If you’re autistic then you’ve probably experienced burnout at some point, although maybe you didn’t know what it was, that it has a name and that it happens to a lot of autistic people.
So, what is burnout? I don’t think it’s an official thing; it’s something that autistic people know about, but maybe parents and professionals don’t. Burnout is when your brain just can’t carry on the way things are. You might sink into depression, you might have heightened anxiety, you might need to use forms of communication other than speaking. Maybe you’re extra snappy or cry more easily than usual. Maybe you cannot see a way to get through what you’re going through. Simple things like remembering to eat and wash might become much harder than they were before. Welcome to burnout.
Last year I had a burnout caused by unexpected confrontation. To be honest, I was doing a lot before that which probably didn’t help. I’d just organised my first autistic pride event, which went really well but took a lot out of me. Having something unexpected and not pleasant happen just tipped me over the edge.
So, I closed my social media accounts for a while, stopped writing my blog and left nearly all of the online autistic spaces I was on. I felt like I would never get back to it. I was ready to just quit forever.
Recovery from burnout can take a long time. It took me probably 9 or 10 months to start feeling like I could get back to normal (normal for me, anyway!). I started feeling braver and rejoining the autistic community, just a little at first but then more and more. Now I’m feeling almost 100% again. My anxiety still sucks and I still have insomnia and I’m still a massive coward about most things, but I’m back where I was before. Any progress is welcome.
Burnout recovery tips
- Give it time. You might not be able to take time away from everything, but try to factor in as much rest time as you can.
- Spend time with your hobbies/special interests. Time doing things you love can be really healing.It’s OK to avoid some things if you need to.
- Don’t feel bad if you need to skip out on some non-essential responsibilities. Looking after your own mental health is important.
- Delegate if you can. Asking for help can be really difficult but if you are able to delegate any tasks, even temporarily, then that is one less thing to worry about.
- Know that you’re not alone. A lot of autistic people have been through burnout. It’s not the same for everyone, but we can empathise with each other.
- Don’t forget basic self-care. You can use apps or alarms to remind you to eat and drink.