bookmark_borderPrevious me would have loved going to a Red Sox event…

On Saturday there was an open house at Fenway Park to celebrate the new baseball season. It featured autograph signings by former Red Sox players, photo ops, mascots, and a chance to run/walk around the bases on the field.

This is the type of event that previous me would have been all over. I would have set my alarm, walked to the train station, and taken the Orange Line and then the Green Line to get to the ballpark. I would have jumped at the chance to add to my autograph collection, take a selfie, and post the fun pictures on social media.

I didn’t go to the Red Sox event.

Current me is very different from previous me.

Due to the way that the city of Boston and its sports teams handled the statue genocide – by failing to speak out against it and in some ways by actively supporting it – I’m not the enthusiastic Red Sox (or Bruins or Celtics, for that matter) fan that I once was.

My job situation and daily routine are also completely different. I work in the evenings and therefore tend to go to bed late and get up late. I don’t have to set an alarm for work, as I did for my 9-5 job, so I avoid doing so at all to the maximum extent possible.

Additionally, as a single adult, I do unfortunately feel awkward asking famous athletes for photos and autographs. I think it’s wrong that our society considers these types of things to be “for kids,” because I believe that all people should be treated equally regardless of age, but unfortunately it does. I am now too old to pass for a teenager, and I feel that I will be perceived as weirder and weirder the older I get.

But most of all, I have found over the past four years that I gain the most happiness from focusing on my inner world and not focusing on the outer one as much. The activities that I gravitate towards consist of drawing, writing, spending time with my statues, and organizing my toy soldiers and dolls. I am not as strongly drawn to activities such as following sports, walking around Boston, photographing the city, and attending events.

Our society has this idea that withdrawing from the outside world is somehow unhealthy, or even a “symptom” of depression. But I have found that this is the healthiest way for me to live. I wish more than anything that the terrible events of the past four years didn’t happen, but they did. Given this reality, it makes me happier to focus on the historical figures that I love, and the imaginary world in which they reside, rather than on the society that has hurt and rejected me. And I have read that doing fewer activities is exactly what helps with recovering from autistic burnout, something that I’ve been struggling with for many years.

So for now, I am making a deliberate decision to live a slower-paced life with more free time. I am going to do the things that I feel like doing, rather than pushing myself to get up before my body naturally wants to in order to attend events that I don’t have the energy for. I am going to do activities that bring me joy, rather than ones that are filled with reminders of the trauma that I’ve experienced. (Of course, some activities have the potential for both these things, which can make the decision about whether to do them or not difficult, but I will deal with those as they come up.)

bookmark_borderMy recent experience with autistic burnout

For nearly four years, I’ve been experiencing autistic burnout. I’ve been trying – with some degree of success – to make changes to my life in order to recover from this burnout, but a complete recovery still remains elusive. The burnout has been hitting really hard over the past couple of weeks.

Unlike in previous years, when the statue genocide has made me so disillusioned with the entire society that participating in its traditions has seemed vapid and pointless, there are actually a variety of things that I am excited to do this holiday season.

The problem is that no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to find the time and energy to do them.

I feel run down and worn out. I keep running into obstacles that, if I were in a better mindset to begin with, I would probably be able to overcome. But when I feel this tired, I lack resilience, and tiny obstacles are enough to completely defeat me. Little glitches, mishaps, and irritations keep happening, my brain keeps exploding, and large amounts of time keep being consumed by recovering from the brain explosion, with no possibility for accomplishing anything productive. And then, the inability to accomplish anything productive makes me frustrated, and my mood turns low and negative, and I start to lose hope that I will ever be able to do the things that I want to do. All of which makes me more susceptible to exploding if another obstacle happens.

