Social Distancing, Obsessing, Autism and The Coronavirus

Reflections on the Covid-19 virus and my autism

By Christian Espicha

Autism gives me an advantage but riding out the COVID-19 storm has proven challenging in ways I did not anticipate.

“Social distancing” is second nature, especially as I have always been a germophobe, and also, though not exactly agoraphobic, I truly prefer to stay at home, on my bed, reading, writing, stimming, surfing the internet, watching videos.

I do have to venture out sometimes because I have no caregiver at the moment, just a ride service, which I must come along with to such places as the post office where I must show my ID. And though I enjoy choosing my own food from the store, which is conveniently located within easy walking distance from where I live, I am finding it impossible to maintain the recommended six-foot distance in public.

Ugh, does that spark my hypochondriacal tendencies!

Fortunately, there really are less people out in the places I go, like the post office. Today I was there to cash a money order and the lack of lines was great. I even said, “In normal circumstances this would be great – the post office – no lines!”

That got a laugh from the worker cashing said M.O. The drawback – less people means less money circulating and the post office needs to get money before it can give it to me. It took all week to coordinate my transportation- which has been flaky lately due to short staffing- with a time when there were sufficient funds for me. Also, there really is a shortage of certain items in the stores such as beans and rice, toilet paper.

Fortunately, as a lifelog “prepper” – just learned that term; it used to be “survivalist” – I already had a basic stash of nonperishable foodstuff and, yes, toilet paper.

Already naturally hermit-like I’m accustomed to drawing lots of criticism for it, nagging to “get out more,” insinuations that my solitude is unhealthy. I don’t let this bother me anymore; after serious Buddhist practice and attending the adult autism program Autistry Studios I learned to take care of myself better and not attempt to push myself too much. I used to think this was “copping out,” making excuses, being weak … but not anymore. The social distancing aspect of this outbreak is actually not any different than my usual lifestyle.

Plus, I was recently preyed upon by some unscrupulous “caregivers” and am very hesitant about getting too close to anybody right now, literally and figuratively. That means I don’t have friends who come to the house. I also don’t have a significant other – never desired that and hate anyone touching me or getting in my precious bed. Children? HA!! No way – loud, unpredictable; I just cannot tolerate them.

This is the first time I have lived alone in many years. It is also the first time I am without people to help me with daily life – mostly anything involving appearing in or dealing with the public, but also doing business over the phone as I get too frustrated and unable to speak so they can understand me.

I also have a difficult time understanding people on the phone, more than in person. I have discovered it helps to initiate the call with a statement that I am autistic so please bear with me; most everyone is very accommodating and it helps me too. This helps in public as well, but today I was in a hurry to get out of there so even though I caught some strange looks as I stood stimming in hesitation at a nearly empty food case, I didn’t bother. I do feel like having a t-shirt made that says, “I am coughing from asthma not COVID.”

It is very embarrassing to cough even a little in public these days and I cough every day, even before this outbreak.

Returning home, I put strip the clothes I wore out and leave them by the door (in case the virus sticks to clothing, which I think it does), wash my hands thoroughly, wash the mask and hang it to dry. Wash hands again. Gloves were disposed of at store outside. Make pizza and relax in my Zen – like empty place. I like Zen. I was even trained to become a priest but wound up lay ordained instead. Been in a lot of monasteries so I know Zen -like.

I came here with basically the clothes on my back after escaping the criminal “caregivers” and am building my new life from scratch. I didn’t even have a bowl and silverware to eat with…

The manager of my building gave me those and later I purchased more at the thrift store.

This after working YEARS to organize and pare down my costly monthly storage bill.

I have studied a lot about minimalism and simple living – Many times I would curse my stuff and scream to myself (and the idiot who was responsible for its final demise),
“I just want to throw it ALL away!”

Boy, he didn’t like that because it meant he wouldn’t be able to steal it, which is what I finally realized he was planning, at which point I abandoned it all and had the storage unit dispose of it.

Then I Greyhounded it far away and started fresh. He didn’t think I was capable of it. Hah!

My point is, I live a very spare existence and this is something I’d been aspiring to for years and I find my uncluttered environment very peaceful and a place I want to be. When I was surrounded by clutter it was irritating and distracting. Now it is not. And it doesn’t attract the dust I am allergic to.

I’m grateful for what little I do own and have basically everything I need. This is very comforting in this stressful time so don’t feel sorry for me.

This crisis has even motivated me to get back to work writing; though I only have a tablet and Bluetooth keyboard at the moment, you are reading the first thing I have written in months. Please excuse me if my writing is a little rusty.

Related to writing and research, I have even discovered some new apps: Brave Browser

( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_(web_browser) which really cuts the annoying ads and is an alternative to Google which I have boycotted, but that’s another article…

I use Brave with Qwant browser.

