Note: the following is a collection of perspectives from different people with ADHD. The * indicates another person’s input.
This article was of interest to me because I did have people tell me over the years that I did not have good social skills. I at times struggle with small talk. – Greg
Social Interactions & ADHD: Why We Get Bored
*Small talk can be profoundly boring. The older you get, the more this is true. Truly, it is hard to find people who “match” in terms of what they find stimulating.
*Yesterday I talked with a friend who also has ADHD about how typical conversations go. One person says his whole monologue and then the other person says her whole monologue. The monologue-ing gets so boring it is hard for us to stay engaged.
We prefer conversations where people interrupt with