COVID-19: Is it all a dream?

When I first heard about this virus, I thought it was going to be just another MERS or SARS. These effected some people in the US but not many and were wildly overhyped by the media. That was about a month ago. Fast forward to today, we are under a stay at home order until at least April 3 and possibly longer, school (and my job) never returned from spring break and could possibly be cancelled for the remainder of the year, people are buying supplies like the apocalypse is coming, and health officials are saying it’s about to get a lot worse. It’s a very surreal experience!

To lighten the mood in my household a little, I came up with 3 theories as to why this is happening. Fair warning, they get pretty crazy but we have actually discussed these at length in my family XD

1. I have been in a horrible accident and am actually laying in a hospital bed dreaming all this. My brain has concocted this reality to keep me in a coma until I heal. When I wake up, I’m going to have one hell of a story to tell.

2. Someone finally invented a time machine and went back in time. While there, they killed a spider and now we are all experiencing the ‘butterfly effect’ from their action. In other words, this is an alternate reality.

3. We live in the matrix and NEO pissed off the aliens. So they are killing off a percentage of people as a punishment to him. I mean this one has some merit because you have to admit, the food here is pretty darn good.

(Be sure to share your theories in the comments)

Living with anxiety and being an introvert, this lockdown is actually quite freeing for me. While I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything that is happening, I find myself hoping it doesn’t end. Please understand I don’t want people to die, that is not even close to what I’m saying. Everyone else is distraught about having to stay at home, work from home, and only leave for essential services. I’m sitting in my house happy as a lark. This is the ultimate peace for me. I don’t have to interact with people. I don’t have to put on my ‘normal’ mask and go to work each day. I can be me. I leave my house on my terms. I interact with others on my terms. My work is done by video chat from the comfort of my home. Timelines are pretty much gone. I can do my work without feeling like I’m missing something. I can be comfortable and feel at ease 100% of the time. This is my ultimate zen.

So while everyone I know and the media are freaking out about having to stay “cooped up at home,” I’m over here praying that it continues for just a while longer. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE my job. I miss all my kids I’m not seeing daily. I do miss the routine and helping others. I just don’t miss the anxiety I feel each day to be ‘normal’ and to fit in to society’s box. Not having those expectations is especially freeing for someone with autism.

Anxiety and Autism

I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This basically means that I worry about everything; there is no one thing that causes my anxiety. I have found a medicine that allows me to control my anxiety most days. It is my understanding that anxiety is a co-morbid condition with those who have autism. The last research I read stated that at least 40% of people with autism also have some type of anxiety. I would think it would be a lot higher percentage than that. Why are these two conditions often seen together? I have my theory.

While there are many different definitions for anxiety, they all have one thing in common, a fear or uneasiness about something. So why would a person with autism have a fear or uneasiness? People with autism don’t always fit in; actually we usually stick out like a sore thumb. We are the weird person, the quirky girl, the odd guy, or the strange one. In our effort to not draw attention to ourselves, assuming we have realized that we are “weird,” we develop a fear of everything we do, everything we say, every move we make, and every word we utter.

I can’t say this is true for every person with autism, but it certainly is true for me. I have spent my life being told to stop acting so weird. Only, I wasn’t acting. This is me. Being me, however, didn’t get me much. I had one friend in elementary then a different friend in middle school. I had only acquaintances in high school. In my need to be accepted and loved by someone, I married the first person I ever dated and stayed in a loveless marriage for 12 years.

Only when I started to explore autism and anxiety did I realize why my life had been so horrific to me. I was trying to fit in so badly that I was making myself miserable. I realized I had to be true to myself. If someone was going to be in my life, they would have to accept me for who I was. No more trying to be “normal.” And that is the day my life started turning around. I got divorced. I found the love of my life. I found the career I love. My life is being lived on my terms and I’ve never been happier.

My anxiety still rears it’s ugly head. I think that because I lived with anxiety for 30 years, my body doesn’t know how to exist without it. So now it’s just a part of who I am and I’m ok with that.

Always right

Tonight, in a discussion, my husband said, “It doesn’t matter what I say, you always have to be right.”

Is that true? Do other people feel that way? Have I alienated people because of my need to “be right?”

