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Reminding Myself to Never Give Up

Current Mood:hopeful emoticon hopeful

Current Music: “Broken & Beautiful” Kelly Clarkson

I wrote this up on Facebook yesterday and thought I would share here with an update:

Yesterday, after a lot of thought and research into the eventual PCS home, our family decided to go to the stray pet facility on base to see if any of the cats currently awaiting adoption would be a good fit for our first family pet. It was a big deal for me to open myself up to the idea, and we all agreed we would only bring a cat home if it was the perfect storm of qualities for our household needs. Not so playful and vocal it causes issues with our sensory problems, but not too shy or skittish to love on the kids and be patient with their excitement.

We were shown a cat that had been at the kennel for a while but would require eye drops and constantly hid under a table, obviously terrified of the kids. The staff was trying really hard to sell us on this pet that was visibly not meshing with our family. We asked to look at others and found the perfect cat. She is beautiful, sweet, and didn’t mind at all that the kids wanted to constantly be in her face. Out of an entire kennel of strays, she was the only one with the right personality. We fell in love with her.

We asked what the process for adoption would be, and we were told that we would fill out an application and get a call by 3pm so we could pick her up before the end of their free adoption event that was apparently going on this past week. The person we gave the paperwork to made it sound like a done deal and even agreed it would be fine for us to go ahead and take the kids to lunch and supply shopping while we waited for the call. The call never came. We spent all day out and spent a good chunk of change on things we would need before finally calling the kennel ourselves at 3:30pm.

It was at this point we were informed that another family had also put in an application and been chosen over us in a “tough decision”. They had already been notified the cat was theirs. We went back to the kennel and asked what happened. They just said sorry it was their policy to accept multiple applications and choose from them. When we chose the cat we did, and our small children excitedly realized they were going to bring that particular cat home, no one told us this was a possibility. No one, despite knowing we were out shopping for items for this cat, bothered to call and tell us that we were wasting our time, money, and emotional investment. I don’t know that they ever would have called if we hadn’t made contact ourselves.

I’m not going to lie, Anya and I both had an autistic meltdown right there in the building, crying and stimming, that continued long after we were home. Marie was angry and kept saying how mean and rude the staff were to give our cat away, and poor little Ben was so confused when he could see the cat still in her cage and didn’t understand why we weren’t picking her up like we promised. The staff said we could take the other cat we had seen, and I began to feel like we had been purposely bait and switched so they could get rid of this cat they want gone, thinking we would just take any cat we could have if they gave the cat we applied for to the other family. It was obvious they did not expect us to be as upset as we were.

This was a very major event for our family. We didn’t want just any cat; we were willing to adopt because this cat has the perfect qualities to be a pet in our family. Myself and my kids are traumatized by having what already felt like a member of our family ripped from us in an arbitrary decision and then blindsided with the news with no warning. This has kept me up most of the night with panic attacks and nausea. My kids are a wreck. We have to take all these supplies back to the Exchange at some point.

We will NEVER go back to that kennel for anything. Their business practices are unprofessional at best, and, honestly, the way they handled our specific situation was appalling. If this is how they treat special needs families and can sleep at night after having kids that young emotionally devastated in this way, then I pray they develop some empathy.

We will not recover from this like some minor, disappointing setback. It will cause me issues with functioning, sleeping, and eating for weeks. It is keeping me from finishing grad school work that is due this weekend; it will haunt the memories of my kids as a trauma for years, and that really guts me the most. I regret ever going in to look; I wish I could undo it all. I wish I could stop crying. I wish I could stop believing that something in the way myself or my children present our autistic personality traits is the cause of the way we were treated. I just wish the intense pain we all feel was over. 💔

At first, I was so angry that I wanted to give up entirely, but my husband reminded me that we had already now opened the door to the idea that we were getting a pet for the kids. It is only right to keep moving forward and give them a happy ending to this situation. So that night, we e-mailed an application to a local rescue organization that fosters their pets in homes until an adoptive family is available. We have already heard back from them with a recommendation for the cat they think will be a perfect fit for our family, and we will be meeting her later this week to hopefully begin a trial period of her living with us. I will, of course, share more about her and photos once everything is solidified. We learned our lesson from getting too attached too quickly this weekend and are being more cautiously optimistic this time around.

