Monday, March 6, 2023

Autism, Burnout, and Exhaustion

Last year, I wrote this post about autism and burnout. This past week, I have a newfound understanding of how pervasive and destructive burnout is, and it happens quicker than you think.

Burnout, when I think about it, is something that takes a long while to achieve. As a child, it was explained as a new hit song; sure, everyone at first loves it, but if gets overplayed and eventually people get tired of it and the next new song takes its place and the cycle repeats. I didn’t fully understand this because, when it comes to things I enjoy, they never do get old and I’ll play the same game or same song on repeat until those around me are on the brink of tears. 

So yes, I may not have understood the direct meaning of the way it was explained, I did learn that there are some things that are manageable at first, but as time goes on my ability to fend off doubt, anxiety, and the sensory bombardment of the world decreases. When I wrote the post from last year I was thinking of a long term event such as a school year (at least I think I was. I don’t read what I write so I may be remembering wrong). From this past week I now know that burnout can happen in an instant and I attributed it directly to exhaustion. 

Why burnout? Why can it come on suddenly? One thing that is difficult for me to grasp in any given moment is that yes, I am on the autism spectrum. Living in a “normal” world doesn’t often give time to stop, breathe, and assess that the reason why a place, activity, or task is difficult is because of the challenges that come with life on the autism spectrum. What this means is that there can be no “self-break” from the onslaught of a typical day.

Everyone, autism spectrum or not, may get snippy when they get tired. This is where understanding could be tricky for those not on the autism spectrum to understand, because they’ll say that it’s, “part of being human.” Yes, I understand this, but I must counter with the fact that those not on the autism spectrum cannot possibly imagine the strength it takes to forge onward each day. It’s impossible for me to describe how much mental strength it takes to fend off doubt, fend off the symphony of dissonance that is the daily barrage of sound, and to not become overwhelmed with every bit of random eye contact. 

The moment burnout creeps in, everything becomes even more difficult than it already was. Then, with each subsequent day that burnout mode is reached, it becomes easier and easier to traverse into that realm of languish and then there’s little respite from the crushing weight of the daunting, seemingly impossible tasks that come along with daily life. 

Looking back on my life, and the more traditional longer term events of life such as school, burnout was the antagonist of my story. My inability to cope through the exhaustion was far worse than any potential snide comment my classmates could ever give me. 

It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? This burnout can hit in an instant and last much longer than the time that preceded it. Other’s understanding of this is difficult because I don’t believe it’s possible to understand something unless one truly experiences it, and the anxiety, and for myself, the overly sensitive senses, lends itself to something I feel is impossible for others to empathize with. 

I’m going to have to think of this more on how to combat this. As of now, I’ve got nothing, but I just identified this two days ago so the thoughts are new and fresh. In the least, I was able to put thought on screen and could relate to you the challenges of it. Hopefully soon I’ll have something, but for now I hope I got you to maybe be able to understand the challenges some of us may have living life on the autism spectrum. 

1 comment:

  1. Aaron, I hope that putting your feelings into words can begin to bring you comfort as you deal with this challenging situation. You described it very well, as always. Sincerely, Barb