Although it is still rarely recognized by medical professionals, most do understand the concept of burnout and how it can affect a person's physical and mental health. But what about autistic burnout? Far fewer know autistic burnout exists or understand its impact on autistic individuals.
An Important Note
I am writing from my lived experience as an autistic adult who has experienced autistic burnout several times, those of other autistic individuals I know, and additional research conducted on the subject. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning while there are broad similarities, individuals experience it differently and require varying levels of support.
Additionally, I use identity-first language throughout because it is my preference. Others on the autism spectrum may prefer person-first language, and I mean no disrespect to those individuals.
What Is Autistic Burnout?
Work burnout and autistic burnout are similar on several points, but there is a significant difference in the specific causes and some symptoms. Both stem from chronic stress and result in physical and psychological symptoms. Left unresolved, both kinds of burnout can create serious health problems.
General burnout typically develops due to job-related stress. While the resulting symptoms can affect most or all of the individual's life, it centers around their work/life balance.
The same is not necessarily true with autistic burnout. Autistic adults in the workforce often experience a great deal of work-related stress. However, autistic burnout is typically caused by navigating a world built for neurotypical people with a nervous system that processes information differently than a "typical" nervous system does.
The term neurotypical exists because individuals with that neurological structure outnumber individuals with other neurotypes. Hence the inclusion of "typical" in the name. Therefore, it is no surprise the behaviors, needs, and tolerances of neurotypicals form the basis of most elements of society.
The differences in brain structure behind autism spectrum disorder, and other neurological differences, result in a different lived experience. While most neurotypical individuals cannot hear the hum of electronics or notice the wavering of fluorescent lights unless something is malfunctioning, they can be overwhelming or disorienting for those with sensory processing differences. Outside of sensory issues, navigating neurotypical social expectations and communication is not natural for most autistic individuals and requires excessive energy and focus.
The constant stress of this extra effort results in autistic burnout and is responsible for the differences in burnout symptoms. Even in situations where job stress is the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, it is not the only cause. Therefore, this "translation stress" cannot be ignored during recovery.
Common Symptoms of Autistic Burnout
As with autism itself, autistic adults and children who experience burnout will experience it differently. However, there are a few common symptoms linked with autistic burnout.
Keep the root cause of any type of burnout in mind when assessing whether or not it is a concern. Regardless of the source, all burnout begins with high-stress levels over a long time. Stress triggers the body's fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response. This response allows for an intense burst of increased focus and energy for a time, but in doing so, it depletes the body's energy reserves.
Think of an individual like a hospital. Both are a collection of different parts doing different things with one purpose. As long as these systems run within normal parameters, things work well.
Then something happens, say a natural disaster, and the usual power supply is gone or insufficient. The stress response is like an emergency generator kicking on to keep the most vital systems running.
Burnout occurs if the fallout from the natural disaster lasts longer than the emergency generators can keep running. Power gets routed from one system to another, in order of necessity, until there's just nothing left.
As you might have guessed from the metaphor above, extreme and persistent fatigue is one of the main symptoms of any kind of burnout, autistic or otherwise.
Speaking as someone just recovering from the worst autistic burnout of their life, let me assure you that is an understatement. Sure, it starts out making you feel tired and drained at the end of the day, but if you keep pushing, burnout becomes a perpetual state of physical and mental exhaustion that no amount of sleep or rest seems to ease.
Yes, it varies from one autistic person to another. However, almost everyone in the autistic community who has experienced burnout agrees that burnout is first and foremost a form of extreme exhaustion.
Reduced Tolerance to Stimulus
Sensory needs can shift from day to day. This information shocks and confuses many who do not have sensory processing disorder, a normal but not universal facet of ASD. Even experiencing this first hand much of my life, it still took a long time to realize this was not "just migraine stuff" as a misdiagnosis in my early twenties led me to believe.
Some days, I can handle going out and about fairly well and just need a few hours of downtime upon returning home to recover. Other days, I go around the house turning off and unplugging every light and piece of electronic equipment in the house because the constant high-pitched hum of them working seems ten times louder than usual.
An autistic person nearing or in burnout will usually experience increasing difficulty with sensory issues as their usual coping mechanisms become insufficient.
Do you know the ability most people have to filter out background noise or other unneeded information? Most autistic individuals have "weak" or nonexistent, voluntary access to this ability compared to our neurotypical peers.
