I'm beginning to understand the importance of routines for individuals on the autism spectrum. I must admit that I used to strongly dislike the idea of routine. It felt like a restriction, a barrier that prevented me from acting on my impulses and desires freely. It seemed like a form of punishment, as if I were being coerced into conforming. In my ideal world, I envision complete autonomy—having the freedom to do as I please, whenever I please.
Yet, upon deeper reflection, the concept of self-governance emerged. I realized that what I truly desire is the capacity to guide my own decisions, to make choices that align with my aspirations, and to maintain control over my personal domain. Herein lies the paradox. Our society isn't inherently designed to nurture self-governance; rather, it compels us to engage within the established framework to a certain extent. Hence, it seems that preparation is the most strategic approach.
This inner conflict stems from the divergence between personal autonomy and the realities of societal structures. While I am committed to pursuing self-governance, our world isn't entirely built upon these principles. Consequently, interacting with the prevailing systems becomes somewhat inescapable. Perhaps the wisest course of action is to equip ourselves with the necessary tools and strategies. This way, even within a system that isn't inherently self-governing, I can still strive for a semblance of autonomy and agency.
Yesterday, I found myself in high spirits, ready to address a backlog of tasks that I had previously neglected due to a severe state of burnout. It's important to note that autistic burnout isn't the same as conventional burnout, and labeling it as such fails to capture its true essence. Autistic burnout is "Acute Neurocognitive Malfunction Syndrome" a term coined by a physician who is also currently expereincing autistic burnout." It's a substantial challenge that requires significant time to recover from. If neglected, it can escalate into a crisis, impeding our ability to function effectively.
During my time with the Oregon Health Authority, I reached a crisis point. I realized this when I completed a burnout questionnaire they provided, revealing extreme burnout levels. Upon retrospection, I now recognize multiple instances when I was in crisis without even realizing it. I am determined to never be in such a vulnerable state again. Yet, considering the structure of our society, it's almost inevitable that I might encounter it again unless I'm proactive.
Consider yesterday as an example. With renewed energy as I navigate the path of burnout recovery, I filled my day with errands, responsibilities, social interactions, and exposure to various sensory environments. As expected, this intense load led to a meltdown—an outpouring of thoughts and tears that allowed me to release the pent-up tension. While I felt relief afterward, I acknowledge that those observing such meltdowns might feel bewildered and sympathetic.
My objective is to minimize both meltdowns and shutdowns, although I recognize that complete autonomy over my environment isn't always attainable. This means that such episodes may occasionally be unavoidable. Last night, prompted by a desire to understand the trigger for my meltdown, I meticulously documented the day's events. Reflecting on this, I realized that I had been pushing myself excessively, managing unexpected incidents, transitioning between various sensory environments, engaging in extensive communication (leading to some misunderstandings), and exceeding my limits towards the day's end to fulfill a dinner commitment.
Hence, I've developed a chart to better assess my daily capacities. My aim is to prevent future meltdowns by planning my days more thoughtfully, accounting for potential stressors, and ensuring a balanced approach to maintain my well-being.
Daily Autonomy and Well-being Assessment