Today’s conversation was about walking the dog. He got out his jacket and made the comment “Guess I’ll go do my new job and walk the dog.” I said I don’t understand why I have to walk him twice and he only walks him once. His response was “He’s your dog.” To which I replied but you are the one who wanted to bring him here. (Long story short, we moved and left his two dogs with my dad but took this one with us. And my husband was the one who wanted this dog to come with us, day one.)

This is when he said, “It doesn’t matter what I say, you always have to be right.” It irritated me, but it made me think.

I can see where he gets the thought from because I do, almost always, have a retort when I feel like I’m being blamed for something. Tonight I felt like he was blaming me for having to walk the dog again. It’s a defense mechanism. I’ve done it my entire life. I’ve always had to reason out why something is the way it is. I work my way back through my thoughts to every event and statement that lead to where we are right now. And if I feel that I am not to blame, then I bring up the things that occurred that make me feel that way.

I grew up in a home that was full of turmoil as a child. I was constantly blamed for things or made to feel like I wasn’t good enough, like I hadn’t done a good enough job, like I needed to defend myself and the things that I’ve done. It’s ingrained in me now to do this. So it happens without me thinking about it.

How do I make him understand? How do I make others understand? I’m not saying anything is your fault. I’m just saying it isn’t mine either. When I do this, it’s because I feel attacked, even though when I replay that conversation a thousand time, I know that’s not what is being done. BUT it takes those thousand replays for me to realize this. I don’t know that I have the ability to not feel attacked in the moment.

The best I can do is to ask forgiveness for misreading the conversation. And hope that is enough.

Different doesn’t equal weak

I never really considered myself to be different from others until about 3 years ago. A very good friend said “I love that you aren’t afraid to speak your mind.” She then proceeded to explain how she was envious of the fact that I could say what I wanted and not hold back. That interaction made me curious. What else did I do that others were secretly envious of and not telling me? And why didn’t others speak their mind? What’s wrong with having an opinion?

I started asking people. What do I do that you want to do but are scared to do? What are things you see in me that you strive to do for yourself? And the answers were staggering to me.

“I wish I could be blunt”

“I wish I could not care what others thought”

“I wish I could let things roll off my back”

“I wish I could be brave enough to tell people what I think”

“I wish I could love people who have hurt me”

“I wish I could find something I loved to do with the passion you have”

These are all statements that describe me and my traits as a person. I was under the impression that everyone did these things. I didn’t realize I was different in these respects. But let me share a few things I wish I could do.

I wish I could not replay a conversation in my head a thousand times thinking about how I could have said it better.

I wish I could not feel what others are feeling on so deep a level that their emotional state changes mine.

I wish I could understand why someone gets upset with me when I say what I’m thinking.

I wish I could filter my thoughts better so they didn’t just spill out of my mouth without thinking.

In my eyes, you have strength because you can do what I can’t. And in your eyes, I am strong because I can do what you cannot. Exploring this idea has made me realize that where they were weak, I was strong. And where they were strong, I was weak.

Everyone has a strength. Everyone has a weakness. Don’t judge others based on their weaknesses.

My Superpower

Everyone watches shows like The Good Doctor and expects every person with autism to be brilliant. Well I’m here to tell you that is not the case.

However, I truly believe that every person with autism has their niche, the one thing they perseverate on and can’t let go. The thing they can never get enough of, even if they’ve done it, saw it, or said it a million times before. I call this the autism superpower. Every person I’ve met with autism has this superpower. Now, don’t be discouraged if you’re neurotypical, because I’ve met some of you “normal” people that have a superpower too. I just know that with autism it’s like a given ability to make up for all the deficits we live with daily.

I have met an autistic child who couldn’t spell or write to save his life. But ask that kids about any sports related history and he had the facts to spew since the sport began. Sports history is his superpower. I know another who can tell you anything need to know about World War II. And another that can spell any word you give him, even if he doesn’t know what it means or how to use it. Yet another that can do complex math equations in his head and get the right answer every time. These are but a few examples.

Why am I sharing this? Because I want you to understand that every single person with autism has something to offer the world. Just because you haven’t seen it yet doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Dig a little deeper. Find it. I promise you there is something.

In case you’re wondering, my superpower is solving problems. When I see something that I think can work better, I create a solution and share it with the person or company. When I am perplexed by something, I research until I understand it to the best of my ability. Once I have created the solution, and in some cases implemented the solution, I am ready for the next problem. I get easily bored working when there is no problem to fix.