In November, Carly Fleischmann appeared in national news after confetti on strewn on the stage at HBO's Night of Too Many Stars triggered her OCD. Carly described this sensation, saying, "It feels, for me, like a knife is being jabbed into my side repeatedly, and if I don’t do what I need to do the pain gets worse." Today William & Ashna address their own freakouts (their word) and how they wish the world would respond.
The View From Here - The Fantastic Freakout
Help! Losing control. I hear all the sounds. I smell all the smells. I see all the sights. I feel all the feelings. Tons of anxiety surges through my brain. I feel it everywhere. It flows into nearly every cell in my body. It’s like a dark comic book hero’s origination. Sensory overload is my spider venom. I’m changed into a grotesquely strong, loudly yelling antihero. The Fantastic Freakout Man!
Mean people label my distress a tantrum. Polite people call it an episode. Neither are correct. Look, imagine you are suddenly assaulted by fingernails on a chalkboard, pungent garbage, strobe lights, and speedy heart of a panic attack. All these things. All at once. Would you have a tantrum? How about an episode? Nah, bro, you’d freak out. Why wouldn’t you see it that way for me?
I absolutely don’t want you to ever experience what misery this is, but I do hope that if you ever see an autistic kid freaking out, you react empathetically. Put yourself in my shoes.
Freak out! Don’t say, “that’s a disco song,” since for me it is a spider waiting to come down on my head. Painful for me to even think about it. Lots of emotions. The awful feeling of losing control and wigging out. It’s a lot.
The thing about freakouts is that they happen completely crazy times. Once I freaked out on my para in class because she tried to help me log on my chromebook. Come on, Ashna. Really? She was just trying to help. I’ve freaked out on family too. In hindsight the triggers for most of my meltdowns have not been big deals. In the moment, though, my brain only feels panic. Like break down the door, break someone’s fingers panic. It’s the worst. Embarrassing too.
Gather you may have a wish to learn how to help. Let me brighten the way. Give me space. Stay calm. Be respectful. I know you just want this freakout to finish. Trust me, friend, so do I. Giving me ultimatums won’t help.
However awful a freakout looks to you, it is thousands times worse for me. Politely don’t make a big deal and bring more attention to me.
Ashna is an eighth grader in Maryland who cares about doing good talking points for autism and rapid prompting method.
William is a fourteen year old guy who communicates by spelling and is navigating the second year of mainstreamed education.