Even when focused on a task, most or all sensory information is still being taken in and processed. Processing this constant deluge of incoming sensory information takes a lot of mental energy and attention. It can feel like trying to split your attention in six or seven different ways, and it can be painful in a very literal sense.
I'm not kidding. Until I found the autistic community on Twitter and YouTube, I had no idea sensory overload can manifest as literal pain. I spent years seeing doctors about almost daily migraines and taking far too many NSAIDS just trying to get through the workday. Imagine my shock and relief when using sunglasses and earplugs upon feeling an oncoming "migraine" during work stopped it in its tracks 90% of the time.
The less energy available at the beginning of the day to handle sensory input, the faster you reach overload. As time progresses, sensory triggers you used to tolerate okay become unbearable, and the ones that always give you trouble can become almost instant meltdown or shutdown triggers.
I do not care for the moniker here, but it does describe another consequence of this exhaustion: loss of function.
Functioning labels are an entirely different topic I do not want to get into here, but autistic burnout does tie into why they are problematic. Loss of skills, or function, is experienced by most during burnout. Yet, it is most noticeable when shown by autistics typically labeled "high functioning" due purely to the stark contrast between expectation, often created and reinforced by masking their traits when abie, and current ability.
Suddenly one of the most organized people you know starts "flaking" on meetings, missing deadlines, and messing up "simple" tasks. They may zone out or start snapping at the slightest provocation. A friend with a massive vocabulary and odd but otherwise usual social skills may start having difficulty speaking, stop speaking altogether, or seem to forget social norms in certain situations.
These can all be signs of autistic "regression," symptomatic of severe autistic burnout where the demands upon the individual have outstripped their capacity to cope. It can seem to come on suddenly, or it may slowly build over time, depending on the individual's support system and whether or not they have the ability to lower their stress levels from time to time.
I began showing early signs of "regressive" autism for a few days or weeks at a time off and on for years before one job in particular depleted my reserves too far during the week to recover over the weekend. For clarity's sake, I will focus on the descent into burnout that finally resulted in my diagnosis at 38.
It started like any other time. I would start feeling worn out by Thursday morning each week, drag myself through Friday, and completely collapse over the weekend. When I say collapse, I am being pretty close to literal. I would stay home, sometimes not even leaving the bed, and bury myself in my current special interests as a stress reliever.
I began wearing sunglasses and using earplugs or headphones to manage visual and auditory overwhelm from the open office environment and the sun glinting off the cars in the parking lot outside the window. I lost the ability to suppress my stims while in public, and meltdowns became a weekly occurrence.
While appreciated, the concerned comments or "good-natured ribbing" regarding these facts added to the stress the panicked realization your mask is cracking can bring.
Figuring out the to-do list and menu for the week went from taking me a few minutes to hours of frustration and stress. I began losing chunks of my vocabulary at random times, and this grew over months until I started having hours-long spells where I would lose the ability to speak altogether. All this was most evident on the weekends for a long time, but eventually, eight months into my new job, I was forced to go into work while non-speaking. I didn't regain the ability to speak using my voice for several days, and even then, I continued to have a severe stutter for most of a week afterward.
Increased Support Needs
Any time there is a decrease in functioning, no matter the cause, an individual will need an increase in support. The amount and form such support must take will vary from person to person. Such is true whether talking about autistic burnout or work-based burnout, depression, anxiety, physical illnesses, or anything else that can make "normal" functioning difficult or impossible.
The moment you suspect burnout is happening, you should reevaluate accommodations. Access to sensory aids or the ability to remove oneself from an overwhelming environment for a few minutes makes a huge difference for sensory-based stressors. Allowing the use of sensory aids can help relieve many types of stress for neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals alike.
Individuals who experience increased difficulty with executive function may benefit from simple adjustments to work assignments such as giving instructions in an email versus verbally. Shifting the language used to assign tasks to be more direct or "blunt" may also be helpful.
At-home accommodations may consist of working together to create to-do lists, shopping lists, and the like instead of expecting them to figure it out alone. Individuals who have always managed to drive themselves or take small shopping trips may begin to need someone to drive them or accompany them if lapses in focus, sensory processing, or other skills make doing so independently alarming, confusing, or dangerous.
Is There Recovery from Autistic Burnout?
While recovering from any form of burnout can be difficult, it is possible. Autistic burnout just has a couple more layers to it than "simple" work-related burnout due to its nature.
