I’m creating a new community outside of social media on Substack (where I can have more control over my space), and I hope you’ll join me as a free member (but I also have paid subscriptions if you want access to bonus content)
My Substack community members are helping shape the community’s content by requesting different topics they want to learn about.
This week one of my readers has asked me to share advice on recognizing, preventing, and recovering from Burnout (a topic close to home for me).
Thank you so much for this perfect topic request.
Autistic Burnout, unfortunately, is a topic that I’m intimately familiar with. It’s a topic I’ve spoken about often due to my own experience of repeatedly Autistic Burnout since childhood, and the most recent Autistic Burnout in a workplace, which led to my late Autistic discovery at the age of 29.
The first Burnout I remember experiencing came in elementary school, where exhaustion, lack of empathy from those around me, and overexposure to my sensory triggers (without protection or rest breaks) eventually gave way to sickness – my stomach and head twisted in knots of pain (headaches) and disorientation.
As this sickness would come and go through the years, doctors never seemed to have an answer to the cause of my pain and distress.
My school demanded that I attend, and I must have a doctor’s note explaining why I missed class. However, exams and tests found nothing “physically” wrong with me, so it was assumed (by one of my doctors and the school nurse) that I was “getting sick” to avoid school.
The prescription for “school avoidance” was more school – to send me to school so my aversion wouldn’t be “nurtured.”
Imagine if the prescription for workplace burnout was “more work”?
Attendance is essential to schools because when students miss class, the state doesn’t pay the school for educating them. Empty chairs mean lost revenue.
My guardians were told (since I had no fever and wasn’t contagious) I had to attend school, and keeping me home would result in truancy charges against them (since I was still too young to charge).
Schools and doctors hold a lot of power over parents (especially if the parents don’t have the resources to fight back when schools and doctors team up) to enforce abusive policies that violate the rights of children in their care.
As a child (in middle school), I was denied the right to rest when I was so physically exhausted and burned out it made me sick.
The things that broke me weren’t the things that drained others, so people were always confused when I would fall apart in environments they found invigorating.
The school demanded medical information about me, then used that information to force me to go to school when I was too sick to learn. They had me throwing up at my desk in a trash can in front of my peers because I “wasn’t contagious.”
How is that in my best interests as a child?
Was it a punishment, behavioral conditioning for my “school aversion,” making an example out of me, or just a misunderstanding? – regardless of why the impact and trauma of being denied rest and dignity are still with me today.