Five things I learned from my autistic burnout

Autistic burnout sucks. It’s like “ordinary” burnout, but more intense. And although autistic burnout looks different from person to person, the reasons behind it are often remarkably similar and easily summed up in just five words: too much forced social engagement.

I am not a social being

Social engagement wears me out. Not only does the constant barrage of stimuli overwhelm my nervous system, but I also have to deal with the impossibility of, well… engaging with others in a way that doesn’t put them off.

It’s not that I don’t like people – I do – it’s just that I don’t get their unspoken rules of proper conduct. So I’m constantly asking myself:

  • “Can I say this?”
  • “What will people think if I say that?”
  • “Will they understand what I mean, or will they take offence?”

Even after nearly sixty years of diligent practice, I still keep second-guessing myself all the time. And let me tell you, walking on eggshells (surprise! I do know how to use figurative speech) is exhausting AF and physically hurts. Literally, not just figuratively.

Don’t try to educate idiots

It’s disheartening to realise how many people are just plain stupid and think everything is always about them. You give them what you think is helpful feedback on their work, and they take it personally. You post a link to a helpful resource in a group, and they think it’s all about them. You take a break because of your burnout, and guess what? Yup. It has to be about them again.

Really? I can’t even count the number of times I tried to talk sense into these people. All in vain, and usually it only ended up in them getting even more annoyed with me (and I with them) because they are simply too dumb to understand.

So I decided to try and resist the urge to explain myself. It only exhausts me and hardly ever has any positive effect at all. It’s just not worth my time or energy. So I try to ignore their idiocy. It’s hard, and I’ll likely fail many times, but I’ll keep trying. I will learn how to keep my mouth shut in the presence of fools.

Five things I learned from my autistic burnout

Write for yourself

If you want to sell books, you should write to market. I know. And it doesn’t work for me. I can’t do it. If I try, I burn myself out real fast. It kills my muse.

We all know the saying, “write what you know”, and I live by this creed. But here’s the rub. What I know is too different from what “the market” knows. I am different. And you know what? That’s perfectly alright. Although my books may never become hugely popular – literary fiction seldom is – I know some people love my books. Really love them. Not despite them being different, but exactly because they are different. These people are my readers. My market, in business terms.

No longer will I ask myself “But will my readers like this?” No longer will I waste time and money on books, videos and other resources that will teach me how to write a novel that sells. Or how to write it quickly.

No more!

My life. My time. My writing.

Only by being true to myself and putting my own needs first will I be able to continue writing. So in the end, this will benefit my readers, too. Even if they have to wait longer before the next book comes out.

Social media are not your friend

I lost count of how much time I spent on facebook and instagram. Not being there for fun, but trying to network and get people to at least notice my books. I’m pretty sure I did just about everything wrong, because despite all my hard work, my books are not selling and my following on social media is negligible.

There, I said it. The cold, hard truth.

So, if it doesn’t even work, why should I continue to waste all this time and energy on social media? I don’t like being on there. Because, you know, I’m not a social guy. I’m a solitary being by nature, and being social wears me out.

This means I will drastically reduce the time I spend on social media. I’d rather spend my time doing what I actually love and am good at. Writing.

There is no easy fix for autistic burnout

That’s right. No easy fix. Preferably you should remove the things that caused your burnout. But that’s easier said than done. We can’t leave society altogether. The shopping still needs to be done. We still encounter idiots. Our bills need to be paid, and social media are mandatory these days.

In the end, all we can do is limit our exposure to what caused our burnout. And that’s something we need to keep up. Not just during the burnout, but forever. Because if we don’t, we’ll be back at square one in no time flat.

I’m getting there. One step at a time.

🙏 If you have any tips on how to deal with autistic burnout, please share them in the comments or shoot me a message. I can use all the help I can get.

Five things I learned from my autistic burnout

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