Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused a large rush of different emotions, some positive and some negative, so here is my experience of lockdown and surviving during the unprecedented times. I will share my emotions and feelings, how I have kept myself busy and feeling better and how things have changed in my life both for the positive and negative.
I have had lots of positive emotions from lockdown, generally I have been happier as I do not have to be around the unpredictable people who I don’t particularly like. This has also helped to reduce my anxiety as there is a lot less changes in environments and almost no unexpected events. My social anxiety has also been reduced because I have few demands and I don’t have to be around people all day, this has made me more relaxed and energised to do things. Although the fact that everyone is at home all the time does mean I am spending too much time with my siblings and parents and this can cause friction, arguments and you to be annoyed.
However, I have also had some negative emotions that I have had to try and combat. I have started missing people and social interactions (especially my friends), which has made me lonely and bored as there is only a limited number of things you can do at home. To counteract this, I have increased the amount of time I spend on social media so I can try talk to more people, this has helped but it also has its negatives as I have been going out less and spending more time fixated over my phone. Spending more time on social media in my room has also helped me to have space from my family.
There are lots of things that have been very easy for me to do during lockdown. It has been easier for me to talk to people (online of course), I have learnt how to talk online and take part in video calls and how to create conversations and keep them under control, this helped reduce my anxiety while also making me feel less lonely and alone. I have also been able to keep my anxiety and the changes in my life / surroundings down with minimal effort. These things that I find easy I have practiced a lot and one of the things I have learnt is: you cannot control everything, sometimes things are unexpected, and you have to adapt. This isn’t easy but somethings you can do are: take a step back, analyse what went wrong, remember it and learn it for next time and do something you enjoy helping to clear your head from what went wrong.
However some things have been more challenging, for example; getting out of bed (when there are no demands it does make things very hard even though I know I should), keeping a stable routine (eating three meals at good times, doing exercise and self-care). These are usually difficult things for me in school holidays, but the additional lockdown has pushed them further.
I have explored ways to counteract these challenging aspects and make life at home easier for my family and more productive. Some of the things I have found useful are getting into a balanced routine, being disciplined and forcing myself to do things like school and exercise. It was hard to start with but after a couple of days I got into the rhythm and it makes my day productive (this gives me a sense of accomplishment for every day). I’ve also spent some time decluttering all aspects of my life, lockdown has given me a unique opportunity to reflect on my life what is going well, what I don’t like, and it has also given me the time to go through things and get rid of unwanted things and thoughts I don’t want – removing people from my contacts / on social media who provoke negative thoughts for me, getting rid of old apps and games and replacing them with constructive ones that are useful and / or are fun that can help keep me calm and relaxed. As well as going through physical belongings, old books, files, things that I had saved that I had no idea why or that I have moved on from. I have found it extremely useful to create a plan before I go to bed each night of what I want to do the next day, it helps to keep me busy, productive and active as well as giving me time to relax. It has helped me keep negative thinking down as well as being calmer and more organised.
Some of the things that have changed for the better (even if they are not permanent) are: no physical contact and people social distancing, this means I don’t have to worry if I go into the street or into the supermarket no one will bump into me or touch me when I don’t want them to (this reduces some social anxiety but also the chance of unexpected events to happen). There are very few demands, we don’t have to leave our houses, no need to go to work (except for certain jobs) and if we are having a bad day then just staying in your room is acceptable in these circumstances. This means we have more time to relax and also less energy is needed to be expended on useless things, meaning we can be happier.
Unfortunately, somethings have changed for the worse (even though they are all not permanent). We can’t meet best friends or new-born family, and if we do, we can’t hug them or go near them. Plus, we are missing out on doing things we love (that includes all our specialist interests).
Also everyone is complaining about the ‘constant anxiety’ and how its crippling and they cannot do anything (although this may be true for some people) most people do not understand how bad our anxiety really can get in ‘normal’ times and how this is increased now which is aggravating because they just don’t understand our struggling. I have been experimenting and disappointingly the only way to contact best friends and family (for now) is through screens, and we can’t get people to understand our constant anxiety. The only thing we can do is to make it so that our anxiety isn’t as big (we can just do our best). We can do this by doing the things we love that can be done with our rules and also try find new things that we love to take our mind off of things.
As all autistic people are different, lockdown may have affected them differently to me, but I hope that this has helped you see the possible effects of lockdown – next steps – planning for the ‘new normal’.