Being Autistic and Covid 19

Hello Everyone,

I have been wondering how other autistic people have been dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. At first, I was really worried about going out of my house but I used the time to look at the crisis from a few different perspectives. One of those perspectives was looking at the crisis as an experiment in social norms and the status quo being broken down and replaced with more clear social rules. Over the last few months I found some of the social guidelines to be helpful in social situations and it has made my version of society a bit more autistic friendly.

There is no denying the devastating effects that Covid-19 has had around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and tens of million have been infected. I myself was quarantined for thirty days because I exhibited symptoms. My symptoms came at the beginning of the pandemic when tests were not readily available but based on how I was feeling what I had was a mild case of Covid-19. I stayed in one room of my apartment and anytime I left to go to the bathroom a rigorous disinfecting followed close behind me. Plus, each night for the first few months of quarantine the kitchen, both bathrooms and every door handle, light switch and touchable surface was wiped down with disinfectant.

Prior to going into my own Covid-19 induced quarantine, and for the weeks afterward, I relished in the nightly disinfecting routine. The chores were split between four people. I felt like I was in a hotel awaking each morning with a clean room, kitchen and bathrooms. Each morning the dining room table was free of clutter and the sinks in the bathrooms, and kitchen were sparkling clean. Even the kitchen floor was disinfected each night. My partner chose disinfecting products that did not smell too bad and the smell that they did have did not hang around that long. The disinfecting each day met my need for order and cleanliness in the house and it was the start of many new actionable items and social rules that I would find appealing. For the first time in a very long time my anxiety when going outside lessened without taking a cocktail of medications.

Over the past weeks I have come across a few articles/posts which talk about the disorienting and detrimental effects of the social rules changing on people because they can’t participate with each other the way they used to. They can’t go to the office. They can’t have friends over; they have to keep a safe distance from one another, and it is not safe to hug people. To me there seems to be a focus right now on the psychological well-being of basically neuro typical people because they have had to live their lives by a new set of rules. It is safe to say that Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the world in how we participle with one another. I feel sad for the people who have died and the family and friends that they left behind and I can understand with all the new rules in the world, for some people, the world is not so hospitable anymore.

For me, society following the social distancing guidelines has become more of a place that makes sense to me.  Prior to the Covid-19 rules I would sometimes find, “the world” a fairly inhospitable place. I had high anxiety and I was usually very tired and worn-out from masking or camouflaging throughout the week when I was participating. While I still get fatigued from participating, the new rules of Covid-19 make more sense to me and as long as people follow them it makes participating in society a little easier for me.

My world prior to Covid-19 was more complicated. I greatly dislike shaking hands and where I live that is the standard form for greeting. Everywhere I go, except for my therapy sessions, people would want to shake hands. Also, I don’t like hugging or air kissing which seem, to me, like more complicated forms of greeting one another.

I don’t like being in a space, like a grocery store and not knowing where to stand or having to deal with others walking around in the same aisle at different speeds. I also don’t like standing in line when everyone is close together.

With the new guidelines I feel I have a little more breathing room. I like the six feet from another person rule. I like the fact that I don’t feel any pressure to shake any one’s hand. I like that at the grocery store there is tape on the floor to keep people from running into one another and when we stand in line there are stickers on the floor that dictate the six-foot distance you should maintain. I like the fact that stores limit the number of people that can be in the store at any given time but I don’t like it when I have to wait outside to get in.

I practice yoga a few days a week. Before Covid-19 I would have to go early to get a spot in the corner so I would not feel packed in or have people really close to me. Now, they have put tape on the floor to make sure all the yoga mats are six feet away from one another so it is easy to get a good spot with a lot less people in the room.

As for the plastic or glass to keep people from breathing on each other. I like that too. I am worried that spacing tables in restaurants will greatly reduce the amount of money that they can make in a day. I like the restaurant outside seating in good weather but I worry that they won’t be able to make enough money to stay open when the winter weather comes.

Lastly, I don’t particularly like wearing a face mask. However, I have special ones that are custom made and they fit quite well. And I do like the idea that when around people and they are wearing their masks we are not all breathing on each other. Have you ever seen a person blow out the smoke from vaping? You can see how far their exhalation blows the contents of their lungs around. It seems like there is more smoke from vaping than a cigarette but I am not sure if that is true. Either way I think it’s really gross. I don’t want to breath in someone’s exhalation even when there is no Covid-19.

I understand that these changes to our society are difficult for most people but for me they are a welcome relief from the previously rules governing society.

Please let me know how you have been doing during the Covid-19 lock down. How has it affected you? Has it been harder or easier for you to navigate the last few months?

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