Burnout

Recognizing autistic persons burnout and recovering from it are drastically different processes.

Recognizing an autistic persons’ burnout is no easy feat. Ableist societal values, founded on a capitalistic mindset on human worth, means that autistic people will work ourselves into the ground. And we’ll believe the lie that this is normal. That we must accept it. Admitting burnout is a strong push against the world.

But then, how does an autistic address burnout when our brains are already fried, our bodies deflated, and many of our hopes dashed? The journey is unique for every autistic person, but here are a few places to start:

Locate the source. When we are overwhelmed, many autistics may see everything as the cause of our burnout. However, upon closer observation, we may find that there is one root cause. The other issues were simply consequences of the burnout.

Focus on loss of control. When burnt out, it’s best to pare down our responsibilities. Even so, there are a lot of elements that are beyond our control. At the start of my most recent burnout, I was caring for a terminally-ill family member. I couldn’t change my family member’s illness or that I was the only one available to care for them, but I could set things up so that I didn’t have to care for that person’s dog. It sounds small, but those small things add up and can break us.

Take a leave. Dropping job, school, and obligations is often neither easy nor possible for many autistics. As such, taking a leave may look different for each of us. While some may take a semester off school, others may get medical clearance for a month off work. My personal burnout recovery included quitting my full-time job to work 10 months of part-time retail while living with friends and family.

Prepare for a return. The transition from burnout out recovery to everyday life is a stark one, but goals can make it less difficult. Try setting a small, tangible goal to achieve during the leave. This can be establishing a regular therapist or developing a consistent rhythm of journaling and spiritual practice.

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