Back when it was first announced that England was going into lockdown, many let out a sigh of dread. I did not. In fact, it was more an inhalation of fresh air. While so many people faced difficulties living with these restrictions, I was discovering a new sense of freedom. No more worrying about how to behave socially or what other people’s behaviour actually meant.
One walk a day
The only time we could go out was once a day for a walk and nothing else. I honestly thought I would at least miss going out for a coffee, but that moment never came. My daily walk gave me just enough outside exposure for the day. This doesn’t just mean literally being outside but being out of the safety of my domain. Keeping socially distanced while out, meant there was never any need to mentally prepare for social interaction.
I couldn’t believe how much more energy I had and also the boost in all round wellbeing. I had been aware that I got tired from social interaction but thought that was the same for everyone.
I did have my share of struggles, as so many families did. Having the kids around 24/7, with no reprieve, took a fair amount of adjustment. This was only temporary, as once my boys got used to our new routine, they also thrived. I am sure they benefited greatly from having both parents: happier, more relaxed and completely present.
That is the biggest gift from lockdown, allowing us to live in the present. We couldn’t live in the future, constantly making plans, as there were no plans to make. We couldn’t spend too much time thinking of the past, as when day to day life is so different and uncertain, you just have to ride it out.
Living in the present made me reflect on how I had been living before the pandemic. I knew that my life was too chaotic and I wasn’t making enough time for myself, but didn’t know how to get off the running wheel! The pandemic broke the cycle for me
and since the restrictions have been lifted, I have not gone back to my old style of living.
Time to process and create
The revelation that I am autistic came a few weeks into the first national lockdown. So much I had read about autism, I knew was true of myself, but I never allowed myself to identify with it.
Given the freedom to live the best way for me, was showing me how much I struggled on a daily basis, when I was restricted by social constructs. Every moment from my past where I felt: awkward, unsure and anxious, was now all there for me to see with clarity. It all made sense and I had the freedom and head space to actually process it and start living my new truth. The truth that I had been searching for all my life but didn’t even know it. I am autistic, that’s why!
If I spend time with anyone, then I have to process that interaction, which takes time. This time, which I did not need to spend during lockdown, freed me up to write. My mind was free to be creative in a way that before I didn’t have the energy for. Not only that but being in other people’s company, even if I am only masking a little, tires my brain out.
I started to feel much happier, putting my thoughts to good use in pursuing a career in writing, as opposed to using that brain power on recovering and processing from social interaction. I realised how important it was to build my life around being creative and not going back to my pre-pandemic habits, which had been damaging my mental health without me even realising.
Living through a pandemic has changed us all and I am sure many of us have decided life was too busy before and don’t want to go back to that lifestyle, even when the freedoms allowed it.
I have found that I am happiest living pretty close to the lifestyle I had during lockdown. I do like to eat out occasionally and I did miss seeing my family and friends in person, but I am definitely more protective of where I allow my headspace to go. I know how many hours a week I want to write and be creative and if a social engagement is going to massively interfere with that then I will give it a miss.
Practice doesn’t make perfect
I have always found practice doesn’t increase my confidence. Driving is a good example; I don’t get more confident the more I drive. If I drive when I am lacking confidence, then it won’t feel good and I assume it is my driving that’s an issue. After barely driving through lockdown, but having all that time to grow and develop into my true autistic self, my driving has never felt more confident.
It is worth remembering, if you are autistic or are a parent to an autistic child, exposure to something doesn’t necessarily improve your ability. It is especially the case if you initially had a negative reaction. Take the pressure off to even try the task. Instead, focus on building self-confidence through living openly as your true autistic self, no masking or as little as possible, and you will notice a huge difference in your ability to cope with pretty much anything.
Something positive came from a global crisis
Not only did I discover I am autistic during the pandemic, but the restrictions that came with it, enabled me to explore the best way to live and just so happened to create the perfect environment for me. I am sure I am not alone in this experience; drop me a note if you went through the same.
I am an Autistic/ADHDer who writes children’s stories. I was recently diagnosed with Autism at the age of 39! I am a proud mum to two boys, aged 5 and 2. They are my inspiration and the reason I started writing children’s stories. I create neurodivergent main characters and use my stories to show children that they are perfect as they are, even if they feel different.
Through my blogs, I want to help raise awareness about neurodiversity and how it can affect so many people who don’t even know it applies to them. I have faced many challenges through being undiagnosed Autistic and if more people understand what to look for, then children can get support much sooner.