Autistic burnout is intense physical and mental exhaustion. It can also be accompanied with loss of certain skills.
Having to navigate through a world that was only built for neurotypical people is very exhausting. Having to keep up with all the societies list of “norms” is very draining. Autistic people often end up masking their autistic traits in order to seem more normal. Masking can be very dangerous; but I’ll go into that further in another blog post.
Autistic burnout may look different from person to person. What you see in one autistic person; you may not see in another. As I mentioned above, it can be an intense physical exhaustion. It can also manifest as intense anxiety or emotional outbursts. It can be the inability to regulate emotions far more than usual. It can contribute to depression and suicidal behaviors. It can involve an increase of stimming (self regulating behaviors), increased sensitivity to sensory input and difficulty with changes. A lot of autistic people struggle with these things but when a burnout is happening, all these things can be amplified; making it seem like you’re regressing or much worse than usual.
Some autistic people lose their ability to speak during a burnout. Also, loss of executive function is common during a burnout as well. Executive function will be discussed in another blog.
Burnout can affect our thinking process and also affect our memory (which we already struggle with in general).
When I’m experiencing a burnout, I feel disconnected and disengaged from the rest of the world. I lose focus on the small things and can’t process my thoughts very well or my emotions. I tend to be very forgetful. But the forgetfulness also stems from the fact that when I’m told something, I’m most likely paying more attention to the sound of the electricity in the house; like the wind coming from the fan or the buzzing of the microwave. I can’t focus on too many sounds at once. It’s the increased sensitivity to sensory input that affects my ability to focus on conversation and information storing. I can’t process what you said if I hear the fridge. It’s a distraction. I struggle with these things on a daily basis but it’s 10 times worse during a burnout. People assume I’m not paying attention to them when I’m reality, I am. It’s just really hard for me to process too many different things at one time. I have lost my ability to speak during a burnout but it doesn’t happen every time I go through a burnout. My executive function is crap on a regular basis but it really goes down the toilet during a burnout.
The smallest things can be sensory overload for me during a burnout. Others around me don’t understand this and just brush it off.
Autistic burnout can last anywhere from a few hours to a few years for some autistic people. The main way to recover from burnout is to remove yourself from the situation that triggered it in the first place.
For me, it’s almost always caused by suppressing my emotions and meltdowns and other autistic traits in order to “keep the peace” around others who don’t understand me and so I’m not a burden to them. After so long, I don’t have the energy to continue to keep it all contained. It drains me to the point that it can be dangerous. I tend to physically lash out on myself by self harming and I also have attempted suicide before.
During these hard times, what I need is compassion and understanding. I may also need space and some alone time. I also need reassurance and not judgement. I’m trying as hard as I can but I can’t keep being sorry for who I am. I can’t keep apologizing for the way I am because I can’t help it and it’s not my problem people choose to not understand it.
I’m not entirely sure how long I’ve been in this current burnout so far but I only hope I can regain my strength soon so I can get back to the real me.
If you read this blog post this far, thank you and I hope you’ve learned something new here. More posts will be up soon, I just need to save up the energy to type it all out. I just really felt like this topic needed to be discussed.