the Anaheim Marriott on my way out to meet my family to go to Disneyland. I ran into a window and my top teeth went through my lip. I only noticed the blood when it dripped onto my t-shirt.

That night I was sent to an ER and then a dentist. The hotel arranged a van to transport us. All I remember was the open windows in the van and the cold air as it rushed in and hit the exposed nerves in my teeth. The pain was unbearable. To this day it is the worst pain I ever experienced. Only I never cried. I never said anything. I never even moved. I just sat there in silence wishing the pain would stop and wondering why no one was doing anything to help me.

I’m angry right now. The injustice of not being believed and then punished for behaving in a way that is unexpected is too much. But it’s happened so often in my life that I shouldn’t be shocked.

I was in a lot of pain in that chair. A lot. I’ve been in pain since May with that tooth. And with my feet since June. I’m in so much pain most of the times that I go mute. And then when it is too much to bear, I have meltdowns. I just cry, which is not helpful to anyone.

No one gets it though. Partially because I just don’t look autistic. Partially because I’m well-spoken. And partially because people are unempathetic assholes and whiners and no one wants to listen.

But just so you know, body language is not universal. And pain is not a matter of being a wimp or being tough. You have to meet people where they are.

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