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I hit refresh on the BBC news website for the 20th time in a row. My partner tells me to stop obsessing but I can’t help it. This is how I have been throughout lockdown.

@outdoorperscrip‘s #MadCovidDiaries 18.8.2020 

I hit refresh on the BBC news website for the 20th time in a row. My partner tells me to stop obsessing but I can’t help it. This is how I have been throughout lockdown. My reason for obsessing on this occasion was due to the A Level results disaster. My daughter is due to get her GCSE results this week and I was very concerned about what had happened with A Levels. On a wider level I’m concerned and worried for the young people impacted by this horrendous approach, and on a personal level worried for my daughter and concerned what impact any potential downgrades could have on her mental health.

Uncertainty makes me feel anxious and I seek information to try to reassure myself. With no information coming from the government I found myself in a loop of repeatedly checking the news. When waiting for information this can dominate my every move, I become paralysed until I have the answer or reassurance that I need. This pattern of behaviour isn’t uncommon to me, I am autistic and this has been something I’ve struggled with throughout my life. During the pandemic I have spent a lot of time trawling through government guidance to try and reassure myself. My family are fed up of me quoting guidance at them. When announcements about changes to rules are due I am again paralysed, neglecting my responsibilities whilst I wait for a small tit bit of certainty.

Now that the government have announced they are backtracking on the exam stuff I can go back to all the stuff that has built up whilst I have been static, one level of anxiety eased for now, a mountain of neglected house stuff staring me down making me feel overwhelmed.

My need for rules has been very apparent during lockdown. I have followed the guidance to the letter throughout. I’ve found others not following the rules really difficult. I find it really hard not to either correct people when they break rules or get upset when people are breaking them. Social media has been a minefield. I have had to mute accounts of friends who aren’t following the rules because I can’t trust myself not to post something to query their behaviour. Occasionally I do post, then feel terrible afterwards. When out and about I can’t cope with people breaking the 2 metre distance. I like rules that make sense, changing the distancing to 1m plus didn’t make sense to me and as I understand it people must still stay 2m apart if they can. This is being ignored by some, which is really distressing. Walks in places I used to enjoy going have become minefields of anxiety. I feel like I am in a pacman game, switching course or direction to avoid people. I’ve been barged off paths a number of times. So I adjust the places I go to, I only visit the places I know to be quiet, I walk at times that I know will be quieter, and at the weekend I am lucky that my partner drives so we can go to isolated places. I haven’t been able to go food shopping since lockdown as I know I won’t be able to cope with people not distancing. I know I am a kind, caring and polite person, but when I see people breaking a rule I can’t behave in what society perceives to be a ‘normal way’. This makes me feel vulnerable, open to bullying and abuse. I feel too fragile to open myself up to that.

This week the reality hit of how far away returning to normality is. I see other people returning to normality without a care in the world and to be honest I envy them. I long for the time of being able to return to a few normal things like pushing a trolly around the supermarket or having a coffee in a café with my Mum. My neighbourhood has been noisy throughout lockdown and it’s slowly eroding my mental health away. In the past I would be at home for a lesser amount of time, so it would be less intense, but working from home means I can’t just get away from it. It also means that the noise at night is depriving my sleep. I can’t sleep if there is noise and any slight noise will wake me from my sleep. The virus has caused there to be many gatherings in gardens, which has never been the case before. Sometimes I don’t see being autistic as a disability, but at the moment I feel it is disabling me, isolating me from society and making me fearful in nearly everything that I do. I know there are many others feeling this way and I also know some of the difficulties I have described are not just unique to autistic people. Many people with mental health difficulties are becoming isolated because of the pandemic and often the actions of others are compounding the problem. I wish there was an obvious solution. In the mean time it is just helpful to connect with others and hear than I am not alone with what I am struggling with and I thank people that are sharing their stories for this.

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