And Bublup. I am very impressed with this beautiful and enjoyable organization and sharing app. I’m not going to describe it too much here but here are a few screenshots related to the article you are reading right now:
Bublup

Buble Up In Folder

Suggestions related to what you are sharing or saving “bubble up” from the net, and when it rarely crashes or stalls on something it is “bubble trouble”. That makes me laugh just writing it.

You can share from within it even with people who don’t have Bublup. Let’s just hope it doesn’t have a bunch of security vulnerabilities – for now I don’t care; I don’t put anything in digital form unless I don’t care who sees it. You can also store your files on physical media should the cloud storage make you nervous.

I love researching and take a morbid type of pleasure researching this virus. I read many different websites – conservative, liberal, mainstream, barely known – and it is interesting how similar they are. This is especially evident in the “comments” section. You simply cannot tell who is conservative or democrat unless they make it very obvious.

I had been reading Zero Hedge for days before I Googled “zero hedge conservative or liberal.” ( You don’t need question marks or other punctuation in a query).

No, I’m not telling – if you want to know check for yourself. I know I am still enjoying the site.

My local news station online also has daily updates, yours does too most likely.

However – if it upsets you don’t check coronavirus updates obsessively.
I do, but then it doesn’t upset me.

Pulled this off Internet about a week ago:

“…Dr. Lardon said there are many good practices people can do to control how they react to COVID-19.”

“Are we catastrophizing things and the only way to evaluate that is that you have to know the facts,” said Lardon.

Dr. Larden recommends listening to the CDC, track the John Hopkins Coronavirus map, follow state and local health officials and avoid becoming fixated on the virus.

“I would stick to public health announcements and I would be very careful about googling up the opinions of people,” said the psychiatrist. (Author’s note: I love reading the comments, though they get annoying after awhile – the trolling and vitriol are excessive!)

Lardon recommends that we need to wrap our head around the fact that this is a lifestyle change, avoid unnecessary stops to the store or public outings, it’s more of hermit life but hopefully for a short time.

“We are going to have to work together and unite. This is not a political thing. This is a really medical thing, and it affects all of us,” said Lardon.

Some of the articles are even somewhat humorous – at least to me – like this one:

Elon Musk Chooses to Keep Tesla’s Fremont Factory Open Despite Alameda County Lockdown

Or the comment about toilet paper which echoes what I’ve been thinking and saying ever since the hoarding began:

Toilet Paper Screen Shot

But what about food? I am reluctant to go out even at the best of times, but I still go for food.

On March 17 this is what Trader Joes in Miami looked like:

Trader Joes Miama

From another good site, https://www.themarysue.com/support-the-trader-joes-union/

I don’t ever like public transportation, or crowds, and have learned through much experience to avoid them as much as possible.

I tell people “I have engineered my life to be as stress free as possible.”

This has reduced my stress level as well as the number and severity of public decomps – what others term “meltdowns”.

Ironically, since the COVID-19 explosion in the media, and the restrictions accompanying it, my social service worker has been unavailable and is pushing me to “be more independent.” That means taking public transportation, something I am simply NOT going to do, not because of autism, but because I also have severe asthma. This has proven frustrating and I had to go to her boss to get a ride to the post office to cash a money order, my only funds until next month. Why don’t I budget better you ask? Because I cannot stand living with other people and pay nearly all of my income on a 1-bedroom apartment. I receive this money monthly and it is always a little challenging to hit the post office in a timely manner.

As for human contact, I don’t require much but I do text and talk to my 2 autistic buddies and that is enough for me. While out and about I have some exchanges with strangers just because I like to hear their reactions to the virus. I’m like a reporter or a field scientist, detached.

I am somewhat concerned about this virus but have learned to accept the uncontrollable without getting upset most of the time, especially when I am alone and don’t have to interact with anyone face to face and the heightened enforced solitude is great in my opinion.

This could change – I cannot predict how I may feel if I can’t have my specialty food items for months on end.

But I am not buying toilet paper.

Christian Firefighter picture
With engine as a structure firefighter, 2008. Notice the typically autistic hand position

I am Christian Espicha, an adult woman with autism. Though diagnosed with autism as a young child, I didn’t receive appropriate services until recently when I became a client at Autistry Studios in San Rafael, CA. The reason I didn’t receive services is partly because I possess a genius IQ. At age 45, I was the oldest member to graduate from the Humboldt County Structure Firefighting Academy. I completed EMT training and worked as a firefighter/EMT in Trinity County, California. I performed with my fellow firefighters montain resues and recoveries, assisted the Forest Service with fires in the Trinity National Forest and assisted with water rescues/recoveries on the Trinity River. I’m also a writer and an artist. See my website at www.autistryandme.wordpress.com my art and writing can be seen on Krishnachameleon. Follow me on Twitter @KrishtianDamian

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