I think having this cat join our family will help us begin to heal from the horrible experience we had with the base kennel. I was sick to my stomach for a good 36 hours afterward and could barely function yesterday as a result. Thankfully, I’m feeling better today, and I think just putting some distance between that day and myself is helping, along with knowing not all hope is lost. We can provide a loving family for another cat who doesn’t yet have a forever home.

Despite being the type of person who believes that everything happens for a reason, I struggled with accepting it when all of this happened. I was just caught so off guard. Now that I’m able to process it a bit more, I know that maybe it was just meant to be that that cat ended up with the family that she did, and whatever happens with our future pet is exactly what is supposed to happen. It will be alright. My faith has kept me sure of that in much larger, more devastating situations than this. This is small potatoes for God. He always comes through; just not always the way I expect. Thankfully, He is gracious in giving me time to adjust to his plans, no matter how obstinate or ungrateful I am in the meantime.

The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways

Current Mood:grateful emoticon grateful

Current Music: “Startin'” 浜崎あゆみ

So far this week has been busy; full of the usual homeschooling and running kids to activities. Unfortunately, yesterday things came to a screeching halt when my car decided to act up. I’ve known for a while that I need to take it in for an oil change and to check on the fact that my emergency brake light keeps flashing on at random. As I was leaving a parking garage last night, I heard a popping sound and then the front end just wasn’t sounding right at all. Then I figured out while looking at the paperwork before making an appointment with the garage, that I misread our mandatory inspection date per Japanese law…it was yesterday. So…I can’t drive until that whole process is done. Thankfully, the garage is working with me and towing the car in to get looked at next week so everything can be repaired and inspected properly. It’s a great place that will literally take care of everything if need be, and I’m thankful the owner was willing to answer my frantic questions yesterday evening via messenger when I wasn’t sure what in the world I was going to do with an expired inspection. Heh.

These are not typically the kind of mistakes I make, but life has sure been a bit hectic lately, so I’m not honestly surprised. Just super frustrated at the time as it was all happening. I had a full-on meltdown in the car, crying and making panicked noises that I’m pretty sure scared my kids into silence in the back seat. Thankfully, we’re all very open about our different neurotypes and how sometimes traits manifest in positive ways and others not so much. It’s a good opportunity to discuss afterward how they relate to feeling that way sometimes, too, and even adults get overwhelmed. If nothing else, living in a house full of autistic and ADHD family members certainly leaves us all a little more understanding and supportive when things get difficult for one of us. We’ve all been there at some point ourselves.

I feel better about the situation now that I know it will all work out. Just might have to miss some activities and errands in the meantime, which really isn’t the worst thing ever. We’ll all survive! First world problems and all that. Personally, I think something more pressing going wrong with the car was God’s way of forcing me to look at my paperwork before I was driving around with an out-of-date sticker later this week, potentially ending up with my car impounded at one of the base gates when the guards noticed. While the whole experience wasn’t pleasant, and I was exhausted last night from the aftermath of my meltdown – I know how much worse things could’ve been had I not realized my mistake on the last possible date I could even be driving the car around legally. I’m a firm believer in divine intervention and things happening for a reason. Thank you, Lord, for putting an obstacle in my way…but not too big of one. 😉

 

My Weekend Brought to You by Team Ayu and the Supernatural Family

Current Mood:tired emoticon tired

Current Music: “Out of Control” by 浜崎あゆみ

I had a rare day of mental clarity and reduced pain yesterday, and, of course, I behaved as if everything was so perfectly normal because I felt so much better and overdid it running around doing ALL THE THINGS. It was my husband’s birthday, so I made cupcakes so we could celebrate with the kids in between finishing up some school assignments while my brain was in the right space to do so, then we got dressed up a bit and headed out for a dinner cruise he had surprised me with a reservation to a few weeks ago. It was a lovely, relaxing time, but once we were back in the car headed home, the familiar ache began to take hold in my hips, legs, and feet. What I’d give for one day doing remotely typical tasks without ending up in pain for it. I’m paying for it with mental exhaustion today more than with pain (back to it’s usual, constant baseline but not worsened as it can be after overdoing it on a good day), thankfully, but it’s still not loads of fun to deal with. I feel like I could sleep for the rest of the day, though I won’t, obviously, with children to homeschool and whatnot.