When I first realized what had happened and started looking into advice on recovering from burnout, the amount of privilege required to follow the most common advice on the subject was incredibly frustrating. Looking back, I realize I was probably being a bit too literal in my interpretation of removing stressors. Or perhaps the issue came from finding articles on work-related burnout written for neurotypicals, where a long vacation can sometimes be sufficient for recovery.
In any case, recovery is possible and involves removing or minimizing the stressors contributing to the individual's burnout. The partial reduction can make a significant difference when complete removal is not possible or for individuals for whom such would cause more stress than it would relieve. Total recovery may just take longer to achieve.
Make Time for Rest
The first step to recovering is to start resting more. I know it sounds obvious considering burnout is a form of extreme exhaustion, but this exhaustion is not always immediately apparent. Our bodies have built-in systems to keep us going through fatigue when under stress. Adrenaline can hide how tired you are for far longer than you might think, so this is one place where you cannot always trust your feelings.
Have you ever had one of those experiences where you feel fine as long as you keep moving, but the moment you sit down, you start dozing off?
If you start having that kind of thing happening regularly, you need to start making more time to rest because it's a sign you are pushing too hard. You feel energetic while working because the stress of whatever deadline or upcoming event you are working toward has triggered an adrenaline rush, and once that fades, the fatigue tends to hit you all at once.
Take it from someone who made it through high school, college, and the first decade of their career riding those waves of adrenaline only to crash every weekend. It adds up. Learning to stop, even when you feel like you could still go for hours, and resting at regular intervals does more for overall productivity in the long run while lowering your dependence on those adrenaline rushes to get work done.
In this instance, rest does not always mean literally laying in bed sleeping, though it can. Make time for things that refill your batteries, and avoid things that drain your energy.
While it has come to be a topic people roll their eyes at thanks to fluffy puff pieces about taking bubble baths and the like, self-care is necessary. It is also one of the first things to take a hit or get jettisoned altogether during times of stress, so it is a factor those experiencing burnout need to keep in mind.
Pampering yourself has its place, but that is not what I mean by self-care. Are you meeting your body's basic needs for health and hygiene?
Stress can mess with our interoceptive sense, the sense of what is going on within our bodies. It can dial it up or down, and both directions have their problems. Keep this in mind, and try to step back to take an objective view of any changes in your eating, sleeping, exercise, bathing, or other routines.
Make adjustments to ensure you are eating well, staying hydrated, sleeping enough but also getting a decent amount of exercise, tending to your health and hygiene, and taking time for fun here and there. Setting alarms to remind yourself to eat or drink water helps some. Others find establishing days for specific tasks or taking steps to control portions helpful.
The point of self-care isn't to just indulge in what you find pleasurable; it is to ensure you do the things required to keep yourself healthy, both physically and mentally.
Humans are pack animals. Everyone needs support. Some of us need a bit more than others, and that's okay. An individual's support needs will change throughout their lives, and that's both normal and okay as well.
I took an absurdly literal view of the "being an adult means being independent" thing for most of my life. Not only would I not ask for help, but I would almost panic and give a knee-jerk refusal whenever someone offered. If I was a good, competent adult, why would I need help or support?
I never thought of others who needed help with something as such, but some part of me felt I wasn't "worthy" of the same consideration and needed to work things out on my own or not at all.
It took losing enough skills to force me to begin accepting help to realize no one ever meant that you had to stand on your own without getting assistance of any sort ever to be independent. That was my interpretation of matters fueled by instinctive people-pleasing to avoid rejection common with autism, ADHD, and several other neurodivergences or conditions.
It's okay to say no to the things you do not have the resources or energy to do.
It's okay to accept help when offered.
Asking for help doesn't make you weak or incompetent.
What does support look like?
Supports are as individual as those using them. Having support can mean asking someone to go with you to run errands or talk to you on speakerphone while you do chores. (This is called "body doubling." It is a coping mechanism to help with focus, motivation, and executive functioning.) Support can be having other members of your household help plan out how to get stuff done, or you can set alarms or reminders to ease switching tasks or using visual trackers to ensure you fit in the essentials.
It can be dividing tasks based on individual strengths and weaknesses within the household. Take a couple where one has poor vestibular perception, and the other has trouble with depth perception as an example. (The vestibular sense lets you know where you are in space or where one body part is in relation to another.) They might split yard work based on those "deficits." The one with better depth perception may do the mowing, and the one with better vestibular perception might handle the weed-eating as a form of mutual support.
