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Autistic Burnout and Awesomeness

I am inspired today to write about working when you’re autistic. There is so much stigma attached to acknowledging the autism in the workplace that most Auties I know, including myself, simply won’t disclose their autistic status as it limits their ability to find work that challenges them and holds their interest.

Most autistics are under-employed, or unemployed. I know many very talented people, in every industry, who have managed to find their niche and they are accepted despite their “eccentricities.” Not one of them have ever told their employer or colleagues that they are autistic. They want to avoid, as I do, being the subject of office gossip, condescension and discrimination.

No matter what HR departments say, discrimination exists and it does affect out employability, our ability to stay employed, our potential for promotions and the perceptions of our boss and colleagues. I have managed to be relatively successful until recently, it’s exhausting to constantly mask and feign all of the appropriate responses every moment of every day. Poor self-esteem and imposter syndrome is common. The stress causes the mask to slip, it’s inevitable. Sometimes, it won’t be noticed. But when the mask drops, the result can be catastrophic.

For myself, I’ve spent the first 25 years of my working life being reasonably successful. The only time I left a job was to raise my family or to take advantage of an opportunity. I didn’t have any issues in staying employed. Then, two years ago, I hit full-blown autistic burnout. The mask didn’t just slip, it shattered. I shut down. I took three months off work, and then left it entirely. I couldn’t pretend anymore. I was exhausted, demoralized and depressed. It took me almost a year to fully recover, during which time I worked in a casual or part-time capacity while caring for a parent. Three out of four of those jobs were a bad fit from the start, but I couldn’t walk away. Early programming by my mother that insisted that the needs of others trump my own prevented me. I know now I went back to work before I had even begun to recover. Failure was the natural result.

The last job, however, I loved it. It was a perfect fit for me. I felt accepted by my team, enjoyed the work, it was creative and challenging, and I excelled with the clientele. They let me go because “I wasn’t the fit they were looking for,” six weeks into my probationary period. No other explanation. I was mystified, I still am.

So now I’m going to try something new…I’m going to disclose my autistic awesomeness ahead of time. I’m owning it, consequences be damned. I’m hoping that the enlightened HR parameters actually work, and accommodations help me find a spot where I not only fit, but I’m appreciated for my authentic self. That’s not too much to ask is it?

(Image: “IMG_3769.JPG” by The Ten Pin Bandit is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

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Introducing The Prairie Asperian

Hello everyone, and welcome to The Prairie Asperian! This blog is about the many wonders of being neurodiverse. It reflects who I am, and my journey as a late-diagnosed Asperian (a.k.a. Aspie) woman. For me it is part self-discovery, part-advocacy and part-education about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Level I, (formerly diagnosed as Asperger’s Syndrome.)

This blog is also about life. My life. The Asperian Life. Life in general…its highs and lows, and how to embrace your differences and find your superpowers as an Aspie and thrive. It’s about the right to be who we are in a world full of rules that we didn’t write. Its about finding our tribe and embracing authenticity without the mask. Its about education and advocacy social acceptance to be who we are, with treatment focusing on coping skills. As a part of the newest social civil rights movement for Neurodiversity, I agree with Dr. Temple Grandin when she said, “I am different, not less.”

I couple of things I should mention:

  1. This blog, like so many others…has the usual boring disclaimer. This blog represents my views only, and does not represent any medical or psychological expertise, real or implied. If you suspect you may be on the Autism Spectrum, please see your doctor to arrange for an assessment with a specialist.
  2. I have no wish to debate the pros and cons of identity-first language and person-first. For me person-first language is demoralizing…I am not a person with Autism, I am Autistic, or an Asperian/Aspie. Person first language, for me, implies that I am flawed, or broken, or being Autistic diminishes my value as a person. Please respect my choice in this matter. Thank you.
  3. If I can offer support or advice, please email me directly at theprairieasperian@gmail.com. I would be happy to share any insights I can, and grateful for the opportunity to do so.
  4. If you have ideas or questions that you would like to see me address here, shoot me an email and we’ll go from there.

Thank you for joining me on this journey! I hope you will enjoy my blog.

Much love,

Prairie