The Pandemic: Anita’s Story:
About the Author:
Anita Mitchell is on the board of directors for Different Brains. After 25 years at WSVN-7, she has created the blog browardpeople.com. Anita is also a competition swimmer with Swim Fort Lauderdale masters swim team.
Life Before the Pandemic:
Q: Describe your everyday life and include social activities such as work, extracurricular activities, spending time with friends, and so on.
A: Well, I’d wake up and go swimming, and I swim on a swim team, so I would see other people who are on my team. We’d swim together and we had a coach. Although I worked from home, I always went to see people. I’m a writer and I have a blog called, “browardpeople.com”. I would go see the people that I was writing about. I did that, and I cooked a lot. I always had people over—it was social, and now it’s not.
Reaction to the Coronavirus:
Q: Describe how you initially reacted to COVID-19 and the social distancing.
A: Initially, when I heard about the coronavirus, I thought, “Oh, that’ll be around for a couple of weeks and then we go back to how we were”. And, of course, that’s not happening. And social distancing: I talk to people on the phone all the time, and the people that I’m friends with that I see, we go out for walks. And that’s really about it. I don’t see hardly anybody. I don’t see people.
Life Changes & Adaptations:
Q: In what ways did your life and schedule change as a result of the coronavirus?
A: What changed for me is, up until a few days ago, I couldn’t swim anymore because you couldn’t be that close to different people, so our swim practices were cancelled at the park, and so I swim at home. The pool is a shorter pool, but still, there’s a pool to swim in, so that’s been good, but for three weeks, I didn’t swim at all. I didn’t see friends, friends didn’t come over for dinner, I couldn’t see people for work, I didn’t go visit them or spend any time with them. There were parties that were cancelled, somebody’s wedding was cancelled, and somebody that was an author who was having a big party for his new book launch, that got cancelled. It’s disappointing, but what’s probably the most disappointing is, I have a 39-year-old son and we had plans to spend our birthdays together. He lives in Tokyo, Japan, and I was going to Tokyo to be with him, and now I don’t get to see him on my birthday, or Mother’s Day, or his birthday… It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s disappointing.
Q: What have you had to do in order to adapt to these circumstances?
A: You just have to adapt—I’m not going to have my birthday this year—I’m just going to have it next year, because we don’t have a choice.
How Being Neurodiverse Impacted Coping Mechanisms:
Q: If you are neurodiverse, how has this pandemic affected your condition(s) and or how have your conditions affected how you’re dealing with it?
A: I mean, I’m probably kind of ADHD. I have some of that with organization. In a way, it’s been easier for me because there’s less to organize and to do. I don’t have to organize myself as tightly because those limited choices. In the basement, there’s these boxes of pictures I had. I had twenty cartons of photo albums for my whole life. I took those photo albums and I took the albums apart, I put the pictures in Ziplock bags, and I threw out the smelly books. Now, all of that fits in a carton and a half, so I have all that extra room because I threw out all those extra boxes of scrapbooks. So that was a big accomplishment. For being kind of ADHD, it helps to have less choices. For me, it’s been calming. I haven’t had that hard of a time with it. I mean, I don’t like being told I can’t go out or can’t do things, but having less choices made things less stressful.
Q: What coping mechanisms are you using to deal with these strange times?
A: You know, I talk on the phone to people, I have projects that I always say I’m going to do someday… but when is that someday going to come? If you don’t do it now, then when would you do it? In that ways, it’s been a good thing, and I’ve learned how to make all different kinds of food. I never cooked this much, and now I’ve made really good food and traded it with neighbors. As a result, I’ve gotten to know these neighbors a bit better. So that’s been kind of a plus.
Important Life Lessons & Advice:
Q: What have you learned about yourself and the world around you from these circumstances?
A: Well, I’ve learned that the most bizarre situations could really come true! Who would ever believe that something like this could happen! This is stuff that happened a hundred years ago and in bad movies…this is like a Steven King movie. It’s amazing that this could happen!
To deal with it, what I’ve learned about myself is that I’m probably more of an introvert and I like being by myself. I mean, I kind of knew that, but I like doing this–I just don’t like being told I HAVE to do it. I don’t like that part, and I worry mostly about the people who are out of jobs now because of this. You know, people who are restaurant workers, and bartenders, work in hotels, all these different jobs that are laying off people. A lot of these are single moms with kids and that’s gonna cause our whole country to be in trouble, and that’s concerning… the whole world is in trouble. I mean, when you hear 30 million people in the United States don’t have jobs, that’s an enormous amount! It’s way more than the Great Depression—there’s more people here now. I feel very fortunate that it can’t affect me in that way. I’m retired, I have a pension, I have money coming in. I’m okay. I have work to do from home, but I have a son who’s [almost] forty. It concerns me about him. He’s okay. He has plenty of work, but I don’t know if it’s always gonna be like that, so I do get a bit concerned about that.
Q: What advice would you give to a person like you that is dealing with the same situations?
A: To keep in touch with people that matter to you. Call them, write them, if you do Zoom chats or however, or communicate online. I think that’s helpful—to do things. And get dressed every day…I get dressed every day and I walk from my bedroom to the living room where the computer is, and I do that. So that’s kind of my story.
Story by: Anita Mitchel
Transcribed by: Julia Futo
Interviewed on: May 9th, 2020
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.