Autism, Coronavirus, and the struggles that no one else sees

Well, it’s been two and a half months since my city started quarantine, and like for so many people, it’s been a real shitshow here at the Mari house. I have a hard time even figuring out where to start. Between the social isolation, loss of employment and income, disruption of the routines that I need to function… it’s taken a real toll on my mental health. I have autism, which means my problems with COVID-19 are different than for most people and that they don’t get talked about nearly as much.

Akemi Homura - Mahou Shoujo Madoka☆Magica - Zerochan Anime Image ...
Trying to find meaning in isolation

Almost as soon as my city started the “shelter in place orders”, I got laid off from the bookstore where I had been working as a cashier. This was sort of a blessing and a curse. Having to interact with so many people at once was giving me major social anxiety, and the store manager made it worse by belittling me in front of my customers (which I never saw her do to the other employees). I’m relieved not to have to deal with that toxic environment anymore.

But mostly, it’s just sucked. Money problems are always scary, and there are a lot of barriers for autistic people to get a job in the best of times. (It’s hard to nail an interview when you can’t stop fidgeting and avoid making eye contact…) Losing my job also meant losing my daily routine, which I really need in order to feel like a functioning human being. And it cut me off from my coworkers, who were the only source of positive social interaction I would get most days. It’s made me feel empty, and lacking in purpose.

I’ve tried to fill in the gaps the best I can. To make up for the loss in income, I’ve had to start delivery driving for DoorDash and PostMates until I find something more stable. But this hasn’t helped my anxiety, as now I’m worried about being out too much and getting sick. The pay is pitiful, and you don’t even get health insurance. So as much as society calls food service workers “heroes” for risking our lives through all of this, it feels like a hollow compliment. Does anyone really care about us?

GIF the devil - animated GIF on GIFER
The Struggle Is Real

The loneliness of social distancing has also been hard, but this is where I think I actually have an advantage over some people. I’m pretty used to loneliness and isolation at this point. I’m an introvert, and this combined with my trans identity and difficulty understanding social cues has made it hard for me to go out and make casual friends. I don’t really miss going to bars or social events the same way extroverted people do. If anything, this pandemic has actually made me more social – with everyone online so much, I’ve had more opportunities to reconnect with old friends, watch anime together, and commiserate about this whole terrible situation.

But this is still a mixed blessing. All the stress, loneliness, and isolation we’re feeling from social distancing these past few months – I’ve been feeling it for decades. All of those articles about how Zoom calls make communicating more exhausting and frustrating are weirdly ironic for me, because I find it exhausting and frustrating all the time. We are in an unprecedented global crisis, but for people on the spectrum, every day is a crisis waiting to happen. Is it any wonder so many of us are neurotic and miserable?

Steam Community :: :: rei evangelion
My headcanon: Rei is definitely on the spectrum

So yeah, my mental health has not been great right now. I’ve been trying to do the best I can to stay productive and keep the demons at bay. I’ve been reading a lot more, and trying to work on new music on my computer. But being on the spectrum also means I struggle with executive functioning. That’s a vague and overly clinical term, but it basically refers to your ability to get shit done: to start tasks, organize and plan your day, and stay focused on what you’re doing.

My executive functioning ability varies wildly depending on the day. Sometimes, I have a ton of energy and can manage my work, chores, and creative projects fairly easily. Other times, I’m so dysfunctional that even brushing my teeth feels like a Herculean task. It makes me feel like a miserable excuse for a human being. I keep thinking, “everyone else can do these things without thinking about it. So why is it so hard for me?”

I keep trying to tell myself that I’m not the only one struggling with these things, that I have a disability, and that a lot of these problems are not my fault. But it’s so hard for me not to feel alone and invisible right now. And not enough people are talking about this. Most of the articles I’ve found about autism and COVID-19 is about how parents are struggling with their autistic children. Not to discount those problems, but it can be really disheartening when you’re looking for some support for what you’re going through and all you see is how difficult it is for other people.

disgusted tanjiro kamado 😂 | Anime, Anime expressions, Anime meme ...
I’m not even gonna talk about the fact that the “vaccines cause autism” movement is still going strong, because I’d need at least 900 more words to talk about those dunderheads

I don’t really have a good way to end all this. I’m just not doing well right now. I had a bunch of cool posts planned for Pride Month, but I may have to put some of those off until my mind’s a little less shaky. It just sucks to be struggling so much, to have to expend so much energy just to be in the ballpark of normal every day. I’m honestly thinking about just deleting this blog entirely because I don’t know if I really can do this anymore. I’m not sure if I can live much longer like this. I’m not doing OK.

5 thoughts on “Autism, Coronavirus, and the struggles that no one else sees

  1. Brahadeesh Sankarnarayanan June 1, 2020 / 5:41 pm

    I know that as just a stranger on the internet there’s very little that I can offer by way of solace and support. But, I’d like you to know that reading your blog has brightened many of my days.

    These coronavirus times are difficult for so many people, and much more so for certain people as you explained. Please put your health first, above all else. Take a break even from this blog if it will help you, I’m pretty sure your followers will be right here waiting for you (I certainly will!). I wish you all the best, and hope your life moves quickly into a place of joy and comfort.

    Take care!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Pinkie June 3, 2020 / 9:14 am

    I am sorry I have been away from your blog for such a long time!
    I made a mess of my reader and had since been trying to create a better system.
    I just want you to know that I really feel your struggles. Though I can not work myself due to my health right now.. and the Netherlands having a better insurance system.. so I can’t feel all of your pain.

    You are one of the most insightful and honest bloggers out there, and with how mean and the dark the world is right now.. I am pretty sure the world needs people like you! I read these posts and it gave me hope.. a feeling that I am not alone out there .. in thinking like this. Right now everything seems turned upside down and simply by hearing the truth from someone else I already find the strength to go outside again!

    I might not have been there but if you ever need to vent I want to be there for people! So feel free to reach out! Write about what your heart tells you! If it can’t be your normal geeky stuff, I am sure people here will happily read it and be strengthend by your words.

    I also have finally mended the oversight in my system so I hope to be back here more often now ! I am so sorry!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Mari June 3, 2020 / 12:30 pm

      No need to apologize 🙂 I wasn’t really upset at anyone on here or anything. More just at the media/society in general for not paying attention to the needs of people in my community.

      What started this was trying to Google “autism and coronavirus” and almost all the results were from so-called “autism moms” complaining about how hard it is to deal with being stuck at home with their children. Which yeah, I get it, it can be tough, especially if a child is nonverbal or has other disabilities too, but it just sends the message that we are a burden to other people.

      Thank you for your kind words. I love reading your blog as well! It always brings me joy to find a new Pinkie post to read with my morning coffee 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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