The Lockdown experience from a neurodivergent perspective:
Pre-lockdown a perpetual rhythm of Go! Push, rest, repeat across different sectors, timelines, social and neuro-tribes, the pace relentless, the intersectional finish lines? Rolling.
Lockdown has presented — an isolating yet unifying awakening that has allowed much needed time, space and quiet to consolidate the various splices of myself, each aspect authentic but also fragmented.
The change of pace has afforded me the time to consider the various sections and sectors traversed during pre-lockdown; ranging from educational, professional, cultural, social to biological and neuro-tribes all being simultaneously straddled. The lockdown brought each carefully moderated stream crashing together — when various types of marginalisation’s meet at the intersection, the only option is to embrace the complexities.
One into many, the conclusion I came to in the first week of isolation, the pre-lockdown construct was a little tight across the shoulders, with little room for manoeuvre at the best of times — the vertical bones and blood existence jockeying for position with the horizontal ‘invisible’ neurodivegence, but finding a space that had room for the whole self proved to be an ongoing challenge.
My brain and way of being often extremely aware of mainstream ‘comfort levels’ and how to deploy self-taught social recipes, drawing on internal resources to facilitate navigation of mainstream terrain, by that I mean day to day living, communicating, commuting and working (masking for health and safety reasons when required, always a last resort and involuntary auto-masking).
Embracing the complexities involved a form of self-confession to enable the navigating and narrating of pre and current lockdown trauma and triumphs; using various ways to get it out of the body and mind through crafting, speaking, moving and vocalising.
This creative process looked like: Condensing feelings and embodied experiences into 2-dimensional key words, followed by expanding them into tangible objects, creating and translating this into song or poetry to enable access to the borderlines between the intricate sections of the intersectional lived experience of a 3rd generation West Indian, neurodivergent, woman, professional, devoted family member.
What’s next? Returning to the world with joined up sections will be the next challenge, post lockdown.
I have been working within my fields for some years, spanning special Educational needs (SEN), research and Inclusive Design, and have advocated for a more joined up cross-sector approach at all given opportunities.
What has become apparent through this lockdown is not only the unifying and to an extent equalising force with differentiated access to information and offerings ranging from science, technology, engineering arts and math (STEAM) to cultural heritage; including formats that in some cases were previously categorised as not possible or unreasonable (requested pre-pandemic) by members of my community, now being rolled out in a matter of days for the mainstream (with many raised neurodivergent eyebrows).
There has also been stress inducing changes impacting the wider disability community. This concerns article 41, that essentially destroys the UK’s compliance with the UN convention, along with changes to SEN law, that will impact the duty of care exclusively for SEN children, coupled with not entirely positive changes to London focused commuting and restrictions on Freedom passes.
This has caused stress and anxiety in my communities; many of us are justifiably worried and feeling unwelcome all over the UK, in places that we comfortably called home, pre-pandemic. Currently, I am working with an agile team trying to create a digital conduit to aid the processing of these lived experiences.
Over the past week there have been great and inspiring online conferences, rallying cries such as ‘unlocking lockdown’ and ‘building back better’; these have merits and are well intentioned however, this is based on the challenges faced by my communities to fully address the pain points.
We will need to ‘build back different’ — protecting and preventing the purging and erasure of rights related to marginalised groups and all forms of tangible and intangible erasures; ‘building back different’ with equitable principles that facilitate inclusion, social justice and universal compassion as a foundation would be a positive start.
How can we each embrace all of the above on a personal level?
By weaving this into our day to day lives, being an ally, deep listening, reaching out to marginalised groups impacted (to know what type of allyship is needed), through mainstream work and the community — this could include formal and informal learning, engagement, and sideways communication. Moving away from the top down bottom up to meet in the middle method; instead adopting a sideways approach in its place.
To conclude this blog I would like to share with you this poem I have written that explores the inner and outer worlds running parallel; the ups, downs and in-between places experienced during the lockdown.
Hope Love Faith The silence rings out in city capitals, Oxford Circus is so quiet and it seems as though Times Square has lost its soul, but despite all this brave London is still open. Hyper connectivity beyond borders, offline transitions, transactions, interactions, shoulder to shoulder; a hazy memory of how it use to be. The good old days were, quite literally yesterday nonetheless were still standing firm today, in our own myriad ways.
Through the looking glass we go, I think Alice went here once before; everything’s different and yet it all looks the same; mirror reflections, the informal is formal, the private is political, yellow and black lines on the floor mark the space, keep it safe, distancing, sterile and cautious, yet we are more attentive, we are listening, voices in an equalised landscape.
Flipped and reversed, everyday gestures mean something else, frozen in place, masks on our faces, working together; gallant and selfless; so brave. 2 metres to the sky, 2 metres to the ground, 2 metres between you and I. Suspended animation to contain the contamination; an outpouring of love, a stay from visiting loved ones.
Withheld IRL kisses ad infinitum, with generous sprinkles of courage and true grit, endless hugs banked, their currency building, hand to hand interactions put on hold countless weeks and months.
So near yet so far, away from those we love. one universal declaration of devotion, crossing the divide; flattening the curve together weathering the invisible storm every night, each life touched, we won’t give up. Using love for shelter and hope for sustenance, we rise in unison with each triumph, every tear drop adding to a rising tide of compassion and understanding for a safe landing. The recipe is bittersweet but shall improve with time, let’s follow the instructions, they need no introductions.
Take physical rest schedule this in, mark the start and the end of each day you are blessed with, take mental rest with zeal, I know this is surreal — do it your way, you could get your household involved — even make it a habit that is long term, social media rest — something every Millennial, Boomer, Gen X and Gen Z can do with; it’s time for a new rhythm, confuse the algorithm and set-up new boundaries, a healing new foundry. Put a pause on production creative or STEM, give your ears and eyes the space to unsee and unlisten through sensory rest, journaling can help to unpack a busy mind and lay the foundation for emotional release, treat yourself as a friend and be kind. Take from this what’s useful and leave what is not, add this to your time to heal, let it marinade if required. Continue sharing the same sun and moon like we always have done. All eyes fixed on the horizon.
By Natasha Trotman Copyright © 2020
NOTE FROM THE WRITER: Natasha Trotman is a neurodivergent, Inclusive Designer and Researcher; her work examines different ways of experiencing and processing the world. NOTE FROM THE EDITORS: We would like to say thank you to Natasha for giving us some of her valuable time to write her second blog for InSPIre the Mind. Thank you Natasha!