aspified

a blog by an autistic adult

Category: Burnout

I’m starting to think my current round of burnout is permanent.

I consider myself super lucky to have a part time job where I can work from home because otherwise I don’t think I would be able to do it anymore… all the commuting (public transportation), peopling, wearing highly uncomfortable clothing, having to multitask and process constantly changing technology, all of the stress/pressure. I look back and don’t know how I ever survived working in an office but I really don’t think I would be able to hold down that kind of job anymore.

I think things have gotten harder for me instead of easier in so many ways, or maybe I just have a lower tolerance now or something. Or (as someone on FB pointed out), burnout.

I’ve written about burnout before. I think I’m on round three (or maybe five now, I’ve lost count tbh). Maybe it’s permanent this time? I dunno. I don’t know enough about it.

I have small glimpses where I’m like “OK I CAN DO THE THINGS” or “Omg I’m feeling so free from the pit of quicksand now” but nope. Maybe it really is depression. I’m not sure anymore.

This is a picture of a tired cat laying on a tiny couch. Because cat on a tiny couch. (free stock photo source: pixabay)

This is a picture of a tired cat laying on a tiny couch. Because cat on a tiny couch. (free stock photo source: pixabay)

Functioning and aging

limited-energy

The older I get, the less I can seem to function. Not sure if because of burnout or stress or what. It’s been a while since I posted about autistic burnout, but I’ve heard from other autistic people that this has been true for them also.

On the Facebook page today I asked if anyone else in the group has experienced this, and I was surprise how many people quickly said they do too. Feel free to join in the Facebook discussion, which has gotten me to thinking even more about this topic. Or feel free to post a comment here.

When you say you appreciate my positive attitude…

Image is a photograph of tiny purple flowers growing through cracked blacktop with the words "I'm not trying to inspire you. I'm just trying to survive."

Image is a photograph of tiny purple flowers growing through cracked blacktop with the words “I’m not trying to inspire you. I’m just trying to survive.”

You might have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a while, and that I haven’t been updating the Aspified facebook page as often as I used to. I’ve been going through another burnout as a result of extreme stress and having to spend so much time blending in and passing. In addition to other stressful life events, I have been trying to complete my last semester of college.

The more burned out I’ve become, the less tolerance I have had for people’s attitudes. Specifically, I am struggling with people who say things like “You’re such an inspiration” or “I appreciate your positive attitude.”

If you’re looking at the situation from the outside in, you might think these phrases are compliments. Sometimes they are.  But within the context I am hearing them, there is a more accurate translation.

What these people are really saying to me is “Rather than listen to the struggles you have told me you are having in this class and finding some way to follow the law and accommodate you, or even acknowledge your documented disabilities, I will instead focus on how awesome you are handling the fact that we are discriminating against you and causing you undue stress.”

I try to have a positive attitude about most things, because I don’t like feeling negatively. I don’t like to wallow in my troubles, because it makes me feel worse. That is my personal choice, and it is a choice I make for myself. Not for you.

When you tell me you appreciate my positive attitude, the message I receive is that I owe you something. Your actions after speaking these words to me, or rather your inaction to do anything to actually solve the problem, demonstrate to me that you do not care that I am struggling. I’m sure it’s much easier to say how inspiring I am for overcoming my “challenges” (as you call them), but here’s the thing.

I do not owe you a positive attitude.

I am not here to inspire you.

I am just trying to survive in a world that is set up to exclude me.

I do not need your false-praise or even your genuine compliment.

What I need is for you to do your job, comply with the law, and get me closed captions or a transcript for this project. What I need is to not be told “I know you have trouble hearing, but I would really like to discuss this over the phone,” when I have told you five times that I can’t do that. If I could hear well enough to discuss this over the phone, we would not be having this conversation.

What I need is for you to answer my question, in writing.

What I need is for you to explain the instructions in a way I can understand them.

What I need is to stop having to accommodate the needs of the people who are required by law to accommodate mine. Otherwise, the “inspiring” student with “such a positive attitude” will be filing a lawsuit.

Edit to add: For non-disabled people who feel the need to comment here about how easy it would be for me to find an advocate to fight this on my behalf, or how easily you would solve this problem if you were me, please do me a favor and shut up. If those are your thoughts, then you have no idea what the real world is like for disabled people, and your attitude is part of the problem.

 

Lately I feel exhausted so easily.


Little things are wearing me out lately. I’ve never been able to accomplish as much in a day as some people can. But lately, sometimes, I feel like tiny things wear me out.

And once I get to that point in the day, I’m just done.

No matter what else I try to accomplish, I’m basically useless.

I feel like as the years go by I have less and less tolerance.

I find myself crossing more and more things off my to do list either because those things suddenly seem pointless, or because I don’t have the energy to do them. Sometimes both.

I mean why make the bed? Who came up with that idea anyway?

And at what point in my life did I decide it was necessary to fold socks? Isn’t it enough that I washed them? Enough with this nonsense.