I’ve been trying to cheer myself up a bit by doing things related to special interests that had taken a bit of back seat in my efforts to fit in and be normal as an adult and mother. This is just the latest step in my journey of discovering the things I’ve done, or stopped doing, because of being autistic and how society, therefore, reacted to me before I was diagnosed. Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ) has been one of my favorite musical artists since high school, and this weekend I finally joined her official international fan club Team Ayu so I can get news on concerts and releases a little earlier and just enjoy having an opportunity to win things on her website and the access to her blog she keeps for the club. It seems such a silly thing for me to do, something I would’ve done as a teenager had the international option been a thing at the time, but it brings me so much joy just being a part of it. I even discovered that she will be performing in Okinawa next fall! I’m hoping to luck out and get tickets through the fan club when they go on sale. That would bring my grand total of Ayu concerts to two, which is more than I ever thought I’d be able to do as an American fan. Fingers crossed it works out for me to attend because it would be amazing to see her perform again and take Anya with me this time to experience it since she was too young to go along during the 2014 tour when I saw the 15th-anniversary show in Hiroshima. It would definitely give me something to look forward to when I’m having a bad health day and hating everything else about being stuck here on this island unable to do anything about my medical predicament.

I also splurged a little and did some shopping online at Hot Topic. (Good Lord, have I time-traveled back to my 15-year-old self this weekend, or what?) As Supernatural is going into its final season, they partnered with the retailer to produce a limited time t-shirt design to be sold for proceeds toward hurricane relief. It coincides with the official fandom holiday Supernatural Day, September 13th – the day the first episode ever aired. I never get to do any of this kind of stuff either because of time or money or because I believed society telling me it’s not a productive use of my time and energy. It feels so good to just not care about that anymore and embrace what I love! I’m so excited to get this shirt when it arrives because it’s a little piece of participating in the fandom lovingly dubbed the Supernatural family in real-time, as things were happening, instead of just watching from the sidelines, as I have for so many years, afraid to get as into it as I really wanted to because it would’ve been viewed as childish or useless. While I was already there doing some digital shopping, I decided on an impulse to get a dress that mimics the one Ariel wears during her time exploring the kingdom with Prince Eric in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and some glitzy Sailor Moon hair pins. It’s going feel like Christmas in the mail the day this all arrives.

I never do this stuff for myself, just for the kids, as we mothers are inclined to do. Don’t worry, my kids are still spoiled rotten with the things they love and time with me, but I’m not letting my own needs take a backseat to the point of neglect anymore. It’s a freeing feeling to be completely myself, regardless of what anyone else thinks, and my kids benefit from how much happier I am – they’re even getting into some of my interests with me! Anya has loved bonding with me over Sailor Moon binge sessions and old Disney Channel movies in recent months. Do the things you love, ya’ll! And don’t let anyone make you feel silly for it. I never will again.

How I Finally Told My Daughter About Our Shared Autism Diagnosis And Why I Wish I Hadn’t Waited

While I have been fairly certain of our family’s various neurodivergences for quite some time, only my eldest daughter Anya and I each have an official diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. We were both diagnosed by the same psychologist upon our first visit to his office about three years ago, and although over the course of our sessions there, he verbally confirmed my suspicions concerning my younger two children, they weren’t technically his patients to diagnose.

Earlier this year, I finally set myself to the task of jumping through the hoops necessary to get an official diagnosis of ADHD for my middle daughter Marie and Autism for my son Ben, the resident baby of the family. Since ADHD varies a bit from my own atypical brain wiring, I’ve been eagerly reading and researching how this neurotype could present in my middle child’s behavior, which led to the realization that she is likely dyslexic, as well. Being homeschoolers, this immediately helped our recent struggles with teaching her to read with the same materials that my eldest had breezed through make sense, and I set out to discover what curriculum might be a better fit.

