Authors Note: 'Don't Touch' has been updated with a revision and updated on chapter length. Almost all comments will not match with the previous chapter they were commenting on. Also, all photos on the chapters are personally taken and owned by me. Thank you!
[cover was created by the artist: BabyLiska [TapasComic LoveMe HateMe KissMe KillMe] and you can find her on Instagram @_babyliska_
Entering a new school has always gotten the best of me. Thinking about it, this has been my fourth time transferring to another school since my second year of middle school and it never gets easier. I woke up today at four starting my morning by taking a shower, changed into new clean clothes, and was soon pacing around my room deciding that I didn't like the clothes I was wearing. It is always frustrating having to change a few times until I find something comfortable and it only makes me feel hot like I need another shower. It's unbelievably difficult to start school halfway through the year as well and I was barely adjusting in my last school even though I had already attended for a year. I sat on my bed with my hand over my chest feeling my heart pounding and my throat tight making it difficult to breathe.
I knew I was already having a panic attack, but I didn't want it to get to me; not yet. Not until the day is over and I can return to my room to cry over this feeling I am having. These past four years have become a struggle whenever I leave the house and I know it’s been difficult for my mother to deal with me. There were times when it took me five days to talk to the teacher, two weeks to try to speak with my classmates, and a month to even sit with them during lunch. The only reason it’s been so difficult is that I can’t handle people being so close to me and it’s so difficult to explain it to people because they just don’t understand.
They called it haphephobia when I was released from the hospital almost two years ago and within that time I noticed that it had gotten worse and my mother began to grow concerned about my behavior. I knew it got worse when all it took was for my cousin to reach out to hug me and I couldn't let him touch me. I pushed him away from me without thinking and he almost hit his head against the wall after losing balance. Soon after I couldn't let a stranger shake hands with me and I was just afraid of how I would react with anyone being near me. How is it that when I feel their skin touching my own it gives me this burning sensation and I just can’t bear it the longer it lingers.
I'm a sixteen-year-old teen boy who completely hates to be touched, has social anxiety, and to top it off all I wanted to do was to live a normal life as quietly as I could. Living this way has grown so exhausting with each and every single day passing that I didn't want my mom to worry about me just for today. I'm going to try to push myself more because I have to... I was getting sick of the terror in this world that I’m not sure I’m capable of loving and I don’t even know how it feels to touch someone without being terror. Could there be a much simpler way to be able to do all these normal things without me being triggered or would it help me stop myself from these habits that I’ve created to help me cope through the day?
One of the coping mechanisms that I have developed recently is by pinching my arm I am trying to keep my mind focused and I realized now that I’ve been doing this since I got up and that I'm going to have a bruise by the end of the day. I saw the clock hitting seven so I finally stepped out of my room and made my way to the living room to look for my backpack wanting to make sure that I have everything that I’ll need. My mind was racing from one thought to another wondering how I’ll last throughout the day, how will I be able to go through all my classes without panicking, and will I actually have an easy first day.
“Are you hungry?” I heard my mom ask from the kitchen.
“No," I answered shortly as I reached for my black backpack and opened it.
I had to double-check everything was still inside from the notebooks to the new pens my mom bought and made sure I wasn't forgetting anything else.
“Hun, you didn't eat dinner last night. You have to be hungry. Eat something small.” She said as she came to check on me.
“I'm really not hungry. I'm just nervous, but I don't want to think about that.” I said as I closed my bag and turned to her. “I've been thinking about it all night and since I woke up.”
“You can skip school if you want to. I can let them know that you're sick.” She suggested.
I wish I was sick.
“Mom, that's not going to help and you know that I'll still feel like this tomorrow as well until I actually go to school,” I tell her.
“I told your principal about your haphephobia. She actually was very understanding about this and said that she would try to make it comfortable for your classes.” She said, taking a seat on the couch. “Maybe this year will be good for you.”
“Don't give me this false hope, Mom. I'll just try my best today. My top goal is to step inside the classroom at least.” I said with a sigh. “We should head out now.”
“Now? The school doesn't start for another hour.” She said as she saw me put on my shoes.
“That's a good enough time for me to enter the school and find my class,” I told her, taking a deep breath as I debated about putting on my jacket. “I'm trying, Mom.”
She gave me a small smile and reached out to hold my hand; she was the only one I was comfortable enough to touch me. “I know... and I'm proud of you.” She said.
We left the house after a while because my mom was trying to shove a few fruits into my bag and a homemade sandwich that she had prepared. I regretted not bringing my jacket because it was still cold outside with the February winter air and in this new town that we moved to was a lot colder than the previous city we lived in. I was calculating everything; it’s a ten-minute drive to my school, three minutes for me to step out of her car to stare up at my school, and another fifteen minutes for me to walk through the front gate. The pounding on my chest grows louder as we went through the main office for them to give me a print out of my class schedule and once we were done she turned to me knowing that this is where we part-ways.
“You're okay.” She tried to calm me by patting down my short curly hair.
“I feel like throwing up,” I whispered as I pinched my arm again.
“You know your therapist said to find another way to relieve your stress.” She said as she watched me and reached a hand out to stop me.
“I know. Sorry.” I said as I closed my eyes and began to count to five. “Okay, I'm going.”
