• Ashlea McKay

Quirk Monster #12: How I am feeling and dealing with this COVID-19 world


A wall of coloured toilet rolls that looks like a rainbow

Like many other people, the current state of the world has got me feeling anxious, sad, uncertain and frustrated by bad behaviour. Also like many other people, the last thing I want to read or write about online is that f***ing virus. I’ve never hated the 24/7 news cycle as much as I do right now. 


From tomorrow, like so many other people, I’ll be working from home. I feel weird about it. Thanks to my freelancing-while-job-hunting days, I’ve got a pretty good set up at home, but I’m not 100% certain I’m mentally prepared to feel isolated like that again. I’ve been overcompensating and telling everyone how much I’ve got this, but the uncertainty of how long this will last has got me on edge a little. It’s been hard to relax and replenish lost energy when a trip to the supermarket now lasts half a day and is spent being driven around by my husband to multiple stores trying to piece together what we’d normally buy. Thanks for nothing, hoarders. 


The truth is, I’ve been having a hard time and feeling low for awhile now. A pandemic lockdown is just the latest in a string of crappy circumstances going back 3 months. I’ve been experiencing an overwhelming amount of life stress for far too long.


I’ve been keeping quiet about how I’ve been feeling since early December 2019 out of guilt and shame because everyone is struggling and I felt terrible for talking about my piece of it. People would ask me if I was OK and I just said I was when I couldn’t have been further from it. I thought I could push through it. I started experiencing meltdowns more frequently, crying nearly every day and I was so tired I spent my weekends sleeping.


About 10 days ago, I finally started telling people how I’ve been feeling. I broke down at the gym one night over one of my life stresses and opened up to my coach in a stream of word vomit. The owner of the gym reached out and I had a good chat with him. And then four other people reached out via social media. A few days after that, I opened up to a colleague, then my executive coach and then to another colleague. Finally, I opened up to a senior leader in my workplace. 


Every single one of them was kind, empathetic and supportive. They all helped me understand that it’s OK to not feel OK. 


I made a list of all the people who have supported me over the past 3 months whenever the cracks showed through and there were 33 names on that list — 22 people in my workplace alone. That’s huge and a lot to be grateful for. 


I’ve also made a list of all the positive things that I’m currently focusing on: 

  • Limiting the amount of time I spend on news websites has really helped

  • I have a job and it’s one that can be worked from home

  • I have more friends right now than I’ve ever had in my entire life

  • My workspace is now quiet by default and I no longer need to take over a meeting room to get some deep focus time

  • From tomorrow I will regain 90 minutes of time per day because I’m not needing to commute or spend 20 minutes digging through my earring collection only to end up wearing the same pair I wore yesterday

  • I finally created a parcel locker address

  • I can fade my hair colour(s) out without worrying about how it looks

  • I get to pat my cat anytime I feel like it during the day now

  • I still have my colleagues and team culture — our meme game has been exceptional

  • I’m experienced in remote working and have a decent setup for it at home already

  • My coach suggested I keep a gratitude journal and it’s helping me feel more grounded

  • I can now play my music as loudly as I like during the work day without having to wear headphones 

  • Contactless delivery options!! (quite possibly the most autism-friendly thing to come out of this experience!)

  • Now is a good time to try new foods from new restaurants and have it delivered

  • Social distancing means actual personal space and not having to deal with touchy strangers in crowds (or crowds for that matter)

  • Reading about the creative ways business are working within the COVID-19 restrictions to continue doing what they do best has been exciting for me as a UX professional 

  • My gym might help me rent some equipment so I can keep lifting


Look after yourselves and each other during these strange times. Don’t forget to check in on people and if someone says they’re OK, they might not be, so be like my friends and colleagues and tell them they’re safe to talk about how they really feel (if they want to). 

Author’s note

This short article is a lived experience example shared from my life to help you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be autistic. I am just one autistic person in a really big world. No two of us are exactly alike. I can only speak for myself and to my own experiences. If you want to know what other autistic people think — and you should — look them up, talk to them and read their work too. We all have our own voices and this is only mine. This article is part of a mini content series I publish to LinkedIn when I can. You can view the other articles in this series via my LinkedIn profile. 

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