Autistic Burnout

What is Autistic Burnout? Have you heard of it yet?

I’ve been going through something laity, and thought perhaps I was just worn out or possibly depressed (but since I am happy depression was hard to believe). Upon closer investigation, it looks as if I may be suffering from Autistic Burnout.

So in true Autistic fashion, I am now researching the issue in hopes to find a solution. Thought I would share some of the interesting information, in case anyone else might be going through something similar.

Below are some great quotes from some of our fellow internet Aspies, I am so grateful to have such a great network of us out there sharing information.

Kezza from Resplendently Autistic says in one of her old bogs:

“In summary Autistic Burnout is an accumulation of years of trying to appear normal and cope as an Neurotypical (NT). The strain and drain of it suddenly becomes too much and an autistic person (me in this case) falls apart. All autistic symptoms get worse. Trying to manage all the every day normal activities are way too much. It is overwhelming and stressful for the person involved.”

 

Another spectrum blogger, Judy Endow says this in one of her blogs:

“Ultimately, for me, passing as “normal” means that I am now a fake person, never able to be myself without putting my ability to make a living in jeopardy. Because I am close to retirement age I am hoping I will make it.”
Amythest Schaber of the Neurowonderful Blog had a slightly different explanation in one of her videos:

 

 

There is not a lot of information out there on this topic just yet, but it is one that I believe is worth mentioning, since apparently I am not the only person who has been there.

Amythest Schaber Shares Her Autism Story

This is NOT my video, but I did watch it today and was very moved by Amythest Schaber‘s speech. She has a LOT of GREAT videos and I would recommend her channel to anyone who wants to learn more about AS.

Watching / hearing Amythest tell her story almost had me in tears. People with Autism are said to struggle with empathy, but I believe we just experience it differently.

I don’t instantly feel what is considered empathy, but I am capable of it, especially if the situation is one that I have been through or can relate to personally. If not I can “force” myself to feel empathy by imaging myself in a situation that is similar. Once the feeling has arisen, I can feel it very strongly and even be moved to uncontrollable tears.

Her childhood stories bring up some of my most painful childhood memories, instantly bringing up the empathy that supposedly people with AS lack.

 

Unable to Speak

I’ve started writing in a journal. Since it is hard for me to express how I really feel out loud verbally. Writing helps to give me the visual script needed in order to better explain to myself and others how I feel. I wish Autism did not carry the stigmas that it does. When you mention Autism, people tend to assume that you are less intelligent than the average NT.

Perhaps what is most frustrating to me is that I know how intelligent I am, even if I am not very good at showing / telling others. In my head, I have complex ideas, and endless knowledge an many topics. My inability to verbally express all that is going on behind the curtain is something I struggle with.

People love the fact that I do not argue with others. In reality, I can’t argue with others and often shut down if I try. My verbal language difficulties leave me mute from time to time, and the added stress of an argument makes this phenomenon almost inevitable.

Leaving me unable to speak.

 

 

I’m Still Here

I’m still here. Hiding in the background, taking a small technology break. Still writing, but mostly on paper. Working some things out, and mentally preparing for some large tasks ahead.

Setting my intentions for 2016 – getting ready for a new year, and trying to lay the ground work needed in order for me to take better care of myself in 2016.

2015 has been amazing and hard, but next year will be better. I alone have the power to make things better for myself, and less time online might be an essential part of that transformation.

Stay tuned. More to come.

Some Thoughts on Women with AS – with Tony Attwood

I stumbled across this great Tony Attwood playlist on YouTube earlier this week.

I do not have the rights to ANY of these videos, but found them helpful and thought that I would share. 🙂

 

A New Thing called Asperger’s Syndrom – Mary and Max (2009) Film Scenes HD Film

This is a cute little cartoon.

 

I do not own the copyright to this video.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978762/
Mary and Max (2009)

Positive things about AS

It’s not all bad. This video articulates very well, some of the things that I have a hard time articulating for myself.

Video by TheAnMish

 

Lets Look at the Positives

There are so many negative videos and blog posts out there. Perhaps that comes from the average Aspies fear coping mechanism. I am typically very alert, looking for patterns in my environment that might signal change.

I need time to mentally prepare for things, and do get frustrated when my schedule gets off track. I learned in high school that keeping a calendar in my hand was essential to me ending up in the right place at the right time. Perhaps it is the worry that I will not be able to get back on track, or the knowledge that I will probably forget to do something if I change my schedule at the last minute.

Like most Aspies I am a bit of an oddball in social situations, but that’s ok because I do not live for social situations. I am happiest while working on something that I enjoy.

Problems are fun. I can  see patterns in things when I am interested in them, although I seem to tune  everything else out. When I am deeply engrossed in learning, the rest of the world fades away.

