Autistic Creative Burnout

It only took five weeks, but as I sat down, said the quiet parts out loud, I confessed both to myself and out in the open:

I can’t keep things up like this.

The YouTube channel has been a thrill, I’ve enjoyed keeping up here with writing, and there have been plenty of things both at work and at home to stay ahead of, do, and enjoy. But just not all at once at this rate.

I can’t narrate The Life Autistic if I’m no longer LIVING.

Burnout is hard, but it’s especially hard when it’s fueled and propelled by autistic obsessions and fixations.

I’m going into each weekend gripped by the need to film, to edit, splice, and prep for publish weekly. And if it’s not that, it’s gearing up blogs on the cadence I’ve maintained for years. This has become its own special interest, and if you’re autistic, you know it is hard to undo!

But things have changed: work has seasons, I’ve had more kids since this whole outlet began, I’m helping stay flexible to let Mrs. H2 stay engaged in teaching – the list goes on.

So does time: it goes on and has not changed, nor broadened, nor expanded.

I’ve been to the burnout wall before, so I know it’s coming. Here’s what will be changing, for my own sanity:

Writing is slowing down. I do enjoy practicing my one key skill, but I am making my own pressure by committing to a 2x weekly pace. And I can’t keep that up. I’ll be here on Mondays, but I’m afraid the Thursday kicker will need to step aside.

Videos on Wednesdays. But maybe not every Wednesday. Some of these come together extremely quick, but not always. YouTube isn’t my day job. My day job is already pretty intense. I have kids, plural. I have to face the fact that, given everything else, I’m just not capable of cranking things out as fast as I could.

Balance. This may surprise some or none of you, but every minute of my day is pretty much compulsively driven to some objective — I’ve not “been lazy” in years, and the doing is always intense, and focused, and purposeful — and exhausting.

So while I realize, yeah, my audience is probably going to dry up because I can’t be as ridiculous a force, at least I’ll still have a Life Autistic to live, to enjoy, one that can’t afford to dry up.

I hope you’ll stick around, even if the updates aren’t as feverishly constant. But I need to slow down to keep going.  To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks.

Maybe one day I’ll get around to a video on burnout. For now, here’s some other autistic things I wish I’d known sooner.

The Life Autistic: Say This One Thing to STOP THE PANIC

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If you’d like to know how we autistic people think, first, let’s explain what we think.

For me, at the beginning of each day, deep in my subconscious, on a normal day, I’m thinking:

Here is how my day is going to go.

The meetings, the tasks, when the kids wake up, what I’ll have for breakfast/lunch.

I take comfort knowing that this is how my day will go.

Welcome to The Life Autistic, where our comfort is in predictability.

But our discomfort? Well…

Since I take some extreme solace in my day’s order, anything that could jeopardize that order really freaks me out. It just does.

I wish it weren’t the case, but even innocent questions like “When are you off?” or “What all do you have going on today?” or “How long do you think you’ll be in this meeting?” just send these tremors through me.

Like I fear my order will be wrecked, and the nice, cozy routine is about to be altered, shaking my foundation.

SO.

If you want to STOP THE PANIC.

It’s easy.

Start with WHY.

Just start with why!

My family has known me for a while, so they’ve gotten accustomed to it.

“Hey Hunter, since we may be having an uninvited guest show up this afternoon, were you planning on heading to The Cheese Shop this afternoon?”

“Hey Hunter, since Mo’s not feeling too well, what time will you be off today?”

“Hey, something came up over at Dad’s and I might need help – how many more meetings do you have left today?”

Folks, this helps us so much.

And frankly, it helps EVERYONE.

Start with why, stop the panic.

The Life Autistic: Is This What it is to Be Human?

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I was once a colder man who cared far less.

Yet since I’ve thawed, I am still bewildered.

Now I’m less a robot than before. Whether by design, intent, or happy accident, I’m not quite sure; I now find things provoking responses in me that are more human.

To a normal life, it’s “being a person.”

But on The Life Autistic, it is discovery.

For example, I was on a conference call that went so far south, it crossed the equator and beyond the tropic of Capricorn.

One of my customers was put in an extremely difficult spot. The exchange was testy, awkward, and alarming. The palpable tension strung taut among the audience until it finally unspooled, detangling in a nervous mess.

Where the Hunter of years ago would have considered it bad, this time, it evoked a different feeling.

I felt bad.

Not just about the situation, but for the person.

Is this what empathy is? It was as if their discomfort and hurried resolve to save face echoed within me. I went from observation to seeking their consolation.

Mind you, I’m just support personnel. The Business Analyst. The data cruncher. The numbers guy.

I am the robot by role, by design.

But I care now.

The next day, I took a deep breath. My gut said “write a note, be encouraging, use your words and not just your data for support.”

It might have penned one hundred words tops, but it took me almost half an hour: 10 minutes to write, 20 minutes being all anxious about sending it.

And off it went.

It may sound trite, but for me and people like me – this is novel.

It gives me hope.

As the great sages of our age, Daft Punk, reminded me: maybe I am indeed human after all.