Someone once told me that autistic people don’t have a noise filter. Every sound and stimulus in their environment is heard loud and clear and the world appears to them a cacophony of frightening sound and fury.
I always wondered what that would be like. I tried to put myself in that position of listening to every sound, whether it is a car passing by; someone talking; the wind whooshing and rustling leaves on trees; the laughter of children crossing the road and the sound of nature all around. I strained my ears to be attuned to everything. But it became unbearable. I realised that to hear that all day, every hour, every minute would drive me crazy. I felt grateful for the filter.
There are other types of filters we utilise in our lives. Some people have them securely installed and functioning exceptionally well. Others have their filters in disrepair and almost redundant. Every sling and arrow of life’s misfortunes are, therefore, felt strongly and painfully. Some of these slings and arrows can be imaginary, or simply exaggerated. If the filter had been battered from an early age and there was no opportunity for repair, it will be permanently broken and all subsequent missals will penetrate easily, creating greater damage each time.
To think how frightening and bewildering it must be not to have a noise filter, makes me more aware of the fear and anxiety – real and imaginary – felt by those with broken life filters. Of course, no one is going to see this – not in every day life. They usually fall on clichés like ‘he’s paranoid’ or she’s ‘sensitive.’ No one really cares if your filter is in good working order or broken and beyond repair. ‘Deal with it!’ You see the cold eyes of silent contempt staring back at you, accentuating your vulnerability. Only perfection (if there is such a thing) is admired. Only smiley, happy, cheerful faces that nod at you when you walk by and sing cheerfully ‘it’s a lovely day, isn’t it?’ are relevant. We all want to survive in our own way. We can’t always be sympathetic, I suppose.