Today, I am suffering from autie exhaustion. What is autie exhaustion, and how does it differ from regular exhaustion, you may ask. I am not exactly sure there is a cut, and dry answer to that. I think there are differences. I am fairly certain that 'typical' people get exhausted from being overstimulated sometimes, as well, especially introverts. I think introverts will certainly understand how this feels, even if they never quite feel the depth of it the way autistics can.
This kind of issue is usually cleverly camouflaged by quick moving moods, that tend to appear,and fade without warning in depths
that make little sense. Inside, I am a confused, tired, worn out mess, which gives way for my moods to take auto pilot, making me sensitive, and cranky. On the inside, I am dying for a quiet moment from the outside pressures. I am needing to regenerate alone, with some quiet, nonsocial pressure. On the outside, it looks like I am being moody, and maybe even inconsiderate. If I need to go to an important meeting, or make a social appearance I usually can, and will with what looks like ease, only to switch back to being a total witch the moment I am in a more private setting. This looks to others like I am being purposefully rude, and choosing to be moody. "After all, she can control it around others, so why is she so snappy to me when we get home?" Is something a loved one of an autistic person might say if they're in a situation where the autistic person is on social overload. It's because I can only keep up with this facade for so long. If pushed beyond my limit I will have a meltdown in front of others,as well. I do try my best to never let that happen, and it is very rare that it does, but let me assure you, it can. My negative emotions aren't reserved for my close family members on purpose to punish them. Even though it may feel that way. (For me, it's primarily my husband, because I am rarely snappy to my children)
I know most would think that the simple answer to this problem is to not let myself get overloaded to begin with. I would agree with that, if only life worked that way. Sometimes, we have to meet expectations that are difficult. Sometimes, the good, fun things in life, are also the stressful, and overstimulating, as well. When we have kids, a spouse, and other obligations we sometimes have busy times. I am always one to plan ahead as much as possible, and try to rework everything to be the least stressful, but sometimes, things can't always be smooth, and quiet.
I happened to come across this article on my blogroll this morning before heading out, and it was a good reminder for me to slow down, and remember that my moods will pass, and that I will be okay tonight, or tomorrow. I was glad to have seen that, to help me be grounded in just how transient moods and emotions are. It was a nice reminder to stop, and think about another time when I felt an intense emotion, or possibly a total autistic exhaustion, and how it did pass. If I can just remember, this isn't forever, and that it will pass, then I can usually make it through a little more easily.
I was also reminded that maybe, I need to take a cue from some of the ideas that I am trying to set up for Bubby in his behavior plan, and apply a few of those to myself! Something that I am trying to get him to remember, and fully understand is that you will have bad days. You will meltdown, and you will need breaks. It is unavoidable with the way your brain is wired. This isn't something to be ashamed of, or try to get away from. This makes the problem so much worse. Instead, I encourage him to find ways to identify, and be aware of his state of being, as well as responsible for managing himself. That is a tall order for an 11 year old boy on the spectrum, but not so much a 34 year old woman on the spectrum! Some of these things, I have figured out, some I forget. If I have a list that is available when I am calm, it will be easier to remember it, and use it when I am not.
So, what are some examples that may be on my list? First, I might try to identify what I am feeling, and why I might be feeling that way. So, for example, I might be overwhelmed with too much social pressure lately, and be feeling irritable. Some of the things I might do is: take a nap when I get a chance, blog, watch TV, read, or just play online games. Any, and all of those things will work, and can be done for five minutes to a whole day. I might not be able to get out of my obligations, but I can apply some good breaks in there to help mitigate the pressure. The coping strategies often can overlap for many different issues. Like, the ones I mentioned can work for most problems I have like, feeling depressed, anxious, or angry. I might be able to add some additional ones to my list. When I say a list, I don't mean metaphorically. I mean, a real piece of paper that is always available to use. When I tend to get overwhelmed I forget to always use good coping skills, even if I know them by heart. My mind doesn't always work as logically as I'd like when I'm under pressure. No one's does. That's why it's important to have a list on hand for a reference tool to help guide one to a solution instead of bobbing around aimlessly on a sea of unregulated emotion.