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Loss of skills due to burnout

avanaphia

Member
I think that I might be going through burnout and I don't know how to get out of it.

For context, I moved out of my parents house 2 years ago and went back to my home country for college which was a major change for me. I thought that I was able to manage being in a new environment, having different routines and doing house chores by myself but after 2 years in, I've become overwhelmed and don't know how to cope with it all. I'm drained. I don't feel near as capable as I used to be. My social skills have gotten worse. I get overstimulated a lot easier. I'm not able to mask as well anymore. I'm struggling with mainting relationships. I've become quite apathetic and don't have the energy and interest in engaging in social activites. Other people including my family are even noticing that there has been a change in me. I'm constantly being asked if I'm okay and I don't know how to respond. I ended up taking a break from college as a result but I still feel so lost. I'm really struggling to find my way back to how I was before.

I'm wondering if anyone else can relate and has had the same issue. If so, how did you recover from it?
 
I can absolutely relate. At the end of university and a few months after, I am quite sure that I had a burnout. I even wrote a post about it here. I noticed similar things you describe: Lack of energy and interest, much easier to get overstimulated, meltdowns due to overstimulation/oversocialization several times a week, I cried often, I slept more, I reacted to any kind of demand by getting defensive and irritable.

What helped me was a drastic break from everything. I spent 2 months on an isolated farm, taking care of dogs. It was heaven. No talking to people, apart from the owners, no cars, no crowds, no noise. I had already organized this beforehand, so I was very lucky to be able to do this. It felt like a breather for my entire body and nervous system.
During that burnout phase, I discovered that I'm autistic and I'm unmasking, so I'm still struggling somewhat, but I don't feel as burned out anymore.

Edit: Sorry, taking things a bit too literally I only thought of answering your explicit question (describing own experiences), and it just occurred to me that some advice might be nice, too.

I think it's good that you're already taking a break from college if you're struggling right now. It depends a bit on what you think you might need right now. If you crave comfort, familiar surroundings and, in general, a break, maybe you could spend some time at your parents' home (if you have that sort of relationship and it could be helpful)? Also, try to spend more time doing things that recharge you. Also, don't be too hard on yourself. Wanting to be "like you were before" might be aimed too high. First, you need to feel better.
 
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It's a pattern I repeated again and again throughout my life. For NTs burnout usually means being overworked, for us it's very different. For us it's Emotional Burnout.

Many of us end up retreating to complete isolation because we don't know what else we can do about it, but there are a lot of little things you can do to take some of the pressure off. It's about avoiding unnecessary emotional demands.

A surprisingly large part of that emotional pressure comes from commercial TV and radio. Not from the programs you watch but from the overexcited voices in adverts and from news broadcasters - they are deliberately trying to appeal to people's emotions and it's a little too effective on autistic people.

What music you listen to all the time makes a big difference too, if it's designed to pluck at the heart strings then it's going to be draining for you.

Don't waste time trying to be friends with people that are always whingeing and complaining, it's habitual for them and you'll never be able to help them because they don't want help, they just enjoy the emotional attention. You can't afford to waste energy on people like that.

I can't really comment about social media because except for this one forum I don't use it at all. The very idea, the concept, horrifies me because I know how much it will drain me.
 
I think that I might be going through burnout and I don't know how to get out of it.

For context, I moved out of my parents house 2 years ago and went back to my home country for college which was a major change for me. I thought that I was able to manage being in a new environment, having different routines and doing house chores by myself but after 2 years in, I've become overwhelmed and don't know how to cope with it all. I'm drained. I don't feel near as capable as I used to be. My social skills have gotten worse. I get overstimulated a lot easier. I'm not able to mask as well anymore. I'm struggling with mainting relationships. I've become quite apathetic and don't have the energy and interest in engaging in social activites. Other people including my family are even noticing that there has been a change in me. I'm constantly being asked if I'm okay and I don't know how to respond. I ended up taking a break from college as a result but I still feel so lost. I'm really struggling to find my way back to how I was before.

I'm wondering if anyone else can relate and has had the same issue. If so, how did you recover from it?
Mental fatigue (various reasons) and poor nutrition ("comfort food") more common reasons for a decline in function and an exacerbation of autistic signs and symptoms.

