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.

When Autistic Routines Bend, then Break | Going to the Mattresses with Stressors

There’s only so much I can manage. And at that point, I can only hope to bend my furthest without breaking.

Unlike everyone else on the planet, I don’t look forward to three day weekends or holidays. And it’s sad, because I genuinely enjoy what I have to look forward to — truly!

But the routine break can be backbreaking.

Lemme explain this autistic trait of routine. Routine and repetition are our R&R — we thrive on predictability, reducing the mental load in adapting, and being able to “opt in” and commit in environments that mostly remain undisturbed.

So when we hit structural changes to this routine, it’s tough sledding.

This weekend, instead of hauling off to church, we instead bought the girls their new bunk beds, grilled outdoors, disassembled beds, stored beds, assembled new ones, bought new mattresses, made up the beds, and then-whew-done.

It doesn’t sound hard. But when all of that runs counter to the rank-and-file Sunday/Monday combo, it becomes hard.

Mind you, I adapt and stretch the best I can — in my mind I chalk out the outline of the day (build beds, make beds, store beds, lift things), but as soon as something falls outside of that outline, yikes.

And that happened :/

I have to draw a line between my autism and my generally-acerbic expressions, and this weekend was more of the latter. Due to my own error, I ended up having to add some extra steps outside that chalk outline and just ended the day incensed, angry, and short-tempered.

So close, H2 — so close to accounting for everything, but just short enough to light off my fuse.

That was the story: what should have been a “yay party omg labordayvibes” weekend became a sweet memory turned sour by my own rigidity and bending just a little too far and breaking.

My advice to my autistic self?

Make that chalk outline bigger.

Give a wider berth to disruptions.

And don’t buy used mattresses.

Hope your three-day weekend went well! I’ll do better on my next one. 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!

Oh, and if you like words and videos, you’ll LOVE The Life Autistic on YouTube! New episode:

Managing Meltdowns: When Autistic Strengths meet Autistic Weaknesses

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“Hunter, this isn’t working.”

Yeah, I’m having the same issue.”

Same here.”

Uh oh.

This may surprise you, but I get tapped for presentations pretty regularly. I’ve gotten good at it over time, and—bizarrely—get great feedback on my presence, style, and humor for hosting over video conferences. I guess if you do something often enough, you skill up to survive.

After doing this one presentation nearly a dozen times, it’s finally gotten “natural.” This is a great feeling for us autistic people: it’s predictable, successful, engaging, and elemental.

Me being me, I plan and plan again — what could go wrong? what can go right? what if A, B, C, X, Y, Z happens? But planning is exhausting: I can’t draw a new map for each scenario, just a “general direction.”

This last Monday, this latest presentation had been going smoothly.

Had.

Until my audience came to my resource and . . . it was broken.

Yikes.

The participant chats rolled in.

My brain scrambled.

Some said they thought it worked.

Others couldn’t get it working.

I have a backup for this, I thought. But not for when it’s half working. What do we do here? How much time do I have? What about the last activity?

My inner monologue ran straight off the monorail and into meltdown territory. Mind you all, I’m on camera — LIVE — this entire time.

But, mirabile dictu, I managed to un-meltdown — how?

Masking for so long to “unfortunate expert” levels. My only public face is the ‘game face’ — so even at my worst, I’ve gotten so used to ‘telegraphing’ emotions by intent. Of course I felt rattled, but I’ve spent hours being rattled and looking placid or being something and looking like something else.

Practice “pre-framing” the Plan B as the Plan A. Things fall apart, and it’s hard to cope. I’ve a few posts I want to do about this, but mentally, I’ve had to practice these “backup plan” scenarios. The key challenge is thinking about that as “the plan all along” and convincing myself that this was the design.

Rent space ahead. I couldn’t dissolve my anxiety internally, but I managed to “act” my way through it — knowing that I’d be able to exhale and process this within a few minutes. I rented that time in advance to will myself along until I could bail off camera and bleed the tension out.

At the debrief, I had my joke ready:

“I’m glad I’ve grown out my hair, because I have plenty left to spare after pulling it out after my session!”

They said I recovered extremely well and that I’m “such a natural” presenter.

And that’s The Life Autistic in a nutshell: natural, unnaturally. 

Not all of the stories are successes. But I’m glad this one was. 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!