By Christa Holmans, Neurodivergent Rebel
We have now been living in “COVID times” for almost all of 2020. When the global lockdown started in March, it would be hard to imagine we’d still be living under restrictions eight months later, but here we are.
As the world has been singing “F-2020,” I’ve tried to focus on the potential good that can come out of what’s been an exceedingly hard year for many of us, myself included.
In March, I was set up to start a tour, speaking at conferences and working with businesses all over the US and Canada, teaching about Neurodiversity and Autistic inclusion. I had managed to book one flight a month from March through November and had more in the works as I geared up for what could have been my most significant year teaching about Autism so far.
“When this started, and we were asked to physically distance ourselves from other people, I thought it would be easy. My lifestyle was already reasonably reclusive.”
Then, as COVID hit the US, I watched my dreams crumble one by one as the flights went away. Some of the presentations went virtual, but most of the conferences canceled altogether. The events industry has been hit exceptionally hard by the global crisis. It was a sign of things to come – only the first change of many hard changes headed my way.
Unfortunately, the months ahead would prove to be more challenging than I could imagine. I struggled to keep up with all of the rapid changes. Some Autistic people have a hard time handling change. I happen to be one of those Autistic people. Even good changes are hard for me.
Every few weeks, something else changed – goals at work, rules, and restrictions while out in public, fear of getting sick or loved ones getting sick, employment status, financial situations, restrictions on travel, and the ability to see loved ones.
Then add the additional stresses of killer cops, racism, the loss of RBG, several attacks on LGBTQIA+ rights by the government, and JKR. It’s all been a whirlwind and a bit of a crappy year in general.
At this point, I am ready for all of the changes to stop or slow down but fear the storm is far from over.
“Sometimes I find myself overwhelmed with the weight of what’s happening in the world right now.”
There’s too much to think about. Too many things to process, so I focus on the things that bring hope in these dark times.
One great thing is that more employers are willing to allow people to work remotely now that they have been forced to try it for themselves and have seen first-hand that it can be better for their workplaces.
There are many reasons someone might need the accommodation of working remotely. I am one of many people with a disability that requires the accommodation of working remotely or having space where I can control my sensory environment.
Driving is difficult for me (especially in the big city or to new places), office lights give me migraines, can’t tune out sounds, and do my best work when other people aren’t near me, moving about the room and making noise.
When I travel and give presentations on my experience as a late discovered Autistic adult, travel (though fun) takes a LOT out of me. I was very limited in how many presentations I could give by the amount of recovery time needed between flights and travel because it took so much out of me.
It took me over a year of flights, rideshares, and hotels to get to the point where I was no longer afraid of solo travel and was finally starting to enjoy and look forward to hopping on a plane.
At this point, I may have to reacclimate to travel when this is over, and conferences return – if they return. Hopefully, it will be easier this time around. It’s hard to say what the future holds. I suspect online learning will continue to be a significant fixture in our lives even after the COVID problem is solved.
In the meantime, I’ve been teaching over Zoom, working with people all over the world. My flights may have been grounded, but I feel more connected to the world than ever. The first part of the year was difficult, and there may be some rough months ahead of us still. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m starting to find my footing in “the new normal” – whatever that means.
2020 has been brutal. I wonder how others in the Autistic community are faring, so I ask:
What’s been the hardest thing about “COVID times” for you? For me, I’ve struggled with the instability and constant change over the past few months. Even good change is difficult for me.
Not being able to go to conventions or see my girlfriend has been extremely rough, since those were places I got to just “be” in public and engage in stuff I loved | Eric Rozansky, @GotTheTism
For me as a student it’s probably the lack of structure in my day that in person university classes provided. Plus, virtual meetings give me so much anxiety, so that has been fun. | Svenja, @navy_berry
1. Beginning of mask mandate I stayed home because the thought of having a mask on my face was overwhelming. I researched to find one that would work. 2. complete defiance of rules, politicizing everything, & some illogical rules. 3 reopening | Robyn Allison, @robynallison
Change and not knowing what’s going to happen with every new announcement from the government. I initially had a huge amount of anxiety about getting ill. Now I’m back to work I’ve been trying to get over that as it’s almost certainly going to happen at some point. | Isobel, @_IsobelOnABike_
“Nothing. I feel like I was born for this!!”
The fact that everything is so unstable is definitely the thing above all others that has been driving me to distraction. Plans are virtually impossible to make – especially long term ones, because who knows what the world week look like in 3 weeks, much less 3 months? | Keightlyn M., @Gaurelin42
It’s been stressful at times for me, but my SO and I have taken the time that was made available from it to better work at my mental health needs and pushing myself to finally get into the career that lines up with my abilities. | David Pomeroy, @GrumpyDragonPro
Hardest for me: Not being able to see family members and close friends. No book club. Other than that – I don’t really miss anything about the “normal” way of doing things. | Kat Wexford, @KathyHLnkr
The fact that everyone agreed that wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands with soap were the new rules, and then… didn’t follow them. Every time someone ignores the “6ft” stickers in the checkout line and stands right behind me, I want to scream. | Colin Savage, @scribecheck
Change. Also, neurotypical people are on edge because they have to be isolated, so they are more likely to cream at me or treat me badly. | @ardillaaviadora
I think the lack of control over my own life. Will my bubble at school be shut down resulting in me remote teaching which I hate. Will the current restrictions change again. When will I get to go to the coast which is my happy place Etc etc. | @AutieTaughtie