“Staying Alert.” Coronavirus, Autism, and cPTSD

Boris Johnson’s record on managing the Coronavirus crisis in the UK has not been characterised by coherence or clarity, and tonight’s announcement is sadly in a similar vein.

The Stay Home slogan has been replaced with Stay Alert, which is hugely confusing and ambiguous, to say the least. Apparently there will be more detail tomorrow as to what this means in practice, but I am not encouraged and won’t be holding my breath–which incidentally becomes rather more difficult as I currently have Covid19 symptoms myself and am self-isolating.

For me, as an autistic adult with, amongst other mental health delights, cPTSD, the phrase Stay Alert is incredibly loaded and problematic. To stay alert for the majority of the population means to be more vigilant, to put extra energy into noticing their surroundings, and be extra aware of danger.

How on earth anyone can be expected to be extra aware of the invisible danger that Covid19 presents is beyond me, but maybe Boris will explain this tomorrow. Or not. One thing that is certain, however, is the increase in uncertainty and anxiety this ambiguous mandate will engender for a lot of people.

Imagine then, what the phrase Stay Alert means for an autistic person who has the experience of living with cPTSD. I am constantly alert under all circumstances, and as a result have a permanent state of heightened anxiety that requires medication so that I can present an appearance of functionality.

The experience of growing up without support, being bullied, rejected, and abused– as well as not being diagnosed until 42– has resulted in a series of traumas building up over the years. This history, combined with the day-to-day trauma of trying to navigate an often-hostile world that is, at best, reluctant to accommodate us and at worst, openly hostile to our differences, produces a toxic cocktail of hyper-vigilance, super-alertness, and exhaustion.

So, Mr Johnson, to tell us Brits to Stay Alert fills me with a mix of cynicism and terror. You are not famed for your use of appropriate language or of possessing any sense of humanity or empathy, so I cannot in all seriousness expect you to understand the nuances of this badly thought out sound bite.

You don’t have a track record of any real care for the vulnerable people that you churn out Draconian policies for, so why should I expect anything else?

So thanks for this, Boris. I will be staying alert, not because I am following your non-sensical advice, but because it is what I always do. Society’s response to my autism and my cPTSD doesn’t give me any choice in the matter.

Slow clap for you this Thursday, methinks.

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7 Responses

  1. Well, over here, the guy posing as our “leader” tried out the slogan “drink bleach,” which caused a flurry of others to reply, “No. Really, don’t.” We sort of have to discern whose authority to find comfort and assurance in, these days, and unfortunately, we’re forced to disregard much if not all that our elected officials tell us. I hope you find a catch phrase that works for you. For me, I’m still staying home.

    1. Well, at least you might be able to metaphorically borrow my state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who, while not perfect as a leader overall, is a good crisis leader. If you don’t live in New York as I do, you could watch his briefings anyway – and he does have some presence on the national stage, far as I can tell.

    2. 45 has plenty of documented history of saying things which really leave us wondering, but drink bleach was not one of them: from the CSPAN transcript,

      William Bryan

      We’re also testing disinfectants readily available. We’ve tested bleach, we’ve tested isopropyl alcohol on the virus, specifically in saliva or in respiratory fluids. And I can tell you that bleach will kill the virus in five minutes; isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds, and that’s with no manipulation, no rubbing – just spraying it on and letting it go. You rub it and it goes away even faster. We’re also looking at other disinfectants, specifically looking at the COVID-19 virus in saliva.

      William Bryan

      This is not the end of our work as we continue to characterize this virus and integrate our findings into practical applications to mitigate exposure and transmission. I would like to thank the President and thank the Vice President for their ongoing support and leadership to the department and for their work in addressing this pandemic. I would also like to thank the scientists, not only in S&T and the NBACC, but to the larger scientific and R&D community.

      William Bryan

      Thank you very much.

      Donald J. Trump

      Thank you, Bill.


      Mr. Bryan –

      Donald J. Trump

      Thank you very much. So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light – and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too. It sounds interesting.

      William Bryan

      We’ll get to the right folks who could.

      Donald J. Trump

      Right. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds – it sounds interesting to me.So we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s – that’s pretty powerful.Steve, please.”


      You’re saying that the country will be in a better place by early summer. Does that mean you’re going to need to extend the social distancing guidelines until then?

      Donald J. Trump

      Well, we may, and we may go beyond that. We’re going to have to see where it is. And I think people are going …”

  2. The same bleach that is sold as MMS to ‘cure’ autism! We live in surreal and scary times. Yes, staying in here too. Keep well friend.

  3. Oh my I had no idea this was going on in England. Why do leaders continue to speak only to the majority and never stop to think how EVERYONE will feel. As a fellow Cptsd person with an autistic son, I can understand how stupid and unhelpful that message must seem.

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