Honestly, that is another entire story, but it is relevant here because my eldest was listening (she is ALWAYS listening) as I talked over our options with my husband and called my mother to talk incessantly about weighing the pros and cons of different materials. (I mean, isn’t that how you process picking out your curricula?) Finally, a couple of months ago Anya started asking questions about her sister’s differing needs, and I explained to her that dyslexia means that Marie’s brain works a little differently when it comes to processing information and experiencing the world; that meant we’d have to approach things a little differently for her. Without skipping a beat, Anya said, “I know I’m not dyslexic because reading is SO easy for me, but…” Then she asked, point blank, “Do I have something else like that?” as her eyes searched my face longingly for an answer that might explain how she was feeling.

Now, I had known the time was coming for us to have this discussion. Her psychologist had recommended that we not tell her about her diagnosis until she was around 10; it was his experience that kids any younger used it as an excuse for misbehavior. At the time, I listened because this was all new to us. In retrospect, however, I feel quite differently. (More on that in a moment.) Anywho, I had been preparing over the past few months as I sensed her getting curious and, frankly, a bit confused about how she was being interpreted by others. I had a couple of books set aside, one a picture book from the perspective of a young girl with Asperger’s and another a collection of anecdotes from girls on the spectrum and their parents, both discussing the challenges and celebrating the advantages of life as an Autistic female. I wasn’t sure how I would broach the subject, but I knew I would just handle it naturally as I have any other question Anya has had about more mature subjects over the years.

The time had come a bit early, as Anya turned 9 last fall, but I didn’t let the silence linger after her pointed question; instead, I went straight to my room for the books, and then we sat on my bed as I explained:

  • You and Mommy both have something in common that makes us different from many other people. We are Autistic. That means our brains work differently from what is considered “normal” in society.
  • Emotions can be hard and feel really big to us. That’s why it’s difficult to hold in excitement, anger, or sadness. It’s also why things that scare you feel so overwhelming and might cause you to panic.
  • Our senses are more sensitive. We smell, taste, hear, feel, and see everything stronger and more vividly, which can cause us to get overstimulated and either shut down or have a meltdown.
  • Even though some of these things are harder for us, some things are easier for us. We each have gifts that we wouldn’t have without Asperger’s. Like, how we both read so quickly and understand complicated vocabulary, and how you remember the tiniest of details from a long time ago, sometimes even what day of the week something happened.
  • The things that we like become things that we love with every fiber of our being, and we put a lot of energy into those things to know a lot about them or be better at them than we might otherwise.
  • All of this explains why you might feel different from your friends; why sometimes the things they do don’t make sense to you, and why other times they don’t understand why you make certain choices or behave in certain ways.
  • None of this means there is anything wrong with us. We just have a different brain, and there are lots of other people out there just like us. Autism is just a different way of thinking and being, and it is perfectly okay to be the way that we are.
  • We should still do our best to work on ourselves when we do things that could be harmful to ourselves or others; everyone should. But, we don’t have to do everything the same way as everyone else.
  • Doing things our own way, though, will sometimes cause people to be mean or tell us we’re doing something wrong. It’s going to take time for the world to see Autism the way we do, and until then you just have to be brave and strong and stand up for what you need and what you know is right.
  • Don’t let other people make you feel like you are worth any less than them, and don’t ever be afraid to be who you are. You have so much to offer the world because of the way your brain works. Be proud of that.

Then, I handed her the books and told her I’d been saving them for this day. She smiled and shimmied into a comfy spot on the bed with excitement as she opened the picture book and began to read. Every few seconds she exclaimed, “Oh, that is SO me,” and “That is DEFINITELY me,” as she read about the experiences of the little Autistic girl in the book navigating her day. When she was done, she looked at me, beaming with pride. I told her she could ask me questions any time she needed to, and I told her exactly what her psychologist had said that had influenced our decision not to disclose her diagnosis to her until now. She told me she understands but she is happy to know now and proud that we are the same.

