With New Years right around the corner - only 3 more days left to go - I wanted to discuss something that I personally have never seen discussed on any other disability-based blog. For most, New Years celebrations are fun and festive, but for others, they are stressful, and even scary to be a part of. Why? For these people, the one thing getting in the way of them enjoying themselves on New Years...Fireworks! Many, if not all people who do not enjoy celebrating the new year, have sensitivity issues when it comes to the fireworks. These issues tend to be the result of some form of disability, condition, etc. For me personally, being born with Spina Bifida, a neurological birth defect in which a baby's spinal cord does not develop properly, has caused me to be sensitive to loud, and sudden or unexpected noises, such as fireworks. Everyone gets startled at some point in their lives, and everyone has their own personal phobias. The reason why people like me let our phobias get the better of us, is because we do not know how to control our reactions to them.
I know how hard this time of year can be for some people, so my goal for this entry is to share some ways you can at least try to enjoy yourself, if you are the one struggling this year, as well as ways to potentially help someone else you are spending New Years with to be able to enjoy themselves.
The first scenario I want to discuss is for those who do not have plans, and just stay home, but still have to hear the loud noises coming from the neighboring houses. If the fireworks and other surrounding noises are too loud for your liking, grab some headphones, plug them into your phone, and listen to music. You may want to find, or even create a playlist you can listen to, just to avoid having to select each song individually. Also, I personally tend to turn the volume up to completely tune out any background noise...PLEASE DO NOT DO THAT! You want the music to be loud enough to where the only thing you are listening to is the music, but you do NOT want to burst your eardrums!
The second scenario would be if you are invited to a party, but are afraid to go because you know there will be fireworks. My advice to you: PLEASE GO! I cannot tell you how many times I did not go to a party because of this fear, and how much I regret not allowing myself the chance to go and try to enjoy myself. There was one year, however, where I did decide to go to a family friend's house, and I ended up having a great time! [Full Story Below]
My entire family and I were invited to a family friend's house to celebrate the new year (2011) with them. Part of me wanted to go - so I did - but the other part of me was terrified of the thought of having fireworks around me, and not having anywhere to go to escape them. When I got to the party, the first thing I remember is sitting down with my aunt, and already trying to create an escape plan for when the fireworks started. While we were talking, my friend, and the son of the couple throwing the party, came up to me, and without any hesitation, the first thing I asked him was if and when he and his parents were gonna throw fireworks, and told him about my phobia.
He immediately told me he would go ask his dad, and he came back a couple minutes later and told me that his dad was going to start the fireworks in about an hour. Now, this part is for anyone hosting a party this year, and may have someone with the same phobia. Instead of saying something like "you can leave before he starts", he and my aunt agreed that I could sit far away from the fireworks, but still be close enough to see them if I wanted to, or go inside until it was over.
About half an hour later, my aunt moved me to where she and my friend planned for me to sit, and she sat right next to me, and told me to let her know if I wanted to go inside. Everyone was outside so I figured I would at least wait until the fireworks started, to make up my mind - but I was keeping track of time. By doing this, I was able to estimate when the fireworks were going to begin, and right when I suspected they would, my friend comes back and asks me if his dad could start. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised! I thought that the last I would hear from him about the fireworks was when he told me when his dad wanted to start them, and he even came back to where I was sitting (I never even went inside) after his dad was finished, to see how I was doing.
Again, I wanted to share this story to show those in my same situation, that the people who really care about you, will try to make you feel better about the situation - mind you, my friend was only 17 or 18 at the time. I also wanted to let people who knew nothing about this phobia, know how they could possibly help someone at their own party this year, who may be having the same issues as me.
I hope everyone enjoys themselves this new year, and I wish you all nothing but the best for 2017!