Letters of Constraint
To whom it may concern,
Autistic people struggle with many things that their neurotypical peers can not only cope well with but also enjoy and thrive in. These might include include busy spaces, socialising with friends, meeting new people, travelling or employment in a lively work place.
For many autistic people these situations are our lock-down.
We struggle, burn out, remain isolated and outside of much of society as a result, unable to participate in the ways we want to and should be able to – as parents, students, employees or workers, friends or neighbours. Our mental health and well being suffer. We are invisible to most people, just like our difference which becomes a disability in the non-autistic society we must exist in is.
This lock-down has freed many of us from the constraints that bind us. The expectations we cannot usually escape from, the things (if you’re neurotypical) you regard as fun or ‘normal’. The things you take for granted as being easy to deal with.
For the first time, often in our lives we can:
- Have control over our sensory environments
- Not have to shop in busy overcrowded spaces
- Have some peace and quiet without the constant noise of 21st Century life humming along in the background.
- Work in our own homes and enjoy a degree of control over our daily routines
- Socialise digitally, without people thinking it is strange
- Not feel pressured into social engagements or have to deal with large groups of people at once.
So, if lock-down has made you depressed, feel frightened or anxious alone or overwhelmed, remember that there are people for whom your normal has the same affect. This is how many autistic people feel all the time, just trying to get by and cope.
Denied the right to work, we have to subsume on benefits, being called scroungers and time-wasters. Denied healthcare, we die early and are inappropriately detained under the Mental Health Act and subject to chemical restraint. Denied a diagnosis, we are unable to know who we are or ask for the help we need.
We are denied the right to live, so we exist instead, just like you might feel you have been for the last two months..
As the world returns to your normal, remember this. Lockdown has been difficult for everyone, but there have been benefits. We need to take the best of your world and the best of ours and make something better for everyone.
How can you help this to happen?
I hope we get the chance to talk soon. It would be good to hear your ideas.
Jenn Layton Annable