In the weeks since, our days have been filled with realizations of, “Oh, that’s why I do THAT!” and questions like “Mommy, is this because I’m Autistic?” I answer her honestly, helping her figure out her newfound identity, one I’ve embraced for myself over the past three years. And as these wonderful, in-depth conversations fill the moments between homeschool work and ballet classes, I’ve made my own new realization: I never should have kept this part of her life from her, this core piece of who she is. We would have still needed to have a more thorough, serious conversation at some point, but I wish I hadn’t avoided mentioning it in the day-to-day.

I wish I had kept the topic of Autism and how our lives are shaped by being on the spectrum sprinkled into normal conversations and events as we’ve done over the past month or so. The difference in our connection as a family and in Anya’s behavior and self-awareness has been absolutely amazing. She was already doing phenomenally with trying new things and talking herself through difficult scenarios after attending therapy for the past few years to help her cope with changes and process emotions, but this just gave her the missing information she needed to understand why that was even necessary. Having that knowledge has made a world of difference in her anxiety and helped her to be much more mindful and cooperative at home. (Not that she was super rebellious before, but now and again we could butt heads and dig our heels in against each other on something.)

She sees the world the same way she always has, but it’s like the color has been turned up a notch in the best possible way. I’m loving the renewed atmosphere of our home and confidence I see in both of us as we take on the world together. She is able to help me determine when certain assignments or curricula aren’t fitting her needs and why, and that is SO much less frustrating than me guessing based on my own assumptions. Our school days are going so beautifully now that she feels like she has a say and can understand why we need to change up things just here and there, such as when her coexisting dysgraphia makes writing too much by hand difficult. She is just…thriving in a whole new way.

The real question is, I suppose, why did I, a proud Autistic woman fighting for acceptance and the normalization of neurodiversity, allow the doubt of others not on the spectrum to creep into my psyche and inform when I would talk about Autism more openly in my own home? Honestly, I’m still figuring this all out for myself. Years of being told you aren’t good enough as a person does a number on your self-confidence. You start to believe the naysayers and doubt your own judgment. These last few years I’ve been slowly pulling myself out of that hole, but it hasn’t been easy or perfect.

Knowing who I really am has made all the difference in my own self-perception and abilities, and I should have known it would do the same for my daughter. After all, she is a piece of me, too, and I a part of her. I will never make the mistake of hiding any part of what makes myself or each of my children uniquely themselves again. It’s too important; for them and for the change we want to be and see in the world that currently misunderstands so much about us. We are not ashamed. We are here, and we are not broken. We will not hide any longer. We are Autistic, and we are proud. When you know better, you do better, and the world has a lot of learning to do.

You can find the books I gave my daughter here and here.

April is Autism Acceptance Month. Learn more here.

Adulting Through Autistic Burnout

Autistic Burnout: Identifying and Coping with it as an Autistic Adult
Okay, so everyone gets tired and overwhelmed sometimes, right? We find ourselves overburdened by the most typical of tasks, adding up over time and combining with the unexpected to thwart the best laid plans. I can’t really speak for anyone else dealing with the spinning of plates necessary as a wife and mother in today’s society, but I would assume I don’t have a monopoly on exhaustion based on my Facebook newsfeed. Even so, I have the added bonus of dealing with something called Autistic Burnout. The symptoms often mimic or coincide with depression. There have been several great articles written on the subject by other adults on the spectrum, but I personally experience these symptoms when in a period of Burnout.

  • Heightened anxiety
  • Feeling more and more lethargic
  • Increased sensitivity to sensory triggers
  • Panic and meltdowns over the smallest mishap
  • Withdrawing verbally and emotionally from social relationships
  • Shutting down completely for periods of time, desiring only to sleep and exist
  • Inability to regulate emotions and crying easily and frequently
  • Forgetfulness and brain fog due to a slowdown in thought processes
  • Decreased motivation and difficulty getting your body or mind to do anything
  • Feeling overwhelmed and extremely guilty for not keeping up with things
  • Drastically worsened Executive Dysfunction

How does it happen? Well, typically it comes after extended periods of time wherein I push myself too hard to constantly achieve a level of productivity that isn’t sustainable while also masking in social situations without taking any time for self care to recharge and process. Basically I try to force myself into the proverbial round neurotypical hole as a square Autistic peg, genetics and psychology be darned. Spoiler alert: reality doesn’t care about my delusions of grandeur.

