Late Stage Autistic (BurnOut! part 3)

Sensorina avatar lying on back waving a white flag

That thing that happened 12 years ago… When I got “sick” and never recovered?

The mysterious “illness” that left me too sick to get out of bed for months, and too sick to venture too far from my bed for all these years.

It’s symptoms include:

  • exhaustion
  • pain
  • brain-fog
  • despair
  • difficulty communicating
  • anxiety that is not lessened by (my previous coping mechanism) exercise.
  • heightened sensory problems

I have discovered “this illness” fits the criterion of an issue I’m seeing on the internet called “late-stage autistic burnout.”

It comes about by years of exhausting oneself masking autism symptoms. In some cases, like mine, people weren’t even entirely sure they were autistic until they got so debilitatingly sick! I was so good at tailoring my adult life to fit my difficulties I don’t think most people who didn’t know me as a child even knew I had difficulties. Whenever I had my addictions under control, I was all about being as healthy as I could be. I had to because lack of exercise, poor nutrition, any kind of stress and I simply felt and operated like a machine missing important parts.

By selling my business, creating space for me to take on new challenges and responsibilities, I drove myself so hard … I broke.

And I did drive myself that year! I was living under the belief that I could conquer my anxiety by bravely confronting it, never giving up and stubbornly pushing through. Boy, was I wrong.

Gabor M said in: “When the Body Says NO,” What is your body trying to tell you with all that pain?

It’s been trying to tell me. “Stop struggling to appear normal. You, sweet child, are something else.”

My latest new almost-friend asked: “Why would someone want to be labelled like that?” Helpful neurotypical didn’t know being labeled Autistic is NOT worse than being labeled: “a fucking weirdo,” “non-compliant,” “thinks she’s too smart/good/important for the rest of us,” “hypochondriac,” “drama queen,” “high-maintenance” “attention seeking,” “controlling,” “manipulative.”

You can’t know, NT, how comforting it is, even just in my own mind, to be able to answer the scornfully asked questions, “Why do you act like that?” “Why can’t you just relax?” “Why does everything have to be YOUR way?” “What about the rest of us who WANT to: hear the music/smell the candles/hang out with everyone else/stay until it’s over?” “Why did you leave without saying goodbye?” “Why can’t you understand what I’m telling you?” “Anal retentive much?” “Why can’t you just try a little harder?” “Weren’t you listening when I gave the instructions?” “Why can’t you be still?” “Why are you so obsessed?”

I have been trying to answer those questions and all the ones like them my whole life.

Answers included:

  • I’m dumb
  • I’m lazy?!
  • I don’t know
  • I don’t care
  • I have an all day/every day weed habit
  • I have too many responsibilities
  • I have kids
  • I have chronic insomnia
  • I am a recovering addict
  • I am depressed (all the fucking time)
  • I am anxious (all the fucking time)
  • I have food allergies
  • I have a whole business to run
  • I am an alcoholic
  • I had a toxic childhood
  • I am an INFJ
  • I am a HSP
  • I am taking care of my dying mother, in my own home (and we have a complicated history)
  • I am a recovering alcoholic
  • I have SPD
  • I am a writer (look at us, we’re all pretty strange)
  • I have chronic, myofascial pain
  • I got very, very sick
  • I have fibromyalgia/CFS
  • I have autoimmune disorders
  • I am on a lot of medication
  • I have Ehler Danlos Syndrome (the hypermobility flavor)

Turns out, the real answer is ……. I really, really AM AUTISTIC!

Oh happy day, there is finally an answer big enough to encompass it all, to make it all make sense.

Friends: those who have stuck with me through all this (and those who didn’t), I’m telling you here because I can’t (literally) tell you in the traditional way (with words coming out of my mouth). Because when you look at me with any kind of skepticism my big, zappy brain goes blank. And it’s all just too exhausting.

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