To give just a few examples, over the past two weeks, my brain has exploded at:

  • After signing up to have my artwork displayed in a gallery, finding out that I would be required to put price stickers on each piece of artwork (I didn’t have any suitable stickers, so fulfilling this requirement would require me to spend money to purchase stickers)
  • Having to fill out a form on a website, but being unable to click on the “submit” button because it was covered by a banner regarding cookies, and the only way to make the banner go away was to check a box indicating that I agreed to the use of tracking cookies, which I wasn’t willing to do because I don’t believe in tracking cookies
  • Designing photo cards and calendars using a photo website and finding out that the shipping charge was significantly more expensive than I had anticipated
  • My Mom asking me if I was losing my voice, a question that didn’t make sense to me because I had lost my voice for a few days due to a nagging sickness, and at that point my voice was finally starting to come back
  • My Dad asking me if I wanted apple pie when I was in the middle of reading an article
  • My cell phone running out of power and needing to be plugged in for 3 hours before it was able to be used
  • Leaving work at the same time as a couple of co-workers and ending up walking to the train with them and riding the train with them, which deprived me of the alone time that I needed in order to decompress after work

I am not sure what came first, the exhaustion or the parade of frustrating little things. Regardless, I feel trapped in a cycle of being so run down that my brain explodes at the tiniest of things, making me even more run down and even more susceptible to my brain exploding.

Lately, it feels like all of my time and energy are spent merely coping with each day. It feels like I have been surviving, not living.

The Christmas cards, which I ended up ordering despite the unreasonably expensive shipping costs, actually came out really good, and I want to actually mail them.

I’d like to get a Christmas tree and decorate it with the historical figure themed ornaments that I’ve collected over the years.

I of course want to put up Christmas lights near my Stonewall Jackson statue, and possibly on the front of my house as well.

I’ve taken photos of the Christmas decorations near where I work, and the Christmas tree at the pond near my house, and I would also like to take photos of the nativity scene at the church near my house.

I would like to see the Napoleon movie, and possibly bring my mini metal version of Napoleon with me (because clearly, going to the movies with a toy soldier for company is a completely normal thing for a grown adult to do).

I want to do more artwork – there are countless ideas for drawings floating around in my brain that I have yet to put down on paper.

I want, possibly, to start a social media account dedicated to historical figures, where I would re-post / share news about new statues being made, photos from reenactments and celebrations, drawings and paintings and AI art of historical figures, and similar things.

All of these things are important to me.

Perhaps most of all, writing is important to me. I want to do more of it, both on this blog and in the form of a fantasy book series and an autobiography / memoir. What has happened to statues and monuments over the past four years has completely traumatized me and altered my life forever. Writing is the way that I process and respond to it. I am also becoming more aware of how my identity as an autistic person is intertwined with the statues. I want to write more about the statues, about my personal experiences as an autistic person, and about how these things intersect. I feel that I have a unique viewpoint and perspective, and my ideas aren’t like anyone else’s. It might sound arrogant, but I feel that my viewpoint, my perspective, and my ideas deserve to be shared, and no one can do that but me. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the ability to write and to share my ideas is necessary for me to have a life that is worth living. It is incredibly frustrating to keep not having the time and energy to do it.

But as you can see from the fact that this blog post exists, I did succeed in finding some time for writing today. So there is reason for hope.

Perhaps the solution is to schedule time on the calendar for drawing and writing, so that my chunks of free time don’t get eaten up by small tasks such as paying the water bill, sweeping the floor, or doing the laundry. This is something that my therapist suggested, but which I’ve struggled to implement. If I don’t have actually have time for both household tasks and writing, which seems to be the case given that doing the household tasks causes my potential writing time to disappear, then the only logical result of scheduling time for writing will be for the household tasks to go undone. And it is kind of important for me to pay my bills, to wash my clothes, and to keep my house reasonably clean. Scheduling blocks of time for certain activities doesn’t magically create more time; it’s just a form of arranging one’s activities differently. If the underlying problem is that I don’t have enough time for everything, my thinking goes, then rearranging things doesn’t really do anything to solve that problem.

Perhaps the solution is to do little bits of writing and drawing whenever I have spare time, instead of having the mentality that it isn’t worth starting unless I have a large chunk of uninterrupted time in which to work.

Perhaps the solution is to be more disciplined and to do little bits of drawing and writing instead of unproductive activities such as reading articles or scrolling through apps.

Perhaps a solution is a combination of these things.

Regardless, I won’t give up hope. I will keep trying to create a better life for myself, a life in which I actually have the time and energy for the things that are important.