Burnout can last for days, months, or years. Looking back over my childhood through adolescence and early adulthood, I realize there were several times I remained home from school or work literally sick from exhaustion. An overachiever by nature, I would go and go until there was nothing left to give, and then I would collapse into sleep for anywhere from one day to several until I felt decent enough to get back up and out there accomplishing the things that needed doing.

A little over four years ago, I hit a major brick wall of Burnout after the birth of my middle child. It was triggered by an episode of Postpartum Depression (Or maybe the other way around? Chicken? Egg? Does it even matter?! I dunno. And I digress.) that just would not quit. Around the time my daughter turned one, we moved back to the United States from our duty station in Japan, a place I loved and did not want to leave. I powered through the overseas move, a surprise third pregnancy, and the ridiculous hours and emotional strain of my husband’s temporary job as a recruiter in our new location. Then my daughters were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and the days of grabbing takeout or frozen dinners to get by were over; they were replaced with the need to cook mostly from scratch for all of their meals to avoid contamination and get their systems clean. With every passing day, my symptoms grew worse and worse.

Two years ago, in the midst of all this, I realized I was on the path to a shutdown of epic proportions. My eldest daughter’s homeschooling was falling miserably behind while I cared less and less about managing the household needs. I was afraid the day would come when I wouldn’t even get out of bed to feed my crying infant son, and with my husband’s work demands, there’d be no one to care for the three children depending on me to survive. I ended up in my psychologist’s office being officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and required to attend therapy sessions twice a week to stop the emotional hemorrhaging until I could breathe and get my bearings.

I did a lot of work in those sessions, which continued into once a week appointments over the course of that first year. With a lot of introspection, realizations, and acquiring of tools needed to manage a home and family with my unique circumstances, I eventually reached a level of mental health never before achieved in my life. I came out the other side stronger, wiser, and aware of my needs as an Autistic woman. But guess what? The Burnout still isn’t completely over. I’m still pulling myself out of that hole, one step at a time, being careful not to do anything that might send me flailing back into the worst of it.

Unfortunately, at least in my case, adulting does not stop just because I’m experiencing Burnout. As a military spouse, there is no calvary coming. Thankfully, we are no longer on recruiting duty and were able to move back to Japan for our next station, where we currently plan to live for the next three years. Even so, I have to able to manage the household and the needs of all of the children and myself no matter how I’m feeling because it just isn’t possible for my husband to drop everything and step in, especially if he’s in the midst of training or deployed. My kids can’t eat whatever is convenient because of their health, and I have to be an advocate for my children concerning not only their dietary needs but the spectrum needs of my oldest and youngest children as well as myself.

So how do I deal with the stress of the everyday needs of my family while pursuing my own goals and passions without losing it? I put into place a few boundaries and practices to keep me realistic but productive and healthy.

Routine
While you can’t set a clock by me necessarily, I try to maintain the same order of events in my day. We get up, make beds and prepare ourselves for the day, eat breakfast, and start independent homeschool work while the littles play and I get writing work done. After a couple of hours, we take a one hour lunch break. The kids get cartoons and playtime while I allow myself to watch an episode of one of my shows on my laptop with my headphones in and eat my lunch in relative peace. This break is imperative to keep me from feeling like I have spent my whole day spinning my wheels as a mother, teacher, and professional with no downtime.

After lunch I work with my prekindergartener while the older continues her independent work for about an hour, and then we do reading time together for an hour or two per our literature-based curriculum. Afterward, I get about an hour before dinner needs to get started that I currently use to finish up any work that might be weighing on me, whether related to writing or household management. Dinner, nighttime clean up, and bedtime routine for the kiddos follow, and then I take the evening after they are in bed to watch TV and/or spend time talking with my husband for a couple of hours.

