Quirk Monster #19: The world might have pressed pause but my mental health hasn’t
I was already struggling big time when the COVID-19 global pandemic hit.
I mentioned in a previous Quirk Monster post that I’d been having a hard time for more than 3 months. I’ve been treading water for a total of 5 months now.
When the world pressed pause, the things that have been causing me endless worry, stress and pain didn’t disappear. They came with me into isolation and unfortunately the path to resolution was also paused.
I’ve been cooped up indoors all day every day with every piece of my stress baggage rotting in the corner stinking up the place. The same place that used to be my sanctuary and is now a 24/7 office/restaurant/gym/entertainment centre/home.
When I started feeling low, a large portion of the country was on fire. I felt so guilty about struggling while people were losing their lives, homes and livelihoods that I bottled it up. I wrote countless emails and text messages saying I wasn’t OK only to delete them before sending.
When I was injured in a hailstorm in January, I cried every day for almost two weeks reliving every moment of those 10 long minutes under that patio umbrella wondering if the next golf ball sized block of ice to hit my skull would be the one that would knock me out or worse. I am acutely aware that there was a very real possibility of serious injury that day and it haunted me for some time. I kept quiet because 30,000 cars had been shredded and I was still breathing right?
The baggage kept piling up, the root cause of my stress and sadness from early December was still there. It was still hanging on and had found some new friends to keep it company. Meltdowns became a near-daily occurrence and it didn’t take much for me to be triggered into a sobbing mess.
Isolation started and it became quite challenging to gain support or potential resolution to these issues without looking like a complete monster.
Suddenly we were all in the same boat. Exhausted, anxious, stressed and sick of the relentless media bombardment. That same ol’ guilt and shame crept back in because with people dying, mass job losses, businesses struggling to stay afloat and more, it suddenly became socially unacceptable to be dealing with something not connected to the pandemic.
The thing is, we might all be in the same boat, but some of us climbed in well before a global pandemic was declared.
Those feelings don’t go away overnight. I can’t just flip a switch a switch and say “Oh sorry depression, there’s a pandemic on right now — can you come back in 6 months?” It doesn’t work that way.
I’ve seen people shamed on social media for talking about diversity and inclusion at this time and told to ‘get some perspective’, but it’s for that very reason that we need to talk about it.
Supporting, respecting and championing diversity and inclusion isn’t some extra thing that you do for fun. It’s not a ‘nice to have’. It’s not some excess activity that gets cut during a crisis like social events or nonessential training. For many people, it’s a need that never sleeps, never hits pause and a lack of it causes problems that started long before COVID-19 and will endure when it has long since passed us by.
It needs to be said that it’s OK to be struggling with something that isn’t related to the pandemic. It’s OK to have support needs that have nothing to do with a f***ing virus. You are not less worthy of empathy. Pain is pain. It’s all valid and it doesn’t stop or wait around for the world to say it’s OK to talk about it again.
I’m someone who is very lucky to have a large support network. I have a lot of great people to talk to and it was this week that I feel like I started to get to the bottom of why I’ve been feeling like rubbish since the first week of December.
My confidence is starting to come back and I’m getting better at recognising when the problem isn’t actually me regardless of how much someone tries to gaslight me into thinking I am. I’ve still got a way to go but I’ve taken the first few steps. Having a confidential and non-judgmental discussion with someone did that.
Please be that person for someone else.
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.