As a person with autism, I thrive in structure. I need an organized schedule in which a routine is established. Change is difficult for me to handle. As an example, going back a few months, I really struggled with trying to get back into the swing of things after Christmas break: several weeks of merriment, overeating, and lack of work threw my body and mind into a major shock when I got back to teaching in January. Stress affected me by causing chronic stomach aches to the point where I had no desire to eat due to the pain and uncertainty I was experiencing. I also felt a tremendous sense of irritability and lack of concentration. However, I adjusted to it in time, as I always do.
Then a few months later…all THIS happened! Due to COVID-19 and all the new policies that have gone into place, I have now come to a screeching halt in my personal life, and my professional life has taken a turn. I’m immersed in online instruction and relying on WiFi to earn my paycheck and socialize. I spent so long in social skills therapy strengthening my connections with others that I now find myself longing for that personal contact! But instead, I am forced to regress to my old lifestyle. Outlets that feel like a part of me and bring me true fulfillment and joy are no longer available. And some of the best ways I cope with stress have been taken away at a time when I need them most.
I’m not going to lie, the first week of “shelter in place” was ROUGH!!! At this point, I have accepted that I need to just let things run their course and try to adapt and succeed in a new, albeit temporary, reality. I still fluctuate in how I feel from day-to-day, but I discovered that the key is to not push emotions aside or repress them.
I think that it’s important to allow oneself to acknowledge and express all the feelings of this situation: loss, grief, anger, sadness, or anxiety (and sometimes even contentment, peace, and hope). There is no proper plan of attack to go about handling this unprecedented and sudden fog which we find ourselves walking through (especially not knowing when it’s going to end). Everyone in this world has experienced losses and missed opportunities during this pandemic: important life events they were truly looking forward to—and even worse is the fear of illness, worry on the front lines, and the loss of loved ones. I feel that the best way we can stay true to ourselves is to allow ourselves the openness and honesty of acknowledging how Coronavirus has affected us. We will be better and stronger once this all blows over!
In closing, remember the good times, embrace and express the uneasy feelings and emotions being experienced in the moment, and know that like every other setback in history (and me being a social studies teacher, best believe I’ve read my textbooks during this time), life has gone on and is made beautiful once again.