I want to share this eloquent and informative post from Ryan Boren with you all today as I found it to be vital reading to understand why Autistics can’t just “snap out” or may appear to regress as successful adults.
I’m in the middle of a significant Autistic burnout myself and struggling with the effects of that stressor on my stress-triggered invisible illnesses, so it’s been a topic I’m inspired to explain, even if it takes someone else’s more eloquent words to get there.
In my case, I may recover my ability to fully pass as Neurotypical partially, or I may not recover at all. I passed so reasonably well for so long that my work did not understand or take seriously as a medical condition my inability to do MORE to fit into the Neurotypical mold. A friendly but neutral facial expression and upbeat tone is easy if you’re NT, but if you’re Autistic, it may border on the impossible. So, while I can do professionally friendly well, and have for years, the added pressure to seem even more NT and a specific type of friendly and extroverted NT contributed significantly to the Big Meltdown (another post, another day).
This is also a large part of why I work with an Autism service dog, and why when I was required to keep my service dog hidden and not actively working for me in public places at work, my health and mental wellness began to tank.
See, when I’ve run out of spoons, my service dog has hers to lend me. When I need an out from being an unwilling advocate (in inappropriate settings) she gives me that excuse. It can even be as simple as taking the Neurotypical person’s focus off of me long enough to ease the discomfort of direct eye contact. Ada Luna, and, now, Elsa has been trained to react to signs of my discomfort and distress by climbing up on me, a simple thing for a small dog. When it’s especially bad, she’s trained to get my attention, first by nosing, then licking, then pawing. And maintaining contact until I’m pulled together.
That reminds me to take a breath and recollect myself enough to draw support from her and make it a little further.
In any case, that’s enough from me for today.
Here’s Ryan Boren’s excellent explanation of how coping and passing as NT, especially at high levels, contributes to Autistic burn out, and what exactly that is. His focus is in the tech field, but it all applies to pretty much any professional field.
Ryan, thank you for your eloquent and accurate words.
Read it here: Autistic Burnout: The Cost of Coping and Passing