Coronavirus: Autistic Voices – Paul

The last of our Coronavirus: Autistic Voices posts is from Paul Gibbon, an autistic adult. He talks about the fear he has felt during the pandemic, stemming from not knowing what’s happening next. Read what he has to say below:


There’s a line from Stephen King’s non-fiction book on the horror genre, Danse Macabre, that’s stuck with me recently, where he describes horror as, to paraphrase, something that destroys the bonds between people, making us frightened and isolated with nobody to turn to.

And for me, that’s been the essence of what the pandemic has done to the world, and how it’s left me feeling. The fear and worry in the wider world is palpable and it’s hard to ignore, especially for someone like me. Autistic people are often depicted as being unemotional and insensitive, but for me and many others, that is a defence mechanism, a protection against a tendency to absorb the emotions of those around me and get carried away with worry and anger that doesn’t belong to me. And these days, there is so much more of it, and it’s so much harder to ignore.

It’s hard to talk to anyone, especially on the internet, without bathing in a tide of fear and anger, where everyone is certain it’s the fault of those other people that everything is so bad. Conspiracy theories speak of a bleak and cynical world view based around utter and indiscriminate mistrust of anyone with any kind of power. Everyone who says otherwise is part of the conspiracy, and I almost wish that was true, because at least that would imply some order and planning guiding current events. Decency and politeness have been left behind, all that matters is letting everyone know that you’re angry, and repeating it over and over until it’s utterly impossible to miss.

Everyone is worried, angry and fed up. Nobody can fix things, and even talking to others doesn’t work, because we’re all equally worried about the same thing and equally unable to solve it. I’m feeling generally frightened, fatigued and anxious, but I don’t even know how much of that anxiety and fear actually belongs to me, and how much I’ve absorbed from those around me. Sometimes, it feels like being under siege from the news in a way that I have felt before at times of crisis or uncertainty, but never with this sort of sustained intensity.

I don’t like to think ill of people and I don’t like to mistrust them. Most individuals I actually talk with face to face are good and decent people just trying to get to the other side of this. But the wider world certainly feels more hostile and unreliable for the duration of this virus, and maybe it still will afterwards. The horror story we’re in right now has been dragged out too long without a resolution; I’d rather read a wacky comedy or fluffy romance.