Some people have given up on the whole idea, but I am still maintaining as much social distancing as possible. I do have several chronic health conditions that put me at a higher risk if I get COVID-19, but I worry more about my family becoming ill. There is always this anxiety lurking in the back of my brain telling me things could get worse.
I feel a constant need for information with all that is going on in the world.
I often find myself watching CNN for two or three hours at a time. Of course, watching more news causes more anxiety. It is a vicious cycle. I started thinking about my relationship with anxiety.
Anxiety and I go way back.
I can remember being anxious in school, around new people and new situations. Due to my father’s job, I attended two different junior high schools and two different high schools. Moving to different cities during my formative teen years was definitely not ideal. As soon as I was semi comfortable in any school, it was time to move again. These changes made my anxiety sky rocket.
I had to keep meeting new people and changing my routines to accommodate all the various changes in my life. Anxiety and I walked hand in hand everywhere I went. Back then I had no idea I was on the spectrum. In fact, there was no spectrum diagnosis during my growing years. I was just the weird, nervous kid.
“I will never know if things would have been different if I had been diagnosed in my teens. Maybe I would have been able to deal with my constant anxiety. Then again, probably not.“
Many individuals on the spectrum deal with some form of anxiety.
One of our biggest challenges can be social anxiety. It can be hard to relate to neurotypicals. Many of us are not fans of small talk. Really, any social situation can cause extreme anxiety.
My youngest daughter on the spectrum has school anxiety. She gets upset when schedules are not followed, when group projects are mentioned and when she doesn’t get the grades she desires. This anxiety can trigger a meltdown. The meltdown can last for hours if we cannot find a resolution to the problem.
There are various forms of anxiety, and various responses to anxiety.
One should know that autistics don’t necessarily have the same reaction to anxiety as neurotypicals. Sometimes we shut down completely. We may want to be alone. We might get angry or sad. The point is, there is no right way for us to respond.
If you are close to someone on the spectrum, try to be as supportive as possible when they become anxious. Take your cues from them. If they need space, allow them time alone. If they need to talk through their anxiety, let them tell you what they need. Often people want to jump into action when someone seems anxious.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just be available.
Do not take it personally if an autistic person snaps at you or tells you to go away. It can be difficult for us to process our feelings. That doesn’t mean we don’t like you. We want to be supported and loved for who we are. Just be available. We all know that anxiety can happen at the worst time. Just be there.