This pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone. We all long for it to be over, or at the very least for some semblance of certainty and routine to be established. Yet over a month in, I’ve been noticing ways that I, as an autistic person, have some challenges that might be worth sharing. So without further ado, here’s some of the things I’ve noticed:
When this all started, I headed up north to stay with my parents. On the whole, this was a great decision–but the longer this goes on, the harder more aspects become. Especially since I was hoping that this would be over in two, maybe three weeks eventually. Perhaps one of the biggest issues is that my eating requirements are a bit mismatched with my parents. Normally, I eat pretty regularly throughout the day, and I aim to get my dinner in me by 5:00 or 5:30. My parents on the other hand, eat far less and generally have dinner closer to 8:00 PM. In the short-term this isn’t a huge deal–but a month in it’s getting more problematic. Pushing dinner later means I’m eating less healthier and my ability to commit to evening activities like fitness classes and ZOOM calls is reduced. I also can’t really do much about it, given that my mother is doing the shopping and the cooking–and I can’t control the shopping and have limited cooking options on my own.
Perhaps the biggest source of problems in all this is how to manage my dopamine levels. Autistics produce dopamine at lower levels and deplete it faster than the average population. My base stress levels are certainly elevated during this time making it worst. While I”m living with my parents, there is also an expectation to do various tasks around the house and cottage–again, this isn’t a problem when limited to a week at home, but over a month in and an hour or two of work at the house or cottage wipes me out for several hours afterward. Much of the work also needs some sort of cooperation and is time-restricted—this ends up making afternoon fitness classes and ZOOM calls a lot harder to schedule reliably.
Related to all of this, my quality of sleep has declined tremendously. I’m having a harder time falling asleep; my dreams are more disturbed; I wake up feeling less well-rested and my wake-up time is harder to regulate. This leads a lot slower start and makes it hard to get anything productive done in the morning aside from getting some food and drink in me.
The one good thing about this time is that my mood has actually remained relatively stable. Oh, I’ll get grumpy when hungry or tired, but that’s normal. My overall mood has remained relatively stable however. I have done more work with my emotions and self-awareness than many ever get to. I can live in this time of uncertainty without it impacting my mood, and I am not threatened by the move to virtual church services and fitness/martial arts classes, as I have lengthy experience outside of institutional church and maintaining my fitness level with infrequent attendance at fitness and martial arts classes. There are certainly things that I would love to re-open and attend more, but I feel the lack a lot less than many, which enables me to keep my mood stable over a far longer term than many of these other things.
I hope this brief glimpse helps others to understand their loved ones and/or not feel alone in their struggles. I will also note that despite the mention of my parents throughout this post, on balance it is still much better that I’m with them rather than in a shared house rental. Being restricted in activities with uncertainty and loss of routine exacerbates our differences in biology, lifestyle, and worldview, but that is true for all of us during this time. I offer these areas of challenge as an honest and open glimpse into my struggles, many related to my neurology as an autistic, not as a judgment or condemnation on any party involved.
Hang on, folks! We’re not dead yet–and we’ll keep fighting until the tide turns and we can all be together once again.