The nightly recharge is a necessity. If I skip it more than one day in a row, I will start to shutdown and get overwhelmed. I know this, so I plan accordingly and force myself to stop and take my designated breaks unless I absolutely do not have a choice because of work or school deadlines that cannot be changed. Even if we have obligations outside of the house, at the very least my evening break is set in stone.

Calendar/Schedule
Along those same lines, I keep a color-coded calendar that divides out the days and weeks to help me keep track of extracurricular activities, nights out with friends or as a couple with my husband, appointments, etc. I block them out and remove homeschool time or office hours as necessary, being sure to make sure we have ample time the other days in our routine so I don’t feel like I’m falling behind. I keep the calendar on my phone and computer so I can check it regularly throughout the day.

Knowing that time for work or school or errands is already accounted for keeps me from feeling like I need to get to everything RIGHT NOW. I also try really hard to set aside Sunday as a family day for a fun outing or a chill day to sit around playing video games or watching movies to completely recharge before we roll into a new week of commitments.

Self Care
The breaks built into my days and week are a great way to make sure I just relax a few hours a week to avoid getting overwhelmed, but I also know I need time to pursue my own interests. Not only do I make an effort to join social groups within our military community (I’m an extroverted Autistic woman. We exist. Hi. Also, it sucks to have social anxiety while also craving social interaction.), but I also take dance and music classes. Though I do usually need a little extra downtime after either event because of the stress of being in a social environment, I love feeling like I have an identity that is my own in pursuing these experiences.

I build work hours into my day and will soon be adding grad school studies to the mix, both allowing me to achieve professional goals that are important to me. I also make it a priority to read almost every evening before bed, filling my literature nerd cup with something not required by my academic career. Productivity is fulfilling for me as long as I am careful to balance it with intermittent social and logistical detox time.

Delegating/Being Realistic
Realizing my own limitations was a major eye-opener for the way I run my life. I simply cannot do it all. I literally can’t. I may be smarter than your average bear, but I cannot function logistically on the same level as my neurotypical peers. Now, I lean on my husband for support to cook and run errands and take care of the kids any time that he can instead of letting my control freak nature make it impossible to ask for help. (And being a team in this way improves our communication and relationship, so bonus!) I hire babysitters to take over when I have an event or appointment that taking the kids to isn’t possible or would be a nightmare for my stress levels.

I also hire a cleaning service to come to our home every couple of weeks and handle the dirt. I can organize all day long and thrive in a neat, picked up home, but the actual cleaning was lost to the wayside a long time ago during this never-ending Burnout. Knowing it will just get done without being the one to worry about how and when makes a HUGE difference in my anxiety when I notice dust or mildew that makes me twitch.

I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, so now I make myself stop and think about the reality of what I can accomplish in a day. I only require myself to do the minimum amount of writing for my job instead of taking on extra just because I can. I will only be taking one course at a time while acquiring my graduate degree.

I don’t focus as much on the self-imposed deadlines for our homeschooling and instead concentrate on trying to hit all of our subjects a little each day that we are at home to do school. If we don’t finish something, it is not the end of the world as long as the three R’s are the first thing we do in our routine so we are sure to maintain them at an appropriate grade level. Everything else is icing on the cake.

I don’t expect myself to go to bed or wake up early, as neither come naturally to me. I start my day around 9 and end it around midnight, with plenty of time to do the things I want and like in between. I know I need 9 hours of sleep regularly, with very sparing nights of 7-8 when I have no choice because of obligations outside the home. More than one night in a row toward the lower end, and I will not be able to function. I know my limits, and I try my best to plan around them.

It’s important to my A-type self to keep up with the daily necessities and pursue productive goals, but I also have to be mindful of the reality of my diagnosis and what that means for day-to-day expectations. Making sure I have plenty of time to recharge, giving myself downtime after social interactions, and depending on others to do what I just cannot reasonably get to during the day are coping skills I have adopted over the past year that have made it possible for me to feel fulfilled without being overwhelmed on a daily basis.

If you are on the spectrum or have people in your life that are, please be thoughtful about what overdoing it can lead to and that more help will be necessary dealing with everyday tasks than for those who are not on the spectrum. Burnout is real and can be catastrophic if not addressed. Take care of yourself, and be kind to those around you.