Adult Autism Overwhelm And Burnout

Updated: Oct 27, 2019

Life is always a bit of a roller coaster, and when you’re coming to terms with an autism diagnosis, whether that’s self-diagnosis or diagnosis via professionals, it can leave you in a bit of a spin, the more you look into autism the more aha moments you seem to have, your behaviour starts to make sense, and as you research you uncover so many more aspects of yourself that were hidden.

Depression and anxiety have personally been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, I wrote the following when I was coming to terms with the fact that I am highly likely to be autistic, I was in a dark place, everything was overwhelming me and life was just too hard. I see this so much in the autism community, burnout, meltdown, shutdown and in particular I see this in women like me, women who have been told they have depression, anxiety and mental health conditions, whether the labels have arrived from a medical professional or from those who know you, it’s a misdiagnosis that has the ability to do irreparable damage, especially when the typical answer is take this pill, rather than get out and be in nature, be kind to yourself, build up a toolbox that supports you and has tools that you can use when you’re in a place like I was…

The following paragraph comes with a trigger warning and contains writing from when I was in an incredibly dark and desperate place. I am incredibly fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive circle of friends who I trust and a toolbox that I can access on my own and through my circle.

The temptation to bite yourself is so strong and overwhelming, pulling, tugging at your hair, wanting to feel something, a release of some kind, of any kind, just to stop feeling like this, spinning vortex like a tornado swirling round me and taking away all sense, it’s so quiet yet it roars so loud, it’s insane, but it makes total sense, there is no logic in this chaos but I know that it’s there, but it’s so far out of reach. What do you think I know all the answers for, why is it me who needs to work it all out? Do you think I know what I’m doing? Do you think I think I’m somehow better than you? I feel inferior, insignificant, in some ways you remind me of my mum, how I never lived up to her expectations, it makes me panic inside, knowing that I’m a constant fuck up, a constant source of pain. I want to break things, the pencil, snap it in half, the sharp tip, I could stab it into myself, it may bring me back, back to awareness, I don’t understand this part of me, I’m losing sight of who I am, who I might be and I’m sad, so sad, I could cry a river and row away, but I like to be warm and safe, I like to be home. It’s me who makes home feel alien with my angry outbursts, with my inability to control anything that throws my precious balance, or if anything is outside of my experience, not that experience seems to matter as my brain shuts down taking with it all of the things that I know, making me feel useless. What is this? Am I just a horrible abusive person or am I autistic? Is it Autism, Asperger’s or ADD or am I just a narcissist, a controlling narcissist, how do I cope? What can I do to help myself? I’m overwhelmed and there’s no way out for me to see.”

These questions that I asked led me back to my toolbox, what could I do to help myself? Was there something I could drop from my schedule and what would help me right now?

I needed to stop what I was doing and take a step back and look at my life, when I distanced myself I was able to see where the changes needed to be made and I made those changes, it wasn’t an easy choice and it had consequences for others, but I was stretched to the point of no return and when I made this one change everything else became much more tolerable and balanced. The business that had been struggling started to magically take off again, why? Because I gave myself room to breathe, found someone who could help and followed the advice to a tee, as a result we were able to go away for a couple of weeks, 2 child free and commitment free weeks to reconnect with nature, to slow down and to leave overwhelm behind. When we did come home I was instantly stressed because of the cat, he meows loudly and he does it a lot, he licks me and his tongue is rough like sandpaper, he claws at me and leaves tiny scratches, all of this behaviour is a display of love and affection, we have an amazing bond and he’s missed me, but I haven’t missed this treatment, re-homing him simply isn’t an option so while my mind is clear I ask the question… What can I do to make this easier? The simple answer is training, I’ve already trained him to give me his paw, to turn for his food, to sit for his treats, a click of a finger tells him it’s fuss time, so this will be no different, there was no way I could have come to this conclusion or even identified his affection as a trigger for me until I took time out, till I connected with myself in mind body and spirit.

Taking time out has re-set me and given me the focus I need to tackle the next phase of life. Will I get overwhelmed in the future, absolutely, but every time I reach that point I recognise more of my triggers, I recognise what I can and can’t do, it’s personal development and personal development is never easy, it’s rewards pay off in so many different ways, and learning I’m autistic and more importantly embracing my autism has given me the opportunity to play to my strengths and cater to my weaknesses, it’s shown me that it’s OK to take time out, I need that time, it’s shown me that balance is essential and that asking for help is necessary to keep that balance. Life is full of ups and downs and each of the down’s is simply another learning journey.