So I’m crossing the pointless things off.

I’m tired and I don’t know why, but I’ve decided to just go with it and give myself a break.

Some things have to be done, like doing my job so I can pay my bills. Other things I want to accomplish, like making it through my last year of college.

Aside from the basics, I’m pretty much in hibernation mode right now.

It’s funny though that no matter how exhausted I am, I still can’t seem to force myself to fall asleep at a decent hour.

Burnout

aspergers burnout aspie burnout

Autistic burnout seems to be a common problem that is not openly addressed very often. So I thought I would talk about it today. Burnout is something I have gone through more than once already, and I’m only 35.

In psychology, burnout is described as “long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. The symptoms of burnout are similar to those of clinical depression” (according to U.S. National Library of Medicine).

I’ve heard about burnout a lot as it refers to people being burned out as a result of stress on the job. In fact, the first time I experienced burnout, I attributed it to work-related stress rather than aspergers since I had not yet been diagnosed. I had no idea at that time that autism burnout was a thing or that I was experiencing anything to do with autism.

At the time, I was 23. I had been working in a stressful job, working 12-hour days, often working on weekends without much if any time off. I had been doing this work for a few years and had been keeping up this intense schedule for over a year. Then my father died. At the time I thought I was having some kind of nervous breakdown. In retrospect, it was like going through an intense shutdown mode.

I took a few weeks off work to deal with the death of my dad, and after that I just couldn’t seem to regain functioning. Just the thought of going back to work overwhelmed me. The thought of getting on the train to get to my job overwhelmed me. Just the thought of getting out of bed overwhelmed me.

I went to a psychologist who told me I was suffering from depression and anxiety. She suggested that maybe I was working too hard and needed to find another job. She gave me a prescription for an antidepressant, and I left her office feeling like she didn’t get it.

Without having another job lined up, I gave my notice. I just couldn’t force myself to go back. As I said, at the time I attributed this burnout to work-related stress. I’m sure the stress didn’t help. But I think it was more than that.

I was overstimulated constantly, with little reprieve except for the five or six hours I slept at night. I was surrounded by people, florescent lights, computers, a cell phone, loud noise, and a variety of other things I didn’t realize were triggering me as I hadn’t been diagnosed with aspergers yet. For twelve or more hours per day, for years, I had been trying to pass for neurotypical without realizing I had been doing so. I had exhausted myself in the process. I never thought much of it at the time. Until it happened again.

About four years ago, I was enjoying a fairly leisurely life of working part time from home. I had been working from home doing freelance work for a few years. I didn’t have a spouse or children. My life wasn’t particularly stressful compared to most peoples’.

I just didn’t feel like doing anything. I had no ambition at all, almost all of a sudden. I didn’t feel like talking to the few friends I usually kept in touch with. I didn’t feel like going to the places I used to like to go. I wasn’t sad or anxious. I just felt like I had shut down. It lasted for a while, and people became concerned about me.

For seven months, I didn’t leave the house. I had started ordering my groceries online. I didn’t have any reason to go anywhere. I wasn’t agoraphobic or afraid to leave my apartment. I just didn’t feel like it. My mother became concerned that I was severely depressed, but I didn’t feel depressed. I had been depressed in the past, and this didn’t feel the same. I couldn’t articulate why this was different than depression, but I knew in my heart that it was. This was something else.

It felt exactly like the burnout I felt when I was 23, when I thought it was a result of having a stressful job. I began to understand that maybe burnout can result from just existing. Existing can be exhausting for autistic people who have to work so hard to survive in a neurotypical world. By this point, I had been diagnosed with aspergers but hadn’t totally come to terms with what that meant. I thought I functioned well, most of the time. I didn’t know how stressful it could be to function so well until I simply couldn’t do it anymore.

I still have no idea what triggered my last episode of burnout, or if there was any particular thing that did trigger it. I think it was probably a combination of things that I hadn’t been paying attention to at the time. I don’t know exactly what happened to snap me out of it. I remember watching a movie one day that made me think I should go back to college. I decided to start taking classes online, and in doing so I regained my ambition to do other things.

I have friends who are curious about why I take so many inventories to the point where it seems obsessive to them. I take inventories of the things I do each day and how those things affect me. It dawned on me the other day that the main reason I do this is because I don’t want to experience burnout again. As much as I try to avoid meltdowns, because my meltdowns can be scary, I also try to avoid longterm shutdowns that might cause me to lose my job (which I can’t afford to lose). I have to be able to function, and I try to maintain my functioning by not wasting too much energy on things that can be let go. Whenever I slip back into focusing too much of my energy on the wrong things, I start to feel burnt out again.

I recently read an excellent post on aspie burnout at Planet Autism Blog, which says, “Basically, the higher functioning you are, the more others expect of you and also, the more you push yourself.” I think it’s important not to push myself too hard, because doing so will always cause a result that won’t benefit me.

If you’ve experienced burnout, I would be interested in hearing what it was like for you as well as any suggestions you have about the subject.

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