Obviously, whatever you've been doing, or not doing, has contributed to this "burnout". Time to step back, take some time for yourself, and go into "non-stimulation" mode. Concentrate on your nutrition, good sleep, and if you can, just get away for a bit.
 
If it's after moving out, it might be a lack of routine (or a poor one) and poor nutrition as @Neonatal RRT already mentioned. By routine I mean regular sleep and meal hours, remembering to drink, go to the toilet, take breaks from work every 40 minutes or whatever time frame works for you.
 
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These are great replies, and this is a excellent post. First l would like to ask, are you getting plenty of protein, this can be as simple as protein powder stirred into juice, yogurt, etc. Do you take time out to get a 30 minute Swedish massage, hot stone massage, a soak in a hot springs, or jacuzzi? Do you have some type of exercise you can commit to twice or three times a week? Like swimming laps, walking or jogging on a treadmill, yoga class maybe 4 times a month? At nite, do you turn off your computer/cellphone at least an hour before bedtime, and do you go to bed at the same time every nite? Do you limit your caffeine intake as the day gets later? Incorporating the above ideas may help.

Have you spent any time thinking of how to simplify your daily life financially , or spiritually, or socially, you get the idea.
 
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Definitely relatable, what you described.

I also think fatigue might be an issue here. Even though you were initially doing okay and felt like you could handle your new life, it can take a great deal of mental and physical energy to sustain the changes you described. You moved away from your supports and took on new responsibilities and independence at the same time. Sometimes change can be energizing and motivating. Even anxiety can sometimes be energizing and motivating. But, over time, the fatigue can catch up and then shutting down is a somewhat logical response for the brain.

Time to make some changes. Maybe you can find some ways to get a bit more support and, as others have suggested, focus on the basics - eating, sleeping, and staying hydrated. Perhaps you can regain your sense of being more capable one small thing at a time. Maybe you can identify one current challenge and focus on that.

If you’ve fallen down the hill, consider taking small steps to climb back up and keep your eyes open for a different path and any help available along the way.
 
I find myself in the same situation, after a fashion. Masked for years, drank for years. Hit a breaking point when I was forced to quit a project. Just couldn't recover. Therapist was frustrated with lack of progress before figuring out I was autistic.

Then I quit drinking and disassociating, but the stims came back big time and I'm just not able to mask fully anymore, particularly since drinking and disassociating were my methods of masking, and was hurting my family and myself.

I limit my outings as much as possible and am making adjustments to my expectations of myself. I'm still getting comfortable with public stimming and do have a fidget toy to redirect it if it's a situation where I absolutely don't want to "show" it.
 
Therapist was frustrated with lack of progress before figuring out I was autistic.

Then I quit drinking and disassociating, but the stims came back big time and I'm just not able to mask fully anymore, particularly since drinking and disassociating were my methods.

There's definitely something to this phenomenon, it seems to happen to so many of us--that we're diagnosed or 'clocked' somehow, we unmask, and thereafter it's hard to go back to masking as intensely or completely as we did. Which is a mixed blessing, depending on how vital our masks are to our quality of life.
 
There's definitely something to this phenomenon, it seems to happen to so many of us--that we're diagnosed or 'clocked' somehow, we unmask, and thereafter it's hard to go back to masking as intensely or completely as we did. Which is a mixed blessing, depending on how vital our masks are to our quality of life.
Indeed. I think there's a logical explanation for it though. You don't get a diagnosis because you're happy, functional, and you just decide to invest all that money and time to get one. You get a diagnosis because your life's falling apart.

Masking at various stages in my life included addiction, disassociation, self-harm, SSRIs. My marriage was nearly destroyed, and my health was well on its way to being destroyed. Stimming and changed career ambition doesn't seem like such a bad trade-off to all that.
 
Indeed. I think there's a logical explanation for it though. You don't get a diagnosis because you're happy, functional, and you just decide to invest all that money and time to get one. You get a diagnosis because your life's falling apart.
That's an interesting point, I never thought of it that way.
The thing I notice the most (and can think of right now) is that since I got diagnosed, I stim so much more using my fingers to fidget. Also, my arms are almost constantly bent at the elbows. Basically, it's always like on the left picture (source: Schitt's Creek: 10 Ways To Live Your Best Life Like Alexis Rose). Not because I do it on purpose, but because it seems to be such a more natural body position for me. As a kid, I always did it but forced my arms to be straight to look more "normal", it felt uncomfortable and unnatural, though.

