For many years, I believed that I was experiencing depression. However, my experiences never really lined up with the type of depression my other friends and my partner experienced. While I was “depressed” I still was able to engage in my interests. When I was “depressed” I was writing, learning, and working on my personal projects. But I was ignoring everything and everyone else, all of my actual responsibilities and not taking care of myself. I was diagnosed with ADHD as a teenager, but I could find no explanation for my “depression” in that diagnosis.
When I was “depressed” I would stim uncontrollably, picking at my skin and plaything with my bellybutton and pressing my hands to my lip. I would cry often, sometimes losing the ability to communicate. I obsessed over fictional media to escape from how I felt, spent all my days fantasizing about being a fictional character, coming up with scenarios and stories in my head. When my wife is depressed, she loses interest in things. When I am “depressed” I am in information gathering mode, recharging. I’m paying attention to the world while my body cannot move.
I am now certain that what I was experiencing was not depression, but autistic burnout. It’s hard for me not to feel betrayed, honestly. When you’re a depressed person, laying in bed all day is a bad sign. When I’m experiencing autistic burnout, me having a full day of rest with no plans is literally WHAT I NEED to recover. But I thought for so many years that I was making it up, or lazy, or trying to treat “depression” with the wrong medications that just helped me gain weight.
I’m going through burnout again after a very... social... Christmas, and this is the first time I’ve experienced burnout symptoms while knowing I am autistic. I am already on the mend. Burnout sucks, but knowing what it is and what things help me recharge is so much better than believing I was depressed. I can feel happiness while I’m burnt out, I can laugh with my friends online, I can indulge in escapism and special interests. Special interests and actual rest are what bring me out of my burnout, and I know what to do this time!
I love working, I love making longterm projects, but I have to do everything at my own pace, or I’ll be burnt out forever. The better I treat my burnout now, the faster I will be able to get back to doing what I love. Until then, I’ll be gathering information to help me when I get there.
There’s so many layers to finding out you are autistic later in life. I hope to spend 2019 learning more about myself and how to build a life and routine that is suited to my limitations and needs. And working on my dang book! haha