Autistic Self-Isolation. A Journal Entry by Martin Oakes

For the last week we have been instructed to self-isolate, not to go anywhere unless it is essential. From what I can gather this has proved very difficult for many people, with great increases in general anxiety, sleep problems, lack of focus and other associated problems. However not for me. Perhaps it is because I am autistic or having worked on cruise ships, maybe I am just used to it.I spent twelve years at sea, with people who thought that crocs counted as formal wear, answered ‘hello’ with ‘no thank-you’ or would yell the word ‘bathroom’ at you from down the hall. Having so many people from so many places in a confined space, meant it was hardly surprising that we would be on regular ‘lockdown’ due to an outbreak of flu or norovirus. I would say that about two weeks every three months was an average. For this time, we would only be allowed out of the cabins to work (if essential) and to eat. Social events would be cancelled, guest interaction minimised, non-essential things closed and everywhere would be disinfected twice a day. One of the more tedious jobs was wiping the laminated covers of the library books, what the point of this was (when we couldn’t wipe the pages) is anyone’s guess.

This is all fairly similar to what is happening now. The major difference is the sheer number of people involved. It feels like we are over the panic-buying stage. The supermarket was over-flowing with toilet roll yesterday, they had an entire aisle of it plus two huge pallets. I wonder if anyone has risk assessed the flammability of all that.

For me, self-isolation is not such a bad thing. Like many autistic people, I don’t mind structure and following rules (assuming I understand what they are). Two of my least favourite things are crowds and sudden noises, with everyone being inside, these are no longer a problem. I take my daily walk through deserted streets and it is just lovely. People actively avoid entering my personal space and nobody is tempted to pat my shoulder or shake my hand, it would be great if that continued long after this is all over.

One problem I do have is that Covid-19 is a bad choice for an ‘intense interest’. I like things I can research, learn and find answers to. Yet, as this is new, nobody really knows. Some experts are saying it is getting better, some say it is getting worse. The police say different things to different people and the politicians say ‘wash your hands’ and ‘stay two meters apart’, yet every day another one is infected. This is no good for an intense interest.

Instead I am trying to find news about something else, anything else. There was a story on the news the other day about two people who reached 116, two weeks ago I wouldn’t have paid any attention to this, now it seems the most interesting thing in the world.

I was reading all about Angela Merkel who has tested negative three times but has decided to still carry self-isolating for a few more days. I can relate to that…

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