“Want me to pick you up?” She asked before I turned around.
She smiled softly, “Of course. I'll be here; the same place I parked the car.”
I nod my head pressing my lips together trying to smile back and turn to exit the office building just trying to prove that I can do this. I tried not to pinch my arm again because it was starting to sting now and walked towards the building looking at the schedule while figuring out if I entered the right building. I was already folding the paper that it's already wrinkled in my hands and it took me a couple of minutes to find my classroom but I stopped outside the door a few feet away, uncertain what to do from here. I had ignored the people passing by the entire time as I walked through the building, it was the only way for me to keep on walking, and I held my breath that it felt like I truly was suffocating.
I stood right next to the door until the bell rang. I couldn't bring myself to step inside and I closed my eyes as I heard my first-period teacher, Ms. Lang, voice as she began her lesson. Just last week I was able to walk into a classroom comfortably and sit in my own chair with ease, but now I can't even walk into a room. I crouch down wrapping my arms around my legs and place my head between my knees as I take a deep breath. I saw in the corner of my eyes a teenager, a classmate maybe stepped out of the room and walked over beside me. I tried to ignore him as I started to feel so frustrated with myself and at the same time, I was getting a bit annoyed that the person was still standing beside me making me feel like I’m being watched. He sat down next to me and was quiet as if he was keeping me company.
“You want to go to the restroom?” He finally spoke.
I shook my head. “I can't touch anything in there,” I mumbled and finally looked up, wiping my face with the sleeve of my long sleeve shirt.
“How about we step outside? We can sit somewhere.” He suggested next.
I glanced over at him and saw that he was wearing a name badge on his shirt. “Are you the teacher?” I asked him. “You still look young to be one.”
He smiled, showing a small dimple only on his left cheek. “I'm a teacher’s aide. It's my senior elective.” He explained.
I looked him over; he has dark brown hair, a little darker compared to my own hair, light brown eyes, and he seemed a couple of inches taller than me. Turning away, I felt shy, wondering if I started a little too long than I meant to.
“Are you allowed to step out like that?” I asked him.
“Not really... but for you, they'll allow it.” He said and his smile faded a bit. “My name’s Elliot. Elliot Thompson.”
“Michael Hernandez.” I introduced myself but I'm sure he already knew that. I stood up and stepped away from the door before turning to him. “What did they say about me?”
Elliot paused for a second before standing up and staying where he stood. “Just about your condition... that you might not be too open to the class for a while and make sure you're comfortable with the distance between the students.” He said and rubbed the back of his neck. “We're still a little confused about how to be around you…”
I shook my head. “It's fine. I'm not planning to be that interactive this semester…” I said, pausing for a second before glancing over at him. “I don't want to go in yet.”
“That's fine. I'll go in with you when you're ready.” He said and watched me closely. “So how long have you had this condition?”
I glanced over at him and stood up to take a step away from him. “Almost two years... I think… It kind of built up to it a few years before that, so kind of like five years.” I answered.
I wasn't too comfortable discussing my haphephobia, but I can answer a few basic questions about it since a lot of people are always curious and I knew I should share some information.
He nods as he thinks about my answer and slowly holds his hand out toward me. “Let's be friends? I'll help you as much as you want to let me and I am very patient so you don't have to worry if you think I'm bothered or anything.” He tells me. “I took AP psychology and I am planning to be a therapist... Not that I think you're a test subject but I just wish I can help you if you want to be helped…”
I look at his hands before slowly reaching out to shake it. “You do know that that sounded kind of rude..” I tell him, a little annoyed by his introduction. “And a simple handshake doesn't always frighten me…”
He pressed his lips together as he quickly let go of my hand after I touched it and blushed. “Sorry. I kind of realized that as well after I said it... I didn't mean it like that…” he apologized.
“It's fine... I know what you're trying to say. It’s great that you want to be a therapist, but I think I could use a friend more instead.” I said as I clutched my hands into fist slightly and looked over again at the door that was still open.
“She's going to always leave that door open for you... in case you feel closed off in the classroom or want to leave first or last.” He explained. “We weren't too sure if you were comfortable with opening doors either.”
I pressed my lips together trying to breathe through my nose as I listened to him. “I would rather be the last person to leave the room right now... I don’t do well in crowds either.” I tell him as I slowly walk towards the door. “Where am I going to sit?”
“We left you two seats to choose from... one in the back of the room and the other is in the front right next to the teacher desk.” He said as he walked beside me.
I thought about this for a second: the back sounds safe yet I have to walk past people every morning and it'll be a hassle to walk around everyone while I can just easily enter the classroom to sit right away but once the class is over everyone has to walk past me. The thought of them hovering over me is overwhelming. It made me feel sick, but I wanted to change this school year and not pick the easy way. I took a deep breath as I walked to the door, being able to see the teacher writing on the whiteboard and paused when she saw me standing there. She smiled softly, trying to welcome me, and I glanced back at Elliot wanting to make sure that he was coming in with me. I can do this; I tell myself repeatedly in my head as I slowly begin to walk inside keeping my head down trying to walk over to the front desk that Elliot told me about. It was in the far left corner of the room and it didn't seem that bad to sit at, but walking towards it felt so long and that pounding feeling in my chest continues to make me feel uncomfortable.