Content warning: anxiety/ coronavirus
There has been a lot to process over the last weeks and it hasn’t been easy to absorb the ramifications of all that is happening world wide just now. It’s natural for all of us to feel overwhelmed and uncertain, because we have never lived through such a time as this – there is no road map and officials are having to make it up as they go along.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that there has been an avalanche of memes and dark humour cascading down through social media as we all try to cope with this new reality in our own way. It’s been interesting for me to notice how many of them are along the lines of introverts/autistics finally coming into their own and relishing the idea of social isolation
This is far from the truth of course because those memes are based on a stereotype. Many of us in the neurodiverse community are struggling right now. These are uncertain times for everyone but autistic people often find it much harder to adjust to changes in routine than those who are neurotypical.
Anxiety is an ongoing issue for me as an autistic person and I am not alone in this. Although it’s not something that is screened for when reaching diagnosis, for many of us anxiety walks hand in hand with our autism.
For me my anxiety stems from uncertainty. I need a detailed plan for pretty much everything in life and if there is not enough detail for me, my anxiety levels increase commensurately. I often play the thousand questions game in order to extract enough detail about even a minor event or happening in order to feel secure about what’s going to happen.
I am probably not the only person feeling unsettled at present but for me and many other autistic people the degree to which we experience it can be disabling. It is virtually impossible for me to get the degree of detail I need to feel better because even the experts are struggling to stay ahead of this threat. Having found myself battling the compulsion to go out and lick door knobs just get it over with, I decided I needed to be more proactive in minimising my anxiety. For me, it’s not worry or anxious thoughts. It is a build up of tension and sensation I carry around in my solar plexus, which can keep building until it is almost unbearable.
Deep breathing can help, but it’s effects are transient. Mindfulness and calming music slide off the anxiety like water over an oily surface. I enjoy both of those activities but they are not helpful in the face of this overwhelming sensation.
What really works is loud, fast paced music with a really strong beat. I have one song in particular that works so well, it is now my go to antidote. I think it is something to do with a combination of the drum beat, the vocals and the other instruments used in the song. It’s a very rhythmic piece and that seems to help.
The other thing that helps is moving to music. This is something I have done off and on my entire life. These days it has a name – stim dancing and it’s used by many autistic people all over the world as a way to regulate their emotions. It’s a fantastic outlet and best of all, anything goes – move however you want. Naturally I recommend stim dancing as a way of releasing tension to everyone regardless of your neuro type. There are plenty of YouTube clips to give you an idea.
So as world events unfold you will find me here with my loud music dancing to the end of the world. Stay safe everyone x