Beyond Autistic Burnout — Living An Authentic Life
When I hear fellow autistics say “I’m in burnout”, a number of questions come to mind.
I wonder how long they’ve been in it and how they’re recovering from it. Is it their first burnout or just the latest in a cyclical pattern?
Most of all, I wonder if they have any hope of moving beyond burnout.
I’ve been in burnout in various degrees for as long as I can remember, but I like to think that I’m finally learning how to manage it, if not prevent it altogether.
The impact of autistic burnout is so pervasive that it’s not something that’s easily shaken off. And the start of burnout isn’t usually clearly marked, instead being easier to identify in hindsight.
It creeps up as you take on more, go out more, push yourself just that little bit further. More masking, more ignoring your body and silencing the voice inside telling you to stop.
Your buffer erodes and every little thing seems to weigh you down to the point where jumping out of bed each day is that little bit harder.
Then one day you can’t get out of bed at all.
Ideally we would all be able to rest as much as we needed to build up our energy reserves. But life doesn’t stop and the demands keep coming. Instead what we do is more like damage control; making do with whatever adjustments we can make without rocking the boat too much.
On a podcast I was listening to recently, someone likened being in autistic burnout to running on low-battery mode. It’s a bit like that. You’re shutting down all functions that aren’t essential for survival — socialising, taking on new projects — or perhaps even leaving the house on some days.
I also don’t think that burnout is a constant state of being. It goes with the territory of being autistic that your ability to function fluctuates depending on a whole lot of factors internal and external and this is no different during burnout.
Sometimes it’s just about getting through the day. To aim for more is to take longer to rebuild the buffer so that you can gradually…