Loud noises have always terrified me. When balloons popped, I used to cry. Music with a heavy beat raised my anxiety to the point where I needed to leave the room. And fireworks filled me with fright.
Most people seem to love fireworks. Vibrant colors and creative images filling the dark summer sky, watching from a boat on calm water or a blanket on the the grass – what could be a better way to celebrate the Fourth of July?
Unfortunately, I am unable to appreciate this American tradition. While my family goes out to enjoy a firework show, I stay home with headphones in to block out any sound. The combination of my Aspergers and anxiety make this occasion stressful instead of exciting. Already loud sounds become amplified in my Aspergian mind causing sensory overload quickly. Worries about those setting off the rockets as well as imaginary flashbacks to wars frighten me even when I block out the sound.
Many people with Aspergers and anxiety are unable to do things that others find simple. Even well-meaning friends are confused by my lack to adapt to certain situations. They do not understand why normal activities (such as going to see the fireworks or talking to a stranger at a party) are so hard for me. Logically, my fears do not make much sense.
However, that does not make them less real. Does my fear of loud noises keep me from doing some fun things? Yes. But does it ruin my life or make me extremely unhappy? No. I can survive without fireworks, rock music, and other overwhelming events.
So what in your life holds you back from certain events? Why does it? Every choice has an underlying root. Now, you don’t need to go out and conquer all of your fears right now. In fact, you might choose to avoid certain places and live with certain anxieties. It is about picking the battles that you want to fight. Instead of forcing yourself to do everything like a “normal person,” decide what you want to challenge and what you want to let be for now. For example, I am working a great deal on my fear of growing up. Although I don’t want to, I know this is an important anxiety to face. One day, I plan to address my PTSD concerning men. But right now, I do not feel ready to begin that battle. My fear of sharks, on the other hand, is probably something that I will never work on or at least not for a long time. Although this phobia interferes with swimming, it has a looser hold on me than other anxieties.
As far as my fear of fireworks, I do not know it if it will ever fully leave. Although it causes me to isolate from my family, my nervousness is not debilitating. Thus, I will keep enjoying the Fourth of July without the fireworks. After all, there is much more to this fun summer holiday than the sparkling display.