Allowing yourself what you need to self-accommodate is also a form of support that can be overlooked or actively shunned thanks to internalized ableism, attempts to avoid negative attention, or both.
I realize I am speaking from a position of privilege as a white woman. While using stim aids, sensory aids, and even just stimming in public can be embarrassing, I don't have to fear for my health and safety in doing so.
But even if you feel such is only possible when alone, that can help some until we as a community can raise awareness and acceptance enough for all autistics to be themselves safely wherever they happen to be. If nowhere else, allowing yourself space to let the "mask" drop when you are somewhere you feel safe to do so can make a huge difference.
Additional Concerns for Autistic Adults
The world is chock full of challenges for those with neurological differences. From parenthood to workplace woes or simply tackling the usual to-dos of adulthood and living on your own, unique stressors factor toward the risk of reaching burnout.
Despite protections put in place by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and similar laws around the globe, there are still numerous reasons many autistic adults mask their traits, refuse to disclose, and simply suffer through the best they can.
Just listen to autistic adults via YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, or virtually any other social media platform out there, and you will see how often companies find loopholes or just ignore those regulations. Stories abound of autistics losing jobs or faced with worsening hours, increased sensory issues, or heavier workloads until they resign.
Masking is costly, but for many, it is necessary to maintain their independence. Individuals who must mask to keep their jobs are at greater risk of burnout. Understanding this risk can help you take steps to mitigate it.
Neurotypes are genetic, so it's little surprise neurodivergent adults tend to have neurodivergent children. As with any parent and child relationship, this comes with its highs and lows. Yet, very few parenting books, blogs, or message boards prepare you for a few of the challenges that can come with neurodivergent parenting.
How do you find balance when one craves sensory input that sends another into overload in a way that allows both to get what they need? What do you do if the smell of one child's safe food makes another gag and lose their appetite? These are tough questions to answer, so it's no wonder it is difficult to find helpful advice.
The best I can offer within this specific article is to lurk within the autistic community and learn from others who have or are experiencing similar issues. Make autistic friends and bounce ideas around from time to time. Open and honest communication regarding sensory and support needs and a willingness to compromise go a long way towards finding solutions.
Beyond that, be patient with yourself and your kids. You're all doing your best. And take time to step away and process and chill when needed. Sometimes we need that space to process a problem and find solutions.
My late diagnosis only happened because of burnout, and during the process, I discovered my story is rather typical of late-diagnosed adults. As our ability to diagnose autism improves, we're finding more and more adults whose autism was overlooked or misdiagnosed. Burnout symptoms and information discovered throughout the process of their children's diagnosis often precipitates their own.
Therefore, I decided to share at least a bit of my story on the off chance it could help others notice the signs and seek help sooner than I did.
Masking Created Stress and Contributed to Poor Coping Skills
Aside from being the "strange child" and having a bit of trouble learning to read or master fine motor control skills, I was your average kid. I got stuck in remedial reading classes for a year. Then, after becoming a fluent reader, my grades were good enough that no one saw any cause for concern aside from "just" being slightly odd, awkward, and having a weirdly large vocabulary for my age.
What no one got at the time is I knew I was strange, and being a quiet, "shy" kid gave me ample opportunity to study and memorize just about everything about those around me without anyone noticing. It didn't take long for me to figure out how to piece together stuff I saw around me and from the cartoons I was obsessed with at the time to create a persona I used to more or less fit in.
Unfortunately, at the same time, I learned I needed to suppress my healthy stims to do so, which led to other self-soothing behaviors lasting longer than one can safely use them. I just made sure to hide in my room if I felt a meltdown coming on to avoid punishment for "throwing a tantrum."
To be clear: this all happened decades before anyone in my family heard of autism, and the doctors were never concerned because I met the usual milestones they checked for back in the 80s. My family parented using the information they had. And they did the best they could with it. So please do not think I am talking down on them.
Only through looking back have I realized there were instances where I reached the early burnout stages and had the occasional non-speaking episode. I tended to keep to myself and preferred not to speak much of the time anyway. I only remember a couple of instances of wanting or needing to talk and being unable to do so because I rarely wanted to talk.
