5 Things About Living With Autism In A Pandemic

I have a video scheduled to go up next month looking back at the past couple years, and giving my thoughts on living with Autism through those two years, and everything that happened with them. This is a separate, more granular listicle, talking about small, granular, little things, that I observed about life in the pandemic – while living with Autism.

1) Finding opportunities to exercise my social language skills was a necessity

Something I mention in my video, and a few other places, is that social skills are like language skills. They can atrophy and fade with lack of use. So, finding opportunities to just be able to talk with people, ultimately, was something that was way more important than I expected. I even found myself trying to strike up chit-chat with strangers on occasion, just to keep those skills in play. Going to my comic shop, and later when the option was available, picking up games in-store from Guardian Games felt much more important to me, for that reason. Even going to see movies again, in theaters, became a big deal, not just because I was seeing a movie in a theater, but because I was getting to exercise those skills.

2) Finding the Right Mask Was A Bigger Deal Than I Expected

One of the ways that autism can manifest is sensory issues, particularly related to the way clothing feels on you. I’m used to managing this when it comes to various clothing – pants, shirts, underclothes, etc – finding things that I can comfortably wear for a whole day. Masks, on the other hand, get tricky – made trickier because my head is big.

How big is it? So big, that God looked at me and went “Damn, did I turn Big Head Mode on?” (Sorry)

But seriously – certain types of mask material and certain cuts of ear-loops can be tremendously uncomfortable for me wear for an extended period of time. Some masks have an irritating feel on my face that they don’t on other people, and certain masks pull on my ears in a way that pinch and snag. Related to that last – because I wear glasses, I’ve also had to get a strap for my glasses to keep them from falling off my face when I’m wearing my mask for extended periods, so I had to find the right kind of strap there as well. It’s been… obnoxious.

3) If I Thought I had Auditory Filtering Issues Before…

One of the ways my Autism manifests is with issues filtering conversation from background noise. Depending on the environment, I’d have to strain to pick out the words the person I was talking to was saying from whatever music, other ambient conversations, and similar sounds are happening in the background. This makes going to Benihana like visiting my own personal hell, as I try to talk to the people I’m dining with, while also hearing dozens of sharp metallic rapping sounds as steel spatulas strike grills surrounding me. Now, take my existing auditory filtering issues, and muffle everyone’s voices because they’re wearing masks.

4) Working From Home Is My Jam

I do Medical IT helpdesk work for a Major Chain of Veterinary Medical Clinics. In the Beforetimes, this was a fairly high-stress position. It is still high-stress now, but I’ve found that actually, not having to be in the office helps a lot. I’m able to pace my work better.

When I’m in the office, I find myself dealing with needing to feel like I look like I’m working, and with my Millenial Imposter Syndrome putting the perception of everyone in the office looking over my shoulder (whether they are or not). When I’m working from home, and the only other person in the room is my cat, I can take a breath, pace myself on my work, so I can better manage my own stress level. I’m still reaching or exceeding my ticket clearance goals, but I feel like the quality of my work has improved considerably.

5) Actually Talking To People About My Hobbies Is A Big Deal

This is a little different from #1, though it’s related. Before Lockdown, I was in a regular weekly D&D game – which gave me plenty of opportunities to sit and talk to people about movies, TV, video games, and even (in a one-sided way), wrestling and anime. I had an outlet to express my enthusiasm in those things in a situation where I had the back-and-forth of a conversation, instead of the one-sided form of expression of a YouTube video, or blog post, or solo podcast.

So, I started watching anime a couple of times a week with my parents (technically we started earlier but this became much more of a thing), so we were able to talk about those shows. I’ve made it on some monthly movie streams with Paul Chapman of the Greatest Movie Ever Podcast, where we and a bunch of fans of the show watch a movie, and then chat about it afterwards on Discord. After I lost touch with my old D&D group, I joined a monthly Zoom D&D game with some friends from college. The only thing I’m not doing to indulge a hobby socially online is to get on Discord and play Final Fantasy XIV with somebody, or watch a wrestling PPV or episode of TV with someone over the internet together. All of those things have provided an essential emotional outlet, particularly over this hell bi-annum.

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