January 17, 2021

The return to normal

By rosieweldon

I’m used to others experiencing one thing and myself another. This is becoming increasingly so with the ‘return to normal’.

Overnight the world became a friendlier place for me. I didn’t have to go into the office. I didn’t have to get on buses. I didn’t have to walk through towns. After a life of being judged for spending too much time indoors, the government demanded that of me.

I always knew that while the change of lockdown hit me, the biggest challenge would come when it all ended. Not only would I then have to deal with the change, but it would be a change back to a life I struggled with. A life of trying to keep my head above water.

Tomorrow I move back into my own house. The night lockdown was announced I moved into my parent’s house to see it through together. My mother is shielded so I have literally left the premises twice in 3 and a half months. A third of a year in a perfect autistic bubble.

I now face a transition back to living alone. Which also includes cooking my own tea, washing clothes, housework and everything that comes with my own place. The physical element of these doesn’t phase me, but they all require mental energy to complete.

I also face a work transition. I received an email yesterday with the new rules of the office. Just reading this and thinking of a return to the office pushed me to struggling to regulate my breathing as the anxiety attack picked up pace. I am terrified.

It feels like going right back to starting work again. The office isn’t even the office I left. It’s got weird one-way systems and rules I will struggle to understand and adhere to when I can’t focus on social aspects of who is where.

The huge positive to this workplace hurdle compared to starting work is I know my boss. My boss doesn’t always get it right, she’s not trained in autism. But I have zero doubt she will do what she can to support me back into the workplace. The transition will take time and she has already made it clear there is no pressure on me to return when the others do.

I know a lot more about myself than I did 3 years ago when I moved out for the first time and into work. I know to build routines to help me function. For that I’m turning to fitness and healthy eating. Regulating this part of my life will help me function amongst uncertainty. Strict routines will help me transition.

For work I know the key is to phase in. I jumped in the deep end unaided when I started work. Those who have read fight song will know how that turned out! I won’t do that this time. I will not drill through all my anxiety and panic to force a way back into the office. I am lucky enough to have a boss that will support that. If she forced me to go back, well I’d soon be unemployed. I couldn’t do it. It is going to take time to figure out a strategy to getting me back in there.

I am terrified. But I know myself. I know my support systems. I will work with what I have as I stumble back into a scary world.

I set out to write this blog as a panic blog. The process of writing it in itself has got me to that above point. All we can do is work with what we have and what we know. Often that is more than we first realised.

Many people will rush out the gates back to this new normal. Others will stay hesitant looking out, scared of what is to come. If you rush out, that’s great. But please do stop to look back and help the many that will struggle with this transition.

Please don’t push autistic people to jump back into, what is to us, a scary world.

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