Neurodivergency in the Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic that has swept through America has been quite a confusing experience, filled with a series of mixed emotions. It has been a period of time where I've been able to truly reflect on myself and my life— not because I never had the time, but rather because of everyone else's reactions to total isolation compared to my own. I am fortunate enough to say that my experience with this pandemic has been relatively okay, especially in terms of my education, compared to the experiences of those who I've talked to. For those that I know, their plight has not revolved around the virus going about, but rather the education system and its response to the national disaster. They are crushed under the weight of ginormous assignments with cutthroat deadlines; drowning in stormy seas of unusually terrible grades, circulating disappointment from their families and hardships at home, and merciless teachers who— despite their roles as guides for their students' futures— sneer at them for not being able to “do their jobs.” Their mental health withers by the mere second. Much of these people are mentally disabled. They'd rather be dead than continue their education under these circumstances. Oftentimes I find myself wishing to switch places with them, just to give them a bit of peace. Unlike my disabled peers, my plight comes from coping with the effects of this world's ableism while being in the pandemic. I am autistic. I was unaware of this fact for most of my life, and I did not get an official diagnosis until earlier this school year. I grew up in a neighborhood that had an extremely poor reception of my existence, and so I was ostracized, undermined and bullied by most of my classmates as well as my teachers. With that being said, I had become more comfortable within the walls of my own home rather than the outdoors where many children played. I never understood why the world seemed to be so against me, I had simply thought I was born unlucky. And so the norm for me became sitting alone on my bed, chatting with online friends who shared similar hardships of my own, completing my daily tasks, and then going to sleep. Every day was the same, and yet I never complained despite how obsolete my living situation was. I thought it was better than daring to ever step outside the lines where I was guaranteed safety. I never felt that lonely until the pandemic came around the corner in March, and everyone was on the internet complaining about a living situation they were forced into— one that I had long grown accustomed to since I was a little kid. It wasn't until then that I realized just how much of the lived experience had been taken away from me. Yet I still didn't understand why it was all happening, and I continued to not understand until I got my diagnosis in October. It was later that month that I was given the grace of being able to finally meet some of my online friends, who were either autistic as well or simply just accepting. It felt like I was able to breathe in fresh air for the first time I had been alive. I didn't feel chained to a specific way that I should act. I could move my limbs however I desired, I could speak in a way that was authentic to me, I could rest my eyes wherever was comfortable without being reminded of social “rules.” I was free to stim in any way my mind and body guided me to. I was free. For the first time in my life I felt free, and I mourned heavily that night when I had to go back to my daily life, confined to the bars of my room where I felt like I'd rot away. I was given a smidgen of freedom before being locked away again. My heart continues to yearn for just another taste, under the forced isolation and quarantine from the plaguing virus.

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Krister Axel

Music Blogger and Memoirist at CHILLFILTR.com

Ogdensburg, United States