Thursday, 9 November 2017

Fireworks and sensory overloads

So the past weekend was fairly awful for me sensory wise.

I knew it would be, the 5th of November happening and all, but yet again it' the range of days that has worn me down and left me vulnerable and in pain.

I'm sure when I was a kid Bonfire Night (as it was called then, not Fireworks Night) was celebrated on the 5th and/or the closest Saturday to it. And that was all. Nowadays it seems to be non stop from mid October, starting with Diwali and continuing on through Halloween to the 5th/weekend after the 5th.

The thing for me is the unpredictability. On NYE I know the a huge amount of fireworks are going to go off between 11.59 on the 31st and 00.30ish on the 1st January. But I know this and I prepare accordingly. With this melee of randomness it's  lot harder for me. And that's where I find this new obsession with fireworks difficult.

Fireworks are essentially coloured, controlled chemical reactions, but they have evolved over the years to be more about the explosion than anything. The huge bangs and the screechers that leave me with migraine like headaches as my sensory neurons are set alight in my brain.

I grew up in East London for my early childhood so Diwali was never anything strange or new to me, I loved the concept of a festive of lights as a kid, I was fascinated with fire and the sun and how sources of light work.

I remember seeing Diwali events that were all about flames and naural light, huge displays of candles with the only fireworks being used were Catherine wheels and Roman candles - the fizzing fountain type fireworks that are static and looked at rather than shooting up into the sky, the pretty not-noisy ones.

And I remember November 5th being called Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night, and it was predominately about chucking a vaguely man shaped thing on a huge fire to represent an English historical event. I loved that night, spending all afternoon stuffing newspaper into an old jumper and trousers before running outside to light the huge pile of wood gathered up. The evening would be all about sticking sausages to a mound of mash potatoes on a plate to mimic a bonfire and arguing over who could write the best sparkler word.

There are a few fireworks memories but as we had dogs who weren't good with loud sudden noises we generally stuck to the fountains and littler ones, avoiding the bangers and screechers. As I grew up I did go to some fireworks displays but they were at least coordinated and to set timings, I had developed ways of coping with the noise in order to enjoy the pretty visual aspect of fireworks.

One of the biggest issues I have with fireworks nowadays is how common they are. No longer reserved just for NYE and November 5th, it's not unheard of for fireworks to go off on any given day for people celebrating weddings, engagements, big birthdays or anything really.

I felt angry back in May a few years ago when in the middle of the week fireworks were going off at 9pm - I remember it because there was a GCSE Maths exam the next day and I couldn't imagine how tough it must have been to be revising or trying to get a decent nights sleep with all that going on out your open window.

I understand people want to celebrate when good things happen but fireworks have become a bit like champagne - not very rare or special anymore. But unlike champagne which only affects me if I personally drink too much of it, fireworks have a real and serious impact on those of us who are autistic and/or auditory sensitive.

Still, it's all over for another year. Just the British Legion brass bands everywhere to put up with now before I can start drowning out all background noise with Christmas music!!

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