The need to "cocoon" as I called it tended to sync up with the start of school breaks, so I always chalked them up to the stress of semester tests or just wanting to spend a bunch of time with my current hobby upon finally having free time. It was only after graduating college and entering the workforce that I began to suspect something else might be going on. As that need became more frequent and my ability to fill it diminished, I felt the impact of being unable to "cocoon" when I felt the urge build over time without relief, no matter how I tried to manage stress.
A "cocoon" day was one I spent completely alone in the house. Usually, my brother was still in school, and my parents were at work since days off if you exempted semester tests were still a thing back then. Left to my own devices, I indulged in stuff that made me happy with abandon. Most often this was whatever special interest was taking its turn at the time, and I would always feel calmer and rested afterward.
It was an effective coping mechanism for mild burnout until taking those days became impossible due to adult responsibilities. It had worked so well throughout my childhood and early adulthood that I never developed any other coping mechanisms. Well, no others aside from distracting myself from stress with books, movies, or television shows, which tends to be an ineffectual and even detrimental tactic when used alone.
I spent right about a decade floundering about in an attempt to develop better ways of dealing with stressors, but constantly masking and a lack of understanding why certain things affected me sabotaged my efforts. The best I managed was barely treading water as I drifted further and further toward the undertow.
It has only been through understanding the cause behind stressors, reaching out for support, and seeking help that I have started learning more effective coping skills in the past couple of years.
Mental Health Stigma Makes It Worse
Like many other late-diagnosed neurodivergent folks, I have struggled with low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression for most of my life. I cannot remember exactly when it all started, but I know it escalated during my preteen years and throughout high school. By the time I'd entered college, they were an entrenched part of my identity that I attempted to keep under lock and key aside from an unhealthy amount of self-deprecating humor.
I first got an inkling of what was going on while studying psychology in high school. Later, after finally having access to the internet and a couple of rounds of psychology taking a turn as a special interest, I was pretty well certain these mental health problems were an issue for me. Yet, years of hearing those suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses derided for "not being strong enough" or "faithful enough" and horror stories of how antidepressants or ADHD meds changed people kept me from seeking help.
It took seeing the early signs of my children going down the same destructive path to face that fear, swallow my pride, and seek help for us all.
If such sounds familiar to you, please don't be afraid to seek help faster than we did. Our brains have the amazing ability to "rewire" themselves based on our habitual ways of thinking. This can work to your detriment or benefit, depending on how you train your brain to think. The earlier you begin replacing unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthier ones, the better your outcome.
Here's another important tidbit I have learned in the past few years. Most of the horror stories we heard about medications way back when were either baseless or due to doses being far too strong. Today's doctors tend to start with the smallest therapeutic dose possible and adjust upward if needed rather than the other way around.
Repeatedly Missing the Signs
It's almost funny now how many signs there were that my family and I weren't quite neurotypical that we just didn't notice. Part of this was because no one we knew had heard of autism, and ADHD was only just being talked about when my younger brother was starting school. Part of it was that we attributed traits to other things.
My mother only said, "Me too," until she was five. Everyone put that down to the fact her older sister was very talkative, so she didn't feel the need to do more than agree. I routinely had to "translate" for my younger brother until he was three, but that was just because he "got excited and blurred his words together."
My mom, brother, and I can all hear dog whistles. And I don't mean just barely perceive them. Dog whistles hurt. (We would joke it was compensating for severe nearsightedness.)
Teachers would leave the classroom television on after the school news channel signed off for the day and forget about it until I complained about the hum. (Funny how they always thought I was imagining things until they decided to "humor me" only for the tv to turn off.)
My mom claims I "was 30 from the time I was 3," due to a much larger vocabulary and more mature manner of speaking than expected for my age until my early 20s. They put it down first to an odd quirk and then to my voracious reading habits. (It was echolalia. I was using observed conversations and bits of television shows or books to piece together scripts for myself.)
Up until I was about 8 or 9 years old, when our family was visiting folks late in the evening, I would stop playing and find a tight, hidden spot to curl up in and go to sleep at 8 o'clock on the dot. I would spend literal hours at a time spinning around porch posts, swinging on the porch swing, or rocking in the rocking chairs rather than playing "normally" outside like the other kids. (What a funny quirk.)
My brother and I had a habit of organizing our collections or toys by one specific criterion. Then we'd chuck them all in a pile and do it again by another, sometimes multiple times a day. (Either our family was just glad we were "cleaning," or they chuckled at it as a funny way to play.)
