By Lisa Macafee
What does autistic burnout feel like for me? It’s different for every autistic person, so I won’t pretend mine is typical.
Today is Wednesday. I started a new job last week and now work two part-time jobs for a total of 40 hours split between them.
I have been navigating new procedure (in person!), new people, have been trying to be approachable and bond with new co-workers, and perform my other job responsibilities well, be a good mom, a loving wife, a competent student, and keep the house in order.
This Monday, I had Locke in the car ready to take him to daycare as Ryan left with Rowan… and my car wouldn’t start. The panic rose in my chest as I did everything I could to start the car. Eventually, I was able to get it going, but it kept having the issue, so I called on my way to work on Tuesday to arrange to drop if off after work.
I dropped off the car after work Tuesday, pulled a car seat out and hauled it over to the rental agency, rented a car, put the car seat in, picked up Locke, and got home around 5pm. Today, I took Locke to daycare, drove to work, worked (and had some delightful but intense conversations with co-workers), went home to pick up the recalled charger, took the car seat out, took the rental back, picked up my car after being fixed, but was told they forgot to order the replacement part for the recalled charger and could I stop by tomorrow to get it. This was the third time I brought my car in for the same recall, and they are telling me to come back again.
This is the moment. Too many new things. Too much management of feelings. Too many physical tasks.
I immediately wanted to cry, which I felt the need to furiously repress, because I have internalized that I can’t show weakness. Without an ability to vent the frustration, I get hot with anger, which I also repress, because I’ve internalized that angry women are hysterical and not to be taken seriously.
My brain just skids out like the tires losing traction on the road. My speech drops to monosyllabic responses, my affect goes flat, and my body gets shaky and uncoordinated. It feels like there are a swarm of bees in my head that I can’t hear through or think around. I often feel unsafe to drive in these situations. I get a plummeting sadness.
Then I go pick up Rowan and put on my “mom” face. Put the car seat back in. Be happy, kind, loving. Then Locke is having his own autistic burnout because he has been in daycare longer than normal and his routines are out of whack and he is screaming, kicking, and crying at us. I get it, kid, I get it.
It takes everything I have to be calm. To not react with anger. To hold him in his anger and let him express it so he can feel better.
Put the kids to bed. Be so mentally and physically exhausted that all I can do is this and then sleep. When I get to this place, I do not feel able to speak about anything, but I feel a compelling need to write it out. So here we are.
As Nicholas Cage said, “OH, NO, NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES! AAAAAHHHHH!”
Coping with Disability
Hello friends! I would like to publish writings from myself and other people with autism as snapshots of how autism has affected them, since there are so many misconceptions and confusions about adults with autism.
Some background: I completed a 12 unit certificate program to be able to serve autistic students and am angry at how the program focused only on little boys as autistic and completely left out adults, the trans autistic population, and girls/ femmes/ women autistics. I am currently pursuing a PsyD to do more research on autism and gender.
Please contact me if you would like to add a story! If so, please send me your piece, publish name, title, and an image (can be a picture related to your content, your picture, an autism meme, etc).
I am interested in publishing this collection, because people don't know enough about us (but sure do assume a lot). Also on Facebook!
Lisa Macafee, autistic counselor with a hankering for social justice.