The Mighty Logo

My Struggle Through the Pandemic as an Autistic Woman

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I remember March 2020 as if it were yesterday. I can recall the COVID-19 outbreak and being laid off from my part-time job at a clothing store. All the businesses, restaurants, and stores within my neighborhood abruptly closed, and some even went bankrupt.

I mostly stayed at home during the first few weeks of the pandemic because there was nothing else to do besides stare at the walls of my apartment and hang out with my cat. It was very isolating and lonely. I wanted to see my friends and ask how they were doing, but everyone felt so distant, and talking to people online didn’t feel the same as speaking to them in person. I missed the face-to-face interactions which I had been longing for and I wanted to be able to hang out with my friends and family, instead of having to stay inside.

Every day felt like a repeat of the previous day. I would wake up, get dressed, and ride my exercise bike, not knowing exactly what I should be doing each day. I always have a hard time knowing the right things to say to people, especially in challenging times. Living on my own just made me feel even more alone and isolated from those around me who attempted to reach out and ask how I was doing.

When I finally received my letter inviting me to get my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, it was April 2021. It felt like I had already been waiting too long, considering that the pandemic has been going on for over a year now. As someone on the autism spectrum, I am OK with needles, and certain people touching me, but I was very nervous to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for some reason. I had heard from other people that they had a bad reaction after getting the vaccine. I had never had a severe reaction to vaccines in the past or been severely sick after taking a certain medication. Yet, the possibility of that happening to me was very scary, but also something to take into consideration.

I waited a few weeks to book my vaccine appointment because I wanted to make sure someone was able to drive me home afterward. On the day of my vaccine appointment, I was very uneasy, as I was thinking about everything that could go wrong. But, as soon as I arrived, got the shot, and sat down for 15 minutes to rest afterward, I was fine. However, I felt extremely tired and sleepy. I didn’t feel like eating anything and I had a headache.

When I arrived back home, I immediately went to bed and took a long nap since my arm was also very sore. The next few days were better, but my arm did throb a bit and I did feel a tad sick. I didn’t feel like doing much of anything. I just wanted to stay at home and sleep. Getting up and going to the gym for a workout felt like too much of a task for me and going to work didn’t sound very desirable. I didn’t expect myself to react this way after getting the vaccine. However, my reaction could have been much worse, so I am glad that all I experienced was a bit of a headache, sleepiness and a sore arm.

By the fourth or fifth day, I really began to feel like myself again. I felt very energetic and went on daily walks on the weekends like I normally did. I now had one dose of the vaccine and was going to get a second dose in a few months. Things were looking better in terms of the cases going down, but I was unsure if we would be able to overcome this hurdle. I wondered when things would go back to normal and when I would be able to see my friends and family again.

As the months continue to pass and the wait time for the second dose of the vaccine has changed to eight weeks in my country, I am more hopeful that we are going to be able to recover from this global pandemic. I look forward to not having to wear a mask 24/7. Each day I hope for a brighter future without COVID and I wonder when things will go back to normal. But there are still no answers to my question, and no one knows exactly what caused the virus to enter humans, or when this global pandemic will end.

I look forward to the day where I can visit friends at their house, celebrate Christmas with my extended family, hang out with my group of friends, and go out for dinner without having to worry about being infected with COVID. I would like to be able to do all of the things I used to do prior to the pandemic. I want to live the life I used to live.

I have battled depression and anxiety throughout the pandemic. I feel like my mental health problems often get the best of me. It’s challenging to always put aside my own personal issues and focus on taking care of myself during the pandemic. But, I know I’m not the only one who deals with anxiety and depression. I’m happy that I can speak openly about my feelings and voice my opinion.

I don’t know what the future holds after I get my next dose of the vaccine, but I hope it will provide me with some protection against the virus. I don’t want to get infected and I am more prone to infections because I work in a dental office currently and serve the public daily. I am not exactly certain of what the future may hold for everyone, but I am hopeful that the coronavirus will be put to rest. I wish those who are struggling the best of luck and hope they too will find a way to recover from the pandemic and resume their everyday lives.

Getty image by macphoto07.

Originally published: June 23, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home