My brother and I could amuse ourselves for entire days with nothing but a shovel and a bucket out in a gravel driveway looking for rocks that struck our fancy. We had a whole collection we kept for years. (All kids do that. What's it matter if they stick to it longer? They're quiet.)
My brother and a friend of his would take bets without stakes on how widely I'd be rocking side to side by the end of church services. (My parents just never noticed I was rocking at all.)
I lost count of how many times I got in trouble for using a particular word or phrase growing up because I had no clue it had a meaning other than the one in the dictionary or what I thought was obvious based on context. Friends would get upset or angry with me for unknown reasons I'd only come to understand years later that generally came down to missing nonverbal cues or having used the wrong tone or other nonverbal communication for what I was trying to convey.
Irrational irritation at changes in plans, not being told about them in advance, or being interrupted in the middle of a task were common reasons I would get into trouble or accidentally drive away friends. It still takes me a while to realize this irritation is due to discomfort at having to shift tasks faster than is natural for me or slight panic while trying to mentally reshuffle plans/routines rather than the person or situation causing the change.
There are a whole bunch more examples. These are just the ones I could think of in about five minutes.
We each see the world through the lens of our personal experiences, so it can be an easy thing to assume you understand the reason behind another's behaviors and quirks. This tendency is usually a big part of why those who mask their traits go undiagnosed for years.
Giving Myself Permission to be Me
We regularly hear the advice, "Just be yourself," but that's not always easy to do. Imagine suppressing your natural body language and using scripts you don't fully understand to choose your words, actions, and even apparent interests longer than you can remember. You can't "just be" what you don't know. It becomes impossible advice to follow.
My main resolution for 2019 was to "thin" the mask I was growing certain I'd worn since early childhood in a desperate attempt to stave off burnout. I was seeking a diagnosis, but almost no one will test anyone over 16 where I live. So resources were slim.
Aside from an intense stim that only shows up during meltdown, the only stim I knew I did at the time was rocking. Despite my best efforts, it was the only one that kept breaking through when my guard slipped the slightest bit. It didn't take long after allowing myself to rock if needed to realize a lot of the back pain I had experienced for decades was a direct result of suppressing the stim.
That realization drove me to relax the hypervigilance masking demands. Since then, other stims have surfaced. It's been a surprise every time a "new" stim pops up, but the change it has made in my life has been massive.
Again, I realize the privilege of doing so without worrying about being accused of criminal activity or violence against me as autistic men and autistic POC often experience.
Everyone should have the ability to freely utilize the tools they need to be happy and healthy without fear.
It is my hope that those in the neurodiverse community speaking out about these experiences will educate the larger public and promote the understanding and acceptance necessary for that to happen.
How Is the Path to Recovery?
The short answer? It's doable but taking longer than expected.
I still lose the ability to talk an hour or so before bed every night, but it usually returns by morning. So that is an improvement. The non-speaking episodes lasting 24-72 hours or more have gotten to be fewer and further between over the past year.
My focus has improved enough to drive myself and run errands solo once or twice a week, which is helpful. Issues with coordination and memory retrieval have almost returned to normal unless I am on the verge of meltdown or recovering from one. And my sensory sensitivity has almost returned to baseline most days.
The one area where I have not begun returning to "baseline" or regaining old skills is with masking. While I started "thinning" the mask to try and stave off burnout, I never meant to drop it completely outside the house. In particular, I wanted to keep a bit of it at work. But I lost the ability to mask at all towards the end of 2020.
Oh, I have tried a few times. Business meetings, visiting somewhere new, etc, call for doing so if you are able due to the implicit bias so many still have regarding autism and competency. But forcing eye contact, suppressing stims, and scripting well enough to hide a noticeable processing delay escapes me these days.
To be honest, I am not sure if I will ever recover the ability to do so to the degree I possessed a few years ago. There are days that uncertainty is unsettling because of the potential ramifications on my ability to obtain and keep a job outside of working for myself. But most days, I'm okay with that. After all, why should neurodiverse individuals have to be Oscar-level actors to just exist in society?
The past year and a half spent recovering from burnout taught me recovery is not a linear process. Things happen. You will have good days, bad days, and weeks where a problem will knock you back a step or two, but if you keep making healthy decisions, you'll keep improving.
A. B. England
I am an autistic author and mom with a love of creating in a variety of mediums.