I imagine I must have a pretty flat face while I am deeply engrossed in something. In public, I can force my facial expressions to match the expectations of the people around me. This is hard for me, because I cherish honesty and the act feels like a great big fib.

Social situations are not fun for me. Intimate gatherings between a few friends are the exception. Now that I am almost thirty, I have a few very close friends.

My husband is my very best friend, and below that are a group of people that we would trust with the keys to our house. My chosen family includes my sister, and several adopted family members. I value the friends that I have. I do not have the energy to deal with negative people and refuse to waste my time with people who are not going to be a positive force in my life.

I am the kind of friend who will give you a place to stay when you are down on your luck. (If you know any Aspies well enough,  you may realize that we have a hard time when there are extra bodies in the house).This is a big sacrifice for me.

Unfortunately being social, even with people I like, can feel like a marathon. Not wanting to be rude, I spend a lot of time pretending to make eye contact and struggling to follow the undertones on a conversation. To me social situations with people that I do not know very well are just something that I have to get through, they are not something I enjoy.

Luckily I have my husband. He has a way with reading faces and knows conversation. I’ve studied his face and I know his expressions. I can read him better than I can read anyone else. He’s like my neurotypical translator. Watching his face helps me get a better feeling for the tone of a conversation.

It is amazing how well I can blend in when I put some effort into it. I really am a true chameleon. I been through many different work backgrounds, and succeeded in every one of them. No one can stop me from doing what I want to do.

Life is just another puzzle to me. The rags to riches story fascinates me. I truly believe that eventually, if you look at the pieces long enough, you can do anything you want to do.

My brain is a lot like a computer, perhaps that Is why I love computers so much. I look at data, and analyze, seeing patterns in anything that catches my attention. I can become an expert at many topics, soaking up information like a brain sponge.

When given the time to study problems in a quiet place, I can come up with solutions that NT people almost never think of. (As long as I am interested in, or can visualize the thing that I am thinking about).

I am a visual thinker. I do not have the ability to read a million words a minute, however I AM a fairly fast reader. I think in words, but only because I see the words in my head and read them out loud.

Scripting, literally, I am reading a script in my head. I see the text, it is typed, not hand written – like those poetry magnets that you see on people’s refrigerators.

I memorize situations and learn how to handle them. If I have not encountered a situation before, and cannot quickly relate it to another one, I may shut down. My hard drive crashes and I am suddenly unable to speak. If I do speak I may say something inappropriate for the current situation.

My meltdowns are internal. If you want to blend in, you learn to keep your “crazy” on the inside. My face is calm like water most of the time, people would never guess the wild storms that might be brewing within me.

Despite all that I prefer to look at the positives. 

  • I am a visual thinker, which allows me to see solutions to problems that other people might miss.
  • I can teach myself almost anything (it is actually easier for me to teach myself something than to listen to someone tell me how to do something). Because I think visually, hearing people talk about something really is not as helpful to me as it is for most people.
  • I learn by doing. I like to dive into problems head first and want to work them from start to finish until I have found an acceptable solution.
  • I can have laser focus if allowed to work in a good work environment (quiet room with just enough natural light).
  • I am loyal to the friends I do have, and normally only end up with amazing friends. Because I have a hard time reading new people, I only let good people into my inner circle, since I need lots of alone time to recover from social situations, having a few amazing friends is better for me.
  • Like many Aspies, I’m extremely smart. I learned to read and spoke in complete sentences when I was 2 years old.

Overall, if given the chance to be NT over being an Aspie, I would never want to change my brain from the way I am. I’m brilliant in my own way, unfortunately this world is not quite ready for that.

 

 

A Generally Good Day

Today was a great day. I am completely worn out, but I’ve nearly made it through. I did lots of good things – spoke to important people, and spent quality time with the team.

In addition to keeping a full time job, I also run my own company, taking on a very limited number of clients at a time. I guess you could say I do my own freelance work “Officially”.

I don’t want to work 50-60 hours a week. I want time to spend with my husband. He is the love of my life, and our time together is filled with snuggling and laughter. When we are together, I can loose myself. There is no need to put on an act.

He enjoys my strange sense of humor, and knows just how nerdy I am. With him there is no pretending. It is the best feeling in the world. When I’ve had a long day, he is the only thing that I want to come home to,  but I have a hard time relaxing when I’ve got things on my task list.

It is extremely hard to sit still and relax while the house is dirty or  thoughts of laundry are haunting your mind. All I want is to spend time with him when he asks me to cuddle, but I am distracted by the mess in the room. Before we got our dogs we purchased dark brown suede furniture. About a year later we got a fluffy white dog.

I spend a lot of time vacuuming.

My personality can come off cold sometimes, when I am deeply focused. I have to schedule things or they will not happen, and that includes spending time with my husband.

