The Coronavirus Pandemic: Lucian’s Neurodiverse Journey
The Pandemic: Lucian’s Story:
About the Author:
Lucian C. Gagliola is a graduate of University of Connecticut-Storrs and aspires toward law school. He is a writer for Different Brains and has worked as a political operative for years. Lucian carries a diagnosis of high-functioning autism, anxiety, and ADHD, and stresses viewing autism in a positive light and removing the stigma of having a different brain.
Life Before the Pandemic & Reacting to the Coronavirus:
Q: Describe your everyday life before the pandemic hit. Include social aspects, such as school, work, extracurricular activities, and spending time with friends and family.
A: Before the pandemic hit, I was actually enrolled in a law school in a jurisdiction program. I was also looking for work. I had a part-time job as a mentor for autistic students at Ben Haven Academy, and I was looking for something that would offer more hours. I saw friends almost every weekend. We’d have a board game night. I also played D&D [Dungeons and Dragons] at the church in the church hall every Tuesday night, so I routinely saw a large group of friends. I used play diplomacy competitively, I would go to tournaments, and those have basically been cancelled.
Q: Describe how you initially reacted to COVID-19 and the social distancing.
A: I didn’t react a lot. I mean, we’ve had other health scares in my lifetime with the swine flu and bird flu, so I just kind of treated it the same as those, which was to be relatively dismissive towards it. With history as my guide, there was no good reason to be alarmed… I will say, my first reaction to the pandemic in regards to the shutdown was actually, “I wonder how [the coronavirus] is going to impact the election.” For the social distancing, I joked and said, “I’m already very socially distant, so this is great”, to everyone. I was actually a little bit cranky about the fact I my social life had to be altered. It was fine the way it was, but you have to play ball sometimes. I thought this would be over quickly, but it wasn’t. I said it would be over soon, I said it wouldn’t be a big deal, you don’t need to be alarmed, and that all changed pretty fast.
Life Changes & Adaptations:
Q: In what ways did your life and schedule change as a result of the coronavirus?
A: Well, I wasn’t able to go to D&D at the church anymore. I wasn’t able to see my friends in general. I actually have a couple friends who are not that afraid of the virus, so I have been hanging out with them more. I decided not to go back to school and to put that on hold temporarily [until the coronavirus ends] because I wasn’t that sure how well online learning would do for me. I’m not sure if online learning is the right course [for me] and I don’t want to risk that.
Q: What have you had to do in order to adapt to these circumstances?
A: It was really just doing things online instead of in-person. My friends and I have tried to have an online game night, but that didn’t go very well. We have certain online parties like a murder mystery dinner party, we had an online birthday party for some people; myself included in December. There were at least certain ways to keep things kind of normal or at least have an illusion of normalcy.
Neurodiversity & The Coronavirus:
Q: If you are neurodiverse, how has the pandemic affected your condition(s) or how have your conditions affected how you’re dealing with the coronavirus?
A: I don’t think it’s made a big difference, actually. I have diagnoses of anxiety, autism, ADHD, and a sleep disorder that’s otherwise unspecified, but none of that has really had an impact, I don’t think. Having high-functioning autism, you’re already living a relatively limited social life, at least compared to others that you may know. I don’t think [my neurodiversities] have really changed with the pandemic, at least.
Coping With Change, Life Lessons, & Advice:
Q: What coping mechanisms are you using in order to deal with these strange times?
A: More just finding ways to keep myself busy with computer games, reading, writing, and working as needed and when I can. I also keep myself as socially active as possible, which obviously, is limited.
Q: What have you learned about yourself and the world around you about these circumstances?
A: How to wash my hands even better. I wish I could give you more, but that’s all I have.
Q: What advice would you give to someone that’s having a hard time dealing with the coronavirus?
A: This will end at some point. This is a great chance for you to pick up a new hobby.
Story by: Lucian
Interviewed by: Julia Futo
Interviewed on: January 29th, 2021
Julia Futo was born on August 5th, 1999, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She faced difficulties early on in life with trying to perform everyday tasks. Before she was five years old, she was diagnosed with two learning disabilities: Encephalopathy and developmental coordination disorder (DCD). She struggled in school for a long time, but that changed when she took journalism in high school and learned how to become an advocate. She is currently in college and hopes to help others find their voices.