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I forgot how to do the whole body language thing since my problems with overstimulation last year. I have lost some skills, some of them I have relearnt, but body language isn't crucial for functioning, so I've been too tired to pay attention to it, at least to such a large degree as previoisly. Especially facial expressions. I stand straight and the such, but I don't notice faces very much, I think I was taught to "make faces".
 
Thank you everyone for the replies. You have all given some really good advice. :)

I agree with @Neonatal RRT and @vergil96 . I'm thinking that it could be the lack of routine. I feel that after moving out my executive dysfunction has gotten worse which is something I'm going to have to work on. It could be because of having more responabilities apart from college that made me so overwhelmed. More than what I previously had. Maybe by creating more of a routine and doing small things like going for walks, cooking my favourite food and by getting at least one or two chores done a day could work while also letting myself rest when I need to. Hopefully I will be able to be somewhat functional and relearn even just some of the skills that I lost.
 
Also, my arms are almost constantly bent at the elbows. Basically, it's always like on the left picture (source: Schitt's Creek: 10 Ways To Live Your Best Life Like Alexis Rose). Not because I do it on purpose, but because it seems to be such a more natural body position for me. As a kid, I always did it but forced my arms to be straight to look more "normal", it felt uncomfortable and unnatural, though.
I was floored to learn that was an autism syndrome. Both my ASD kid and I do this. Never had anyone notice or tell me to put the arms down though.
 
Thank you everyone for the replies. You have all given some really good advice. :)

I agree with @Neonatal RRT and @vergil96 . I'm thinking that it could be the lack of routine. I feel that after moving out my executive dysfunction has gotten worse which is something I'm going to have to work on. It could be because of having more responabilities apart from college that made me so overwhelmed. More than what I previously had. Maybe by creating more of a routine and doing small things like going for walks, cooking my favourite food and by getting at least one or two chores done a day could work while also letting myself rest when I need to. Hopefully I will be able to be somewhat functional and relearn even just some of the skills that I lost.
I don't know if you're a lists and schedules type, but personally when I feel lost it makes me feel a lot better to think up a schedule for myself. Create it with my laptop or by hand, think up little bite-sized tasks, really get lost in the details. I did it for example when I was completely overwhelmed with my difficulties with cleaning/household chores, so I created a detailed cleaning schedule for myself. I usually don't stick to it for very long, but it helps me through the first few days/weeks during such a mental hole and gets me a bit out of the paralysis and the mental mess.
 
This is absolutely relatable; don't feel alone. I used to restore antique typewriters as a hobby and find I have forgotten how to work on them. A 1929 Underwood No. 5 which I spent six months rebuilding--painting, polishing, nickel electroplating, adjusting, reassembling--I now do not remember how to adjust the shift height, nor do I have the energy to clean the machine which it does need, being an open-frame design. I call it getting "more autistic," which isn't really what happens, of course. It's just the way it feels when you suddenly run out of everything.
 
Sometimes even making a list seems difficult. There are just good days and very bad days. Maybe due to age?
 
This is absolutely relatable; don't feel alone. I used to restore antique typewriters as a hobby and find I have forgotten how to work on them. A 1929 Underwood No. 5 which I spent six months rebuilding--painting, polishing, nickel electroplating, adjusting, reassembling--I now do not remember how to adjust the shift height, nor do I have the energy to clean the machine which it does need, being an open-frame design. I call it getting "more autistic," which isn't really what happens, of course. It's just the way it feels when you suddenly run out of everything.

Have you had your B12 levels checked, lately or ever?

When I’m low on serum cobalamin, I basically drop down an autism level. Or seem like I have early-onset dementia, with the way I drop or break things, forget things, lose my temper and coping skills, become unable to walk without pain or loss of balance. It’s scary how one little nutrient deficiency can change a personality and impact quality of life.

Low B12, pernicious anaemia and related conditions affect ASD people at a higher rate, because of our propensity for poor gut health & function.
 
Some people cannot absorb B12 through the gut and have to have it injected. Usually once per month, although I get better with twice monthly. It has made a noticable improvement in my energy levels.
 
Thanks for this info, l am looking into B12. Also the fact, we get stuck in food hell, and l can just eat one thing over and over, which isn't great.
 

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