It is funny how the thing that I want most always ends up somewhere at the end of my ever growing priority list. I often like to stack rewards at the end of big tasks, celebrating a job well done.

My brain really allows me to get things done. When I am “in the zone” I can work on a problem with clarity for several hours without needing a break. Any problem that I encounter is like a puzzle ball for me to untangle. I look at the problem (puzzle) from all angles.

The longer I look into a problem the clearer the solution becomes. I am great at noticing patterns. I am also a special kind of learner. Unfortunately, like many others on the spectrum had a hard time with school. Although our parents truly wanted the best for us, we had hard child hoods, filled with confusion.

The Autistic mind is a brilliant mind, but the way neurotypical people teach is not always helpful to us. I was lost in school because I was not understanding my teachers. The lights and sounds were overwhelming, and I often went to the nurse complaining of “headaches”. The nurse never wanted me to go home because I had no fever.

I have an extremely high pain tolerance, which seems to have helped me with my sensory problems. Nobody suspected that my headaches were actually Autistic Meltdowns. I remember my mother telling me to toughen up. So I toughened up, and learned how to hide my pain. Before I knew it I was pushing myself through the discomfort.

Today I am pushing on through. Going through my day, doing all of the things that I need to do. Despite my physical and sensory feelings, I am happy, only slightly distracted.. Sometimes that is all that you can ask for.

Over all today was a generally good day.

An Autistic in the Office

I do well most of the time. Fortunately for me my job allows me to work from home fairly often and on days I have to make the drive into the office, I try to keep to my work behind my laptop. The best days are the ones where I can work with headphones in and have minimal distractions.  Sometimes I find it difficult to get back on task when I am interrupted.

I love my job. With my computer in front of me I am able to “get in the zone” and can work for hours. Working from home is great. I love working in yoga pants and sleeping in. The best part about working from home is the silence. Uninterrupted I can get a lot done. I do have to set reminders to take breaks. I tend to get so wrapped up in things that I often forget to  eat.

At the office I prefer to keep social encounters down to a minimum. Around close friends and family, when relaxed, I can be extremely talkative but tend to mask my talkative nature at work. My biggest problem is knowing when to stop talking, especially when talking about the things that I love or know a lot about.

Timing in conversation is my biggest weakness. I try hard not to interrupt people’s conversations, trying to wait for the pauses doesn’t work well either. I’ve also been told that I tend to turn conversations around,  focusing them on myself and my own experiences. Even worse, when I start talking about something, I keep talking about it. Stuck in a loop, I tend to repeat myself a lot.

It is frustrating for me because I don’t even realize when I am doing this. I genuinely care about people and do not want to be rude, but trying my hardest to be “polite” still isn’t good enough. I’ve cried over this more times than I care to admit. This is why I’ve recently changed from trying to talk at work to holding my tongue.

I try to only talk when I have to at work, terrified that I might get stuck in one of my “loops” or accidentally say the wrong thing. Instead of looking for the right time to talk in a conversation, at work I look for the fist opportunity to exit a conversation. The less chit chat the better, else my “deep dark secret” might be realized.

All of this would work almost perfectly except for one small problem. This past year my manager has been pushing me to attend networking events. For a while I got by networking with a partner, relying on the person next to me to cue me on when conversations should start and stop. Management wants us to spread out at networking events, so that we do not seem “cliquish” and can network with more people. Obviously I dread networking more than anything else.

Struggling with reading people is bad enough with my coworkers, but reading the faces of total strangers is almost impossible for me. I am constantly approaching people at the wrong moments, and fighting to be a good representative of my company is exhausting.

Structured networking events are not as hard. There is a women’s group that I attend that has regular faces and a set schedule. They start with a thirty minute talk or presentation, then each person has three minutes to share something about themselves. This is easy for me because there are no conversational cues to look for and I am actually beginning to enjoy attending this group.

After attending “regular” networking, where I have to hold conversations and approach people, I feel dead inside. All I want to do is hide in my bathroom, soaking in hot bath water up to my ears. If there was one thing that I would change about my job it’s networking. I HATE IT!

With almost everything else in my life, study and practice has allowed me to overcome. I don’t like failure. I am a strong woman and I feel like I can do anything that I put my mind to, but if practice makes perfect it is hard for me to accept that networking is not getting any easier.

Am I really beyond help? Can I learn to have conversations like a “normal” person? Is it worth the amount of stress and frustration? Is anything worth this much stress?

Are my coworkers going to find out that there is an Autistic in the office?

 

#ActuallyAutistic – An Aspie obsessed with writing. This site is intend to inspire through sharing stories & experiences. The opinions of the writers are their own. I am just an Autistic woman – NOT a medical professional.

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