Isolation’s different for us introverts.
My first month in isolation was the best month I’ve had in years.
I’m an autistic mother, and significantly introverted. When I decided to have children, they came along with a social life that required me to participate in activities that exhausted me every single day. Before isolation, the amount time and energy I spent organizing everyone’s schedules, keeping the household running, and caring for the kids each day would have me counting the minutes until my partner got home so I could go to my room, to be alone in the quiet dark and recharge. I simplified our schedules as much as I possibly could, but I still didn’t have time or energy for my own friends, my own goals. My life was often overwhelming and lonely.
The pandemic is awful, obviously. People are dying. Our lives have been turned upside-down. But as an autistic person, staying at home, living a quiet life with my kids, is my ideal. My day-to-day life has become so much more fulfilling. There is so much more time for my personal projects, and for connection with my loved ones.
When we first went into isolation, there were so many things that were suddenly scratched from my schedule. No more driving to and from school with my kids. No more sitting in the waiting room for multiple hours a week for my kids’ appointments for speech therapy and occupational therapy. No more weekly personal therapy appointments. No more sitting through dance lessons when I’d forgotten to have breakfast, again. No more ninja gymnastics in uncomfortable bleachers in the loudest, hottest open gym imaginable. No more trying to meet friends for coffee and lunch even though being out was exhausting.
The pandemic has certainly been stressful for my family in a lot of ways, but it has completely reinvigorated me personally. I spend less time worrying about everyone else and more time on a schedule that I like. I get to eat meals when I’m hungry, sleep when I’m tired, wake up when I’m done. I am enjoying talking to my kids and exploring new ideas with them, reading books that have been on my list for years, and working on pet projects that I never had time to do before the pandemic closed everything. How could I fail to be grateful for such an opportunity?
And many of my autistic friends (and some of my neurotypical introverted friends) feel the same way. The world has slowed down to a pace we finally feel we can manage, after lifetimes of constant overwhelm.
I’m extraordinarily lucky and privileged both, and I know that. I was already a stay-at-home parent before the virus shut us all in. My partner is supportive and loving. My kids need extra support, but not round-the-clock care. I like my house and my cats and my books. I have enough.
But before the virus, before isolation, I spent so much energy trying not to drown in a world that isn’t built for my energy style, and my sensory needs. There were so many obligations to other people that there wasn’t enough time for me.
Are there things I would change, in a perfect world? Well, yes, and removing the virus from circulation would certainly be one of them. I do not expect my children will not do particularly well in virtual school this year. I miss my sisters very much and look forward to being able to travel to see them one day.
But mostly, I would want to give this time, this space, this peace, to everyone. I hope, very much, that when we finally conquer this virus, we will not abandon this new lifestyle and rush back to the old one. There must be a middle ground, a quieter, slower space, for those of us who are finally finding some wellbeing in the midst of the pandemic.