The year 2020 wasn’t the best year. I think most people can agree. Though it started with flying colors for me with a trip to Walt Disney World and my brother coming home, it quickly changed its direction. The world plunged into the Covid 19 pandemic, and hasn’t emerged yet. It’s December now, and it was reported as being present in the United States in March. Though the pandemic was new to me, overall, they aren’t a new thing. There was a pandemic with the Spanish Flu back in the late teens in the 1900s. There were several plagues during Medieval times. What is new is dealing with something of epic proportion and having autism.
Saying that, when you meet one person with autism you have met one person with autism, meaning we’re all very different. There is a wide variety of abilities, likes, dislikes, challenges etc. within the spectrum. That is what can make it hard for some people on the spectrum. Having autism in common with another person isn’t something that will necessarily help you find similarly minded friends. Yes, we are all similar in some ways, but have vastly different interests and abilities. Often, I feel, that having autism isn’t an automatic “fit in” with other people on the spectrum. The person still needs to go through the same process to find friends as anyone else. Anyway, the reason I am bringing this up is because resistance to change in routine is a common problem for those with autism, and this is exactly what the pandemic brought. It brought more than just change in routine, it brought CHANGE which is reflected in what is called the “new normal.” And for your information, the new normal is far from normal!
When comparing two different ways of living (with the pandemic and without the pandemic) there are numerous ways to look at it. For those with autism, they can’t see past the change, and all the challenges that are brought about. An example is my social goal which is interacting with people. It is hard meeting new people, but I enjoy interacting with the people who are my friends. I found I really missed hanging out with my friends during these months.
Guess what, this goal is hard to work on with social distancing (use of space six feet between people in the United States, one meter between people other places) and the use of face masks. These are necessary measures when there’s nothing better, but it makes it even harder to recognize people, and it makes it harder to talk to people. During heavy surges, I want to avoid people outside my family altogether to stay safe. This is certainly contrary to my social goal, though it isn’t by choice. I also long to be able to hang out with some of my friends.
Other effects of this requirement include change in store and restaurant capacities (though it hasn’t personally affected me) and avoiding places that poorly follow the regulations. There are several stores in my area that I used to go to that I have stopped going to due to them poorly following social distancing requirements and mask usage. Some normal things like going to the mall for Christmas shopping (my favorite way to do it), I haven’t done (other than a few minutes during a Christmas shopping trip.) This is something that I mind, but I feel that I’m doing my best for the conditions.
An open-ended problem with no end is the way I felt about the pandemic a lot of the time during the year. My coping skills haven’t worked well for me either. A change I noticed was extra anger due to the excess stress caused by this mess, and the fact that I haven’t been able to successfully work through it with any counselors. I have said that I’ll only accept the pandemic when it is over! I have thought many false things, that could cause the pandemic to end over time, as a way to temporarily get me to stop focusing on it, though OCD always would revert Covid back to focus.
I have also had trouble with the data of cases, etc. If I heard that there was a “big number” of cases I always catastrophized them. When I hear a large number, I think of it as a large amount. I have trouble comparing it to the total amount which makes the amount a lot smaller. For example, if the population of the world is one billion (I’m not saying it is I’m just giving an example) and I hear there’s a million cases I will panic. It will feel like to me the world is coming to an end. I will picture many, many, many people getting the disease. In actually if you do the math (the math won’t lie) a person would find out that only 0.1% of the total world’s population actually have it. This isn’t good, but it’s a small number none-the-less.
People with autism tend to have co-conditions, and pandemics can even get the best of people depressed. Imagine what a pandemic can do to a person with autism? It can make it difficult. I’m on several kinds of medicine for anxiety, and they seem to be overwhelmed.
The good news, is that there are vaccines out, and more will be coming. Unfortunately, due to the vast amount of people, and the quantities of the vaccine needed, it will be a while before the world returns to normal, and that’s a hard pill to swallow, though it’s the truth.
The main point I’m trying to drive in is that pandemics aren’t new and are difficult. For people with disabilities, like autism for example, they can be a lot harder than many people may realize and/or think about.
For those of you who want to read more of my blogs go to www.tomstidbits.net and subscribe if you haven’t. Have a merry Christmas!