Autism burnout

In December, I went on a leave of absence after turning in my badge and quitting two days after I moved —

  • because of autism burnout
  • because I lost all ability to function
  • because I thought it wasn’t that bad
  • because I thought I could push through it/ignore it
  • because I was going through a burnout exclusive to my autism, and my intelligence skills were barely functional.

I was exhausted and overwhelmed by even the slightest of sounds.

I lacked the ability to mask my autism.

Of the minimal executive functioning skills I had, I could do none.

The only thing that worked was removing my obligations and decreasing my responsibilities.

This happened because I received a settlement for a near-death experience. I had the privilege to do this for a limited time.

But I didn’t get the leave of absence myself. I really did quit my job. My store manager worked out the leave of absence for me.

I had no intention to return, but alas…

  • health insurance,
  • caring for and spoiling my cat,
  • furnishing my apartment,

and so on are things I don’t want to have to decide between bills while I work on my business. 🥲

I return to work in a few days. I’m not pleased about it, but it will allow me to figure my shit out.

Back then, I could not

  • regulate my emotions,
  • keep track of time,
  • avoid dissociating,
  • remember anything,
  • hold objects without dropping them,
  • mask my autism,
  • process language,
  • speak.

I was essentially incapacitated.

Explaining my experience to other people was excruciatingly difficult, because autism burnout is exclusive to autistic people and different from regular burnout.

My whole body and mind shut down, and all non-autistic people said was that they were burnt out, too.

“Me too” is powerful, but if a person is sharing an experience unique to their condition, it is not the time — because it is not you, too.

I kept repeating the same thing to everyone:

I am going through a burnout exclusive to my autism right now & my intelligence skills are barely functional. I may not respond to text messages & calls.

I don’t remember the handle, but I got it from an autistic TikTok creator, because I lacked the ability to articulate my thoughts.

I couldn’t

  • watch TV,
  • read,
  • listen to music,
  • dance.

I barely ate. I mostly slept.

What I found in my search about autistic burnout is that autistic people lose their jobs due to a lack of understanding, lack of resources, and ignorance.

I also found autism burnout to be the number one reason why autistic people pursue entrepreneurship. It’s hard to explain to non-autistic people why this may ultimately be the best decision for an autistic person, as opposed to relying on a company to manage your income.

FMLA leave doesn’t cover autistic burnout, nor does the ADA. Courts ruled that burnout is not an adequate reason for a leave of absence.

Autistic people live in a world that actively works against their neurotype.

I tried to find alternatives to quitting before doing so.

My leave of absence only happened because it was store level, and my direct supervisor was the store manager himself — so I guess I had some clout.

I am one of the lucky ones.

Most autistic people aren’t.

This post was originally a Twitter thread I posted a couple weeks ago.

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By any chance, was it Alexandra Pearson on TikTok? I follow her and she used to talk about autism burnout all the time. Her TikTok name was @actually___alex but she’s deleted all of her videos.

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Oh, maybe! That handle sounds familiar!

I’ve since learned how to better articulate my autism burnout, considering it’s been six months now. I explain it as

all-around exhaustion, loss of skills, inability to push through due to total distress

though non-autistic people do not really understand and continue to insist that I “just need to do it anyway”, because that’s what everyone else does — even “the people who have it worse”.

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