I have been housebound since March 9th, midday. The year is 2020. And there is a pandemic. I have had fear of a coming pandemic since I was four years of age; it was then that I realized what rabies was and what it did. Poor doggies. Since then, several decades have past, and I’ve had thoughts of a looming pandemic for the majority of my days. I haven’t figured out if this inner dread is a result of my encoded genetic makeup, one of the many apocalyptic films viewed as a youngster, some twisted intuition, or the product of pronounced childhood trauma. It’s likely some odd combo. Would you like a side of frog thighs with your burger?
Makes no difference, because, as I told David this morning, from my perspective the current state of world affairs is akin to staring the devil in the face. Take your very, very worst nightmare and put it right smack center, in front you, in this day and age reality. That’s my experience at the moment. A devil face off. In fact, because of my continuous pandemic trepidation, several procedures and processes to safeguard one’s self from the Coronavirus have been part of my daily habits for ages. Hand washing continually? Check. Dosing up on vitamin C, zinc, and D? Check. Washing clothes in hot water to disinfect? Check. (And of course self-isolation–as I am autistic and enjoy it.) Wiping down surfaces? Check. Essentially, I am doing much of what I have already been doing! Except, of course, for the indoor, face-mask-thingy, and going about the day, inside our home, like an invisible virus ball is going to dive into me and kill me.
Last night I hit a wall. I started counting the days like a prisoner, and then reassuring myself, then counting my blessings, then questioning life, the world, my part in the world. And then, the whole roof of overthinking collapsed, as I was bombarded with the outside coming in: a hailstorm of my own making.
I readily recognize that I am in a position in which I have nothing to complain about. That fact alone only encourages the self-inflicted slashes from the belt of shame. I have shelter, family, food, and even a remote job (and toilet paper). I have a partner and a dog at my side. Still, I have this utterly, ceaselessly, relenting bulldozer of a brain, coupled with extreme empathy which seems to have turned into a satellite created for the land of giants. Some huge dish on the rooftop house of the giant in the Jack in the Beanstalk. I am picking up on an abundance of crap, and what-have-you, from the outside world, in addition to my own inner tremulous inside world!
With the current global crisis, and what it entails (e.g., unknowns in multiple areas, dependency on government leadership, sheltering in place, worldwide suffering, etc.), I have stepped back into an emotional place I haven’t visited in years: a lot of fear and OCD behaviors in thinking and rituals. Wowzers! Holy Moly! And all the jazz!
To add to things, my senior dog Violet (who very much needs a bath, and don’t let that sweet expression in the photo fool you) woke me up at 3:30 a.m., panting and begging to go outside. I then had to pee, put on my face mask and socks (as dreaded virus might be lurking on the floorboards), enter the dark of the backyard, and step toward the back fence, and bribe her with a beef stick, to get her stinky, matted self back in the darn house! Then, after she was indoors in my bedroom, she proceeded to make an ongoing, annoying shuffle, tapping back and forth on the hardwood floor. At 5:30 a.m-ish I gave up and let her back outdoors. Growl! (You may note I am using more adverbs and adjectives than normal. This is an indication I am under distress–which is the opposite of eustress–but I digress.) By 5:35 a.m., I am more than wide awake, and calculating how much I did actually sleep, and contemplating if I had any right to complain about lack of sleep at a time like this?
This thought pattern was followed by two hours of panicking about having to work at my remote job for 1.5 hours today. Yes. 1.5 hours. A whole 90 minutes. And at the caboose of my domino thoughts, I wondered if having a panic attack, and being sick, and being a wreck, and haven’t not had a paid work vacation since 2018, nor taken my comp time to date, was reason enough to give myself a break from work! Not to mention the devil in my face. Conclusion from my brain: No. You suck.
Lately, the circumstance of being cooped up, and distancing myself physically from my entire family and David, has made the smallest things seem insurmountable. Even the tiniest of work tasks, one that used to seem a ripple in the stream, or at max. a level-three river rafting adventure, now brings visions of tsunamis dancing in my head.
I reason now, having had been sick for two weeks, I wasn’t afforded an opportunity to process much of what has been happening with the Coronavirus. (And we all know how I need to process.) As it was, these past days, as I was sick, my body conveniently took over and relieved my mind of unnecessary energy. That is one element that I do appreciate about being sick: it is typically the only time I get relief from my brain! I don’t mind when my physical body goes into defense mode, and for the most part dims non-vital functionings of fear and fret. But, obviously, I have difficulty when the switch is turned back on full voltage. Ouch! My brain! My brain! (Said in Fantasy Island voice.)
Anyhow, last night, as I said, I hit a wall. I went through some dark spaces of negativity. Partially, because David called yesterday’s blog post, in which I shared about psychic stuff, a bit ‘woo-woo.’ You know: out there. And then, I had to explain to David that anyone who has read my blog, or book for that matter, already knows I am woo-woo. David only meant the writing entry was in strong contrast to what I’ve written recently on autism as it relates to the workplace. I agree. But nonetheless, with no emotional reserves whatsoever, and whilst crying at the drop of a pin, or tack, or shoe, I allowed myself to go through hyper-focus-on-self mode, in which self-shamming show commenced at approximately 7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Whilst, intermission consisted of self-analysis, past wrongs, how to be better, how to right my wrongs, and how, most definitely I am failing, as not only a partner to David, but to the entire human race!
As I mentioned, the state of the world is triggering some past behaviors and thought patterns. Fortunately, I am stepping out of myself this morning and policing my mind. (Bolded for emphasis and reminder to self.) A clean sweep with the baton. Pushing out the little buggers that I call Little Voice and Sir Brain. Those two have been up to no good and need redirection, or some sort of distraction therapy. Little Voice in my head (L.V.), who is always questioning, ordering, and searching, is being made to sit still and listen to my lecture (and this blog post). She has a disgruntled look on her face. Sir Brain, the nervous little guy with toothpick legs, (basically a brain on two sticks), who is already in a constant state of fret about the world, even when there isn’t a pandemic, is this very morning shaking all about, like some child in a twisted came of hokey pokey.
Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyhow (out of guilt), I called in sick to work today. (Actually, I texted in sick to work.) As a result, L.V. is screaming statements such as: You are letting your team down. It’s times like these to step up and take one for the team. I am starting to think L.V. used to play football (or soccer/depending on your country of origin).
As you can see, L.V. and Sir Brain have, beyond a doubt, regressed back into petulant toddler stage. They are approximately at the same starting point as they were eight years ago, when I first started blogging. Now, over 1000 pages later, apparently I am still the guardian of two overactive preschoolers who are housebound and screaming, “Where’s my Mac and Cheese!?”
But there is light ahead of the tunnel! A flashlight in the dark of voices. This morning, I’ve made a decision. I decided to stop worrying so much and to take this in stride. I was finally fed up with L.V. and Sir Brain to the point that spanking them didn’t seem quite enough. About an hour ago, I wept to my David. Poor David. (He is shouldering the weight of a dozen-plus distressed autistic adults with his job, and here I am, the prime example of falling apart at the seams.) Today I ended my self-isolation. I removed the pouty princess from her bedroom tower, took off my face mask, and had a conversation without sounding like Darth Vader. It was heaven. And what was better than heaven, was getting to be held by David, after extended, cautionary, physical separation. I actually whimpered in his arms.
I do owe it to L.V. and Sir Brian, though. For it was their relentless act of researching this virus outbreak, and its effects, (hours upon hours, some eight hours a day) that finally allowed me to literally breathe more freely. Because of their persistent drive to devour as many ‘facts’ as humanly possible, alas I finally understand that more than likely David, my sons, and I will be okay. It’s just the rest of the world I am worried about. And that’s another story.