Autistic Burnout, “Regression,” and Identity Crisis – #TaketheMaskOff Week 4

Part 1: Autistic Burnout - Playing on the Social Field Autistic burnout = I literally can't pretend and devote 90% of my energy to being on your social playing field anymore. Metaphorically, I have to go lie down in the grass because I've played too many games on the social field. No one will have …

“Just Be Yourself” – #TaketheMaskOff

And hopefully, we can slowly remind people that we're still human beings, even if we don't look you in the eye, even if we might only whisper or shout, and even when other people act like we are less human than they are.

Accepting my Autistic Self – #TakeTheMaskOff

If I acknowledge that masking wasn't always necessary, it means that I equally have to acknowledge the mental turmoil I lived through as an autistic masker. And daring to even go down that rabbit hole within myself means acknowledging how truly emotionally broken I was. How emotionally cut off from life that I was.

Update: Doctors Visits and (lack of) Judgment

I started tearing up, looking at the ground, and didn't speak. They got out of their office chair and walked up to me slightly and quietly said "This is a safe space here. You're okay."  I really, really appreciated this one gesture. It made me tear up more in relief, because literally no one has ever said that to me. They didn't ask me why I was crying, or why, or how I was feeling. They just said "You are safe here." I was suddenly less worried about expectations to speak verbally or act a certain way.

Doctor Visits and Judgment

This is a draft I wrote to potentially have a doctor understand me. I have no idea if it'll work and it could very well backfire on me. I already had a meltdown after calling the receptionist to schedule the appointment (as a new patient to a doctor) because they wouldn't answer a simple question …

“Pay Attention!”

Pat your head and rub your belly while talking to me and tell me if it's hard to talk. Play the drums, snare drum, bass drum, and high hat at the same time while talking to me, and tell me if it's hard to talk. Read a textbook that is very jargon-y while talking to …

Alexithymia and Interoception

Book cover with diagram on it. Title: Interoception: The Eighth Sensory System. Show a picture of human anatomy, organs, and labels to each organ, heart rate, breathing rate, nausea, social touch, sexual arousal, need for the restroom, pain, muscle tension, itch. Pointing to the brain, it is labeled anger, embarrassment, fear, happiness, excitement, and at the throat is labeled thirst. Rest of book title at the bottom: Practical solutions for improving self-regulation, self-awareness, and social understanding. Written by Kelly Mahler, MS, OTR/L, Foreword by A.D. "Bud" Craig, PhD

When I realized that wearing headphones had helped me with anxiety in multiple ways/multiple places, I tried to check in with my sensory environment at least every few hours every day. Setting a reminder might help. Here are some pragmatic things I check to determine my emotional state:

Autistic Toddlers and Parent Expectations

Two 3-year-olds standing still dressed up looking at the camera.

Parents are often given what sounds like a "devastating" diagnosis of autism for their child. Autism is not a death sentence, and doctors can't predict the future. Just because you hear that your 2 or 3-year-old is autistic, doesn't mean that they can't live a happy life.  You can be autistic and happy. It's possible.

“Theory of Mind”

Diagram of how autistic adults are viewed by family members, and how autistic adults view themselves and understand how they will be viewed by their family members, called meta-view, figure from Heasman & Gillespie (2017).

"The idea that autistic people do not have theory of mind simply because we do not access the neurotypical experience readily and are not invested in the social world is ludicrous. It is like telling a neurotypical they don't have theory of mind because they can't hear that buzzing sound next to me, move their facial muscles too much, talk too loud (why can't they tell my ears are hurting when I blink so much? a clear signal!), and don't use echolalia to communicate."

All About Auditory Sensitivity

I have never understood why wearing headphones (i.e. listening to music, assuming) is considered rude or disrespectful. I hear just as well with headphones as a non-autistic person hears without them.