Anxious times

Anxious times (by Alex)

During this coronavirus outbreak, I’ve heard that lots of people are worried about the future. I’ve heard people are afraid they’ll lose their job, that someone in their family might die, that they might die, or even that their children could get the virus. And even if they’re not afraid of those things, the general disruption caused in availability of food and services (haircuts, not being able to get the right kind of sausages or pasta for their autistic child, etc, etc,) makes them worried. In short, there are all sorts of reasons that people are anxious right now.

These people are all asking: What do we do? Is there anything we can do to protect ourselves against these eventualities, or something we can tell our kids so that they don’t have to worry so much?

I hate to say it, but the answer is no. Outside of observing proper social distancing procedures, self-isolating if you, or anyone you know and have been in contact with, gets the virus, and perhaps wearing a medical mask, there really isn’t much you can do to get away from the looming spectre of Covid-19. You can’t just tell your kids that “everything will be all right”, because there’s a real chance that it won’t be. Some parents might try doing it anyway, and that might work for neurotypical children, but autistic children hate it when their parents don’t tell the truth. They’ll know you’re lying, and they won’t believe you.

So, what can you do? Well, for me, this kind of anxiety is nothing unusual. I’ve always been a person who’s prone to worrying about things; be it climate change, politics, how I’ll manage as an autistic person when my parents are gone, or any number of other things. Anxiety has been a constant companion for me nearly as long as I’ve been alive. I can’t directly affect any of these things. I can’t halt climate change, I can’t sway the result of the next election, and I can’t magically make myself financially and physically secure and independent. There’s little I can do to reassure myself that any of the things I fear in regard to these topics won’t come to pass.

What I can do is tell myself that if and when these things do happen, that I’ll be able to survive and keep on living even if I do end up losing a lot of things. There’s a saying that goes along the lines of: “As long as you’re still alive, there’s still hope for things to get better,” and I think that’s true. Personally, I’ve had to live through becoming unable to engage in a lot of my favourite pastimes and activities due to degrading physical health, and for a while, I was really upset about that. But I didn’t give up, and managed to find other things that I could enjoy doing. It took a long time though, and it definitely sucked to have to make that transition, but I managed it in the end.

I realise that may not be much reassurance when it comes to something truly awful like the idea of losing a member of your family, but these are things that happen to many people all across the world, even outside of Covid-19. Life might never be quite the same afterwards, but those people still keep going and often manage to find happiness for themselves.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is – keep an open mind and do your best to be optimistic. Tell yourself that even if the worst does happen, things will eventually get better, and that you’ll be able to make it through this.