And that’s a wrap.
Alrighty folks... let’s talk about burnouts. Lovely, lovely burnouts. Something I am currently experiencing right as I type this and have been experiencing for a good few weeks now.
So, since June 21st... y’know the day I discovered I’m not a complete weirdo, I’ve learnt so much about how my brain works. So, I just thought I’d info-dump a little bit on here just putting it all out there for the world to know, on what it means and what it feels like to have an autie burnout.
Alrighty then, grab a cuppa of your favourite decaf drink and let’s get this party started!
So, what is a burnout?
Well, according to helpguide, a burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Now, I mean – that does sort of sound like me, but see, mine is a whole lot different than that. Mine isn’t your typical burnout (pun not intended), mine is a little different. See. I’ve got an autie burnout.
What’s that? Well – I’m glad you asked. It’s pretty much the same but with a few additions. So, with an autie burnout, one also has greater difficulty managing emotions than usual, one can have more outbursts of anxiety, anger or sadness. It can also manifest itself as anxiety, depression or (trigger warning) suicidal ideations. Oh, the most important aspect of an autie burnout, it may look like the person going through the autie burnout is behaving more autie than usual. An autie burnout can be caused by many things. Built up stress, prolonged masking or becoming overwhelmed by taking too many tasks on.
Now, I know you’re probably wondering – Ashy – you keep on using this word autie. What on earth is autie?! Uhh.. how can I put this? It’s code, for something. I’m not comfortable putting it all out there right now but if you can fill in the gaps then – ta da.
Now that, that’s cleared up, let me tell you, my experience.
For years I’d have these moments. These poopy moments when I’d feel depressed, exhausted, and unbelievably empty. And by empty, I mean numb, backing stabbing numb. And this poopy feeling lasts for months. I could never explain it, so I just thought I was depressed. I mean mental health isn’t my strongest muscle but still – I was convinced I was depressed.
I mean I felt emotionless, tearful, too exhausted to do anything, dropped my hobbies, had suicidal ideations, and even felt too tired to even talk. And then a couple weeks later, Ashy was back to feeling like her best self again.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve been depressed before. More than twice actually, so I know what that’s like, which is why when it came to this – I just felt like something was missing here. That’s why I named it poopy and not depressed.
Only to discover years later, that I was right, it wasn’t depression – it was a burnout. An autie burnout. Although an autie burnout can lead to depression, if not recovered properly, it itself is not depression.
I realised that I go through these autie burnouts at particular times of the year – or should I say months. February, near the end of March, May, July, August hits me like a ton of bricks, November comes and whacks me down and then finally December. Yay. Before, I wasn’t too sure why I felt the way I’d feel during those months but now it makes sense. Let me explain.
February. The love month – a very stressful month for me, so I usually get a minor autie burnout. Then here comes March, my birthday month. A whole lot of planning, tasking and
a whole lot of masking. Didn’t realise how exhausting masking was until recently, but I can understand now, why I’d come crashing down by the end of March. By April I’ve recuperated, so I’m okay but then May comes and I go downhill. Just a little. But by July – it’s the end of the road and I’m out. Which is why it rolls into August and by August, it gets a little scary because at that point – I don’t know if I’m depressed or just going through a bad autie burnout.
Why that happens, I haven’t figured out yet because different things can trigger that 2-month autie burnout. For an example, right now, it’s a mixture of things. But we’ll get into that a little more later. Let’s get back to the timeline.
By early September I’m okay again, until the end of October which means – that’s right… BURNOUT! For a straight two months. Both November and December. I know why November and December is particularly burnoutie for me, well… ‘tis the season to be annoying - fa la la la la, la la la la.
It’s just way too much for a sister and it hits me hard, nearly as hard as August.
Now, when it comes to my present autie burnout, I know that the reason why I’m going through it, is because of various reasons. I’ve hit my breaking point with all the different tasks I’ve been taking on, I’ve experienced some highly stressful and triggering situations I haven’t – what’s the word – dealt with yet, which happened in both June and July. Then finally, me constantly masking – yeah it took its toil. So here I am, finding it hard to function, socialise and play the part as a fake neurotypical. Because I’m not neuro- yeah, you get what I mean.
But how does it feel? Mm… the best way I can describe it is like this. You’ve been travelling to like 2 billion different time zones all at once and your body clock's all missed up now, so you’re having the worse jetlag of your life. But this jetlag isn’t just physical, it’s mental and emotional. Every stimulating activity or input – you just want to throw it in the bin. Unless you have an autie brain, as well as a Phd brain (if we’re buddies… you’ll get it) which means.. half your brain doesn’t care about your needs, so it forces you to be on your phone for an hour or more, even though you need to recharge and are physically suffering.
Okay, so Ashy. How can I help someone who is going through this fascinating yet debilitating autie burnout?
Well, here’s what my closest buds do. And trust me, it works.
1. Give the person some space.. but not too much.
I say space but not too much because, they’re probably not speaking to anyone right now. They’ve gone MIA, so to speak – I mean I do. But it’s very important to check up on them, because sometimes dark thoughts might start creeping in so… always check in! So important.
2. Encourage them to stim.
I love stimming. One of my favourite past times honestly (maybe I’ll make another post on that separately). Everyone does it but autie’s like me do it more often and in more greater ways than non-auties. So, encourage your friend to stim. It’ll make them feel a wholeee lot better and will help them regulate how their feeling. For an example, my friend and I did it together on Google Meet last week. Showed him my jazz-hands and we jazzed-hands together haha.
3. Encourage them to spend time doing their special interest.
For me it’s marvel and Christianity. Yes… Christianity is one of my special interests, get over it. It comes in handy let me tell you that now. Anyway, by spending time doing their special interests, they’ll feel a lot more relaxed and happier. My friends would talk to me about the Bible and the history/background of particular churches and their theologies or they’d talk to me about marvel or make me binge watch some marvel movies during burnouts, because they know I LOVE ITTT and it'd take my mind off things.
4. Less masking, more unmasking
The burnout probably came because of masking (unless you're me and it's all three), so the less masking they do the better. Encourage them to just be themselves around you, and if they trust you well – they will. Send them things you know they’d like, take them out somewhere that’s not too overstimulating but somewhere you'll know they'll love, have a stim party with them, just make sure they’re not masking as much and are being themselves.
I cannot stress that enough!! My friends are always reminding me to take breaks and rest. I like keeping busy, even during a burnout - which isn't ideal, so my friends always remind me to take it easy. Because, if the person going through the autie burnout, doesn't get enough rest, they won’t recover properly. So, remind them to rest. Take it heeezzyyy. Limit the stress and get some rest.
So, there you have it. Autie burnouts aren’t fun but with support, your friend or even you can recover from it and be awesome again. And with that ladies and gentlemen – that’s a wrap.