Today I went to the chiropractor for the first time since moving across the bay and wow, was it weird. I’ve been seeing the same chiropractor for years and seeing someone different has been something I have been putting off. Finally after my third sleepless night from back pain, I booked in to see a chiropractor. Why did I choose him? He uses the same instruments as my old chiropractor. He has the same furniture, same chair, same patient bed, it was just like seeing my old chiropractor. I successfully managed change without really changing much, and this was the best I could ask for.
My new chiropractor quickly identified the same problem areas as my previous chiro, and started to work. He was warm and chatty and friendly, which instantly made me nervous. As I feel I must mirror the other person to put them at ease with me, being around bubbly people is exhausting. Fortunately I had someone with me who could handle the pleasantries while I stayed as quiet as possible, only answering direct questions when necessary.
I had neglected my back for too long, and not kept it strong with exercise, so I was in bad shape when the chiro pushed his fingers into my spine. “Does that hurt?” He asked, prodding the vertebrae that was poking out of my back. He might have been branding my nerves with hot needles. “Mm hmm” I mumbled through gritted teeth. With one push there was a clatter of cracks and my back was free again. “Thank goodness” I thought. But it wasn’t over. He oiled up his hands and I braced myself for pain…
He gave me a back rub.
I can’t adequately describe what a back rub feels like for me. Skin on skin contact is something I can only tolerate for a very brief period of time before it starts to hurt. Sometimes it hurts as soon as I am touched, even the slightest brush of fingers on my arm feels like agony. But it isn’t really – it is just my brain not being able to process that information properly.
What’s even worse than skin on skin contact? Oiled skin on skin contact. The added heat just makes everything worse. I lay there with my fists balled up, clenching my teeth as the chiropractor gave my muscles a brief massage, torn between wanting to tell him he was hurting me to not wanting to offend him or cause a scene. He must have realised something was wrong and asked if I was in pain. I told him I was and explained that I had sensory issues. He stopped immediately and profusely apologised. I don’t know what was worse, the painful back rub or feeling like I’d made a total stranger feel bad. I slunk off to the change room feeling guilty and uncomfortable.
There are a myriad of problems presented to the Autistic mind when dealing with day to day life. Events and interactions that come and go unnoticed by the neurotypical can be arduous and complex to the autistic. Fortunately I can control my inner struggle to an extent, while in public I can usually fake a smile and act the part and my autism goes unnoticed. However, the cost of this is great anxiety, stress and often leads to shutting down. Sometimes it even manifests itself in other ways. Tonight, for example, I was still hungry after dinner, so I grabbed a pack of chips from the cupboard. “Oh, don’t open them,” said my roommate. “I was saving those.” I instantly flew into a rage and threw the chips back in the pantry and stomped to my room. I wasn’t actually angry about the chips – I didn’t even like that flavour. I had just had a stressful day and had internalised it all, not wishing to cause a scene, but later causing a scene over something unrelated in front of someone I was more comfortable with being myself around.
Maybe I need to do something to relax… Get a massage, maybe? -.-