Autistic Burnout

I am burned out.  I am tired. I am weak. I am weary. I am completely depleted of spoons.

Autistic Burnout is a very real problem. Burnout is what happens from years of passing. Years of floating through and coasting as a neurotypical. And right now, it’s where I am. Right now, I am burned out.

I spent my school years pretending to pass. Pretending to be normal. Even though I’m a 2E kid, I still passed.

And all these years of passing are taking a dangerous toll.

Years of passing have lead to regression. To me losing my words more and more often. To me going into sensory overload more and more often. To my already shit memory being even more shit than usual.

I’m losing my coping skills. I’m regressing to a world of watching Pokemon, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Sailor Moon, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’m escaping to a world of video games. I’m pulling away in some ways. I’ve tried so hard to pass as neurotypical and it’s becoming more and more evident that I cannot. That it’s not in the cards.

Autistic burnout is scary and tiring. I’m exhausted, but I cannot sleep. I’m always sleepy and yet never rested even when I sleep for hours on it. It even takes a toll on my physical health as I am weak and wary. I have nearly three decades (I’ll be 30 next year y’all) under my belt of faking it until I make it – but that’s come at the toll of my own health and my own life. I’ve always fully thrown myself into everything. I’ve always taunt myself how to cope. I’ve always acted like I’m NT, even when I’m so obviously not. Even when being Autistic is who I am.

I am burned out. I am regressing.

And while that’s not ideal…

for now, it’s okay, because it’s where I am.  Perhaps it means I can’t volunteer right now (I am unable to work for non-Autistic reasons and am totally and permanently disabled. It’s not bleak, it’s not hopeless, it’s just the fact) and perhaps it means I have to withdraw from advocacy to take care of myself. Pulling back sounds silly when I’m a baby newbie activist and advocate, but taking care of myself is important. I can’t help others if I can’t help myself (I’m not though – throwing myself into being an advocate is one of the few things giving me joy despite burnout).

Burnout is real.

Pretending to pass is dangerous.

And this is why I’ve had enough of your awareness and it’s fucking time for your acceptance.


10 thoughts on “Autistic Burnout

  1. Although I wish the language less offensive, I can relate. I am an adult autistic, also disabled. Burnout from trying to fit into a society that doesn’t accept us is a very real problem.

    It is way past time for people to learn to understand and accept us, rather than requiring us to struggle to become like them just to survive.

    I’m too old now to likely see such acceptance but perhaps you will. I hope so.

  2. It might be hard for an autistic to try to pass, but so it is for neurotypicals to be around those autistics who are not trying. I am burned out to the extreme by many years of being married to an Aspie who denies being an Aspie and has no insight into his differences. I am willing to do the work too, but doing the work alone is hopeless and exhausting. So all I can say in the response to this post is — acceptance goes both ways, awareness goes both ways, work goes both ways, burn out goes both ways, and responsibility belongs to everyone. I say it with highest compassion to anyone who has ever been touched by autism, in any way.

    • What you call “it going both ways” really isn’t. Are you trying to pass as autistic? If not, you have no idea what you’re asking of him

      Why are you even with someone if you don’t like who they actually are and you can’t bear to be around them unless they turn themselves inside out for you?

      • Oh and I AM autistic, not touched by autism, and I find the response to this post really non-compassionate. The OP is saying she’s less able to speak and process sensory input because of putting on a mask that doesn’t fit to please the aesthetic sensibilities of neurotypicals, and you’re saying that people like her should keep doing that, because you can’t bear to be around autistic people when they are being themselves? That seems like the opposite of compassion to me. Maybe autism just hasn’t touched me hard enough.

    • By saying “it might be hard”, you are – perhaps unintentionally – diminishing the very real struggles. Who is to say someone is or isn’t trying? Who is to say that someone is just so sick of trying they finally gave up trying to pass? Passing is exhausting.

    • This breaks my heart because I feel really bad for your spouse. Imagine that you were born into a world that didn’t accommodate your differences, and that it was just so painful. So you spend all day interacting with this world that hurts, and your spouse, the person who is supposed to be your partner, thinks it’s your fault for not trying hard enough, for being in denial. And he might be in denial, sure. That doesn’t change the struggles that he faces on a daily basis, and oddly enough, the more you try and ignore it as an autistic person, the worse the burnout can be.

      If you are not autistic, you have no idea the effort (both intentional and unintentional) that goes into “passing”. All that effort leads to burnout.

      I’ve been on the receiving end of this, as an Autistic person who was married to a non autistic person. He openly mocked me and blamed me for a lot of things that were a result of having disabilities. Maybe you don’t do that, but by saying it goes both ways, you’re assuming he’s not trying. Y’all need some communication help at the very least. Because you are not seeing the effort he’s likely expending because you are not autistic. You don’t know.

      Also it’s a bit embarrassing for you to be writing about him on the Internet like this in the first place, likely without his consent.

  3. Im the parent of an adult who just accepted thst she is either AS or NVLD. I am NT.
    I am also an introvert, married to an extrovert with (won’t admit it) ADHD.
    I think I see both points.
    I don’t like crowds. I don’t like to go to parties with people I don’t know well. (Actually, I don’t like parties, period). When I have to go to a party, I have to psych myself up and then it takes a day of quietness to recover, because I am exhausted. So I can understand the energy it takes for my daughter to “pass”. There is no shame in needing to recover.
    I also know it takes a huge amount of energy to be with my daughter sometimes. I need to struggle to understand what her world looks like. I have to be very very patient as we walk through every detail of why she did/said something that doesn’t fit in with the NT world, and explain to her why it doesn’t fit even though it makes perfect sense to her. It takes a lot of energy to stay patient when she doesn’t generalize from one situation to another, and to stay aware that all these little “common sense” rules NTS internalize as they grow up are not “common sense to her and need to be explained.
    It takes energy to try to talk my DH out of his impulsive actions and to remember important things that my have zipped by him.
    It takes A LOT of energy to mediate between my NT adult daughter (who has anxiety disorder and a hair trigger temper) and my NA daughter when neither has any patience or understanding of the other person’s challenges.
    I am frankly amazed that any of us or you all can get up and walk around every day, and I applaud us all.

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