maladaptive strategies (or i whine about how hard life is)
I just got a question from a friend asking me how I manage autistic burnout with my bf. Which… I actually misunderstood what she meant. For some reason I thought this was just like regular burnout. But for autistics. Instead it refers to what happens to autistic ppl after we break under the strain of having to pretend to be normal for too long.
I do want to talk about both, though. Plain old vanilla burnout and autistic burnout. Pretty sure that I’ve been burned out in both respects for at least a few years.
As for how I manage both…… I don’t. Not really.
I pretty much gave up on trying to pretend to be normal like… maybe two years ago. But I really committed to it when I started wearing tinted glasses all the time in public about a year ago. What I’m saying is that I gave up on ‘normal’ when I started actually accommodating my sensory needs. I’m fortunate to have a bro who doesn’t expect me to act any way other than the way I act.
But also… to some extent, I don’t think I ever really got the hang of acting normal. Not fully. I can’t say with any certainty because it isn’t like I’ve ever had many friends. I could probably the person who’s been my friend the longest. But I suspect ‘normal’ isn’t the way that he’d describe me at any point. As a neglected kid from a single parent immigrant home, who was also largely rejected by my peers starting very early, I actually don’t think I really ever managed to learn allistic social behaviour (and not doing so certainly explains a lot of my life tbh).
For all of my life, there’s been something abnormal, peculiar, just plain wrong about me. But… no one has really cared enough to wonder if this meant anything beyond some strange personality quirks. I grew up too afraid of not fulfilling certain expectations that I devoted all of my spoons towards that. I got good grades. I fed and cleaned myself. I went to school. Did my homework. And so no one cared that I felt like I was dying on the inside and that pretty much no one liked me and that I spent a lot of time alone.
This has more or less remained true up until today. By and large, no one really cares about my internal state since I can show up at my job, accomplish enough tasks not to get fired, clean myself, clean the house, pay rent, Be A Good And Responsible Adult.
Does it matter that – for years now – I’ve felt empty and hollow and like I have nothing else to give? Does it matter that I basically have shoved aside any notion of healing or addressing my trauma because I simply don’t have the resources (in any sense of the word)? Does anyone care that a lot of the time I think the only reason why I’m still alive at all is because my autistic need to adhere to my schedule as (so far) been able to override my exhaustion and desire to just give up?1
Sadly no. Not really. Not truly. Or not in ways that will make much of a difference to my daily living.
So I focus on survival. I lean on the parts of my disabilities that allow me to keep on keeping on. Like… I can delay or ignore my past trauma because alexythemia basically lets me be an emotional robot. Other than the occassional flashback here and there, it most remains simmering beneath the surface. I can feel it. I know its there but its pretty easy for me to pretend like it isn’t. I lean on my autistic need to adhere to a schedule so that I can clean and feed myself (and my bro).
I do all of this and dream about being able to rest.
And I pick up bad habits that are liable to make me dead quicker. Like my compulsive overeating these days. Or how I used to smoke.
Not much about how I currently live is all that healthy (physically or mentally). But it doesn’t feel like I have much other choice unless I really am ready to give up and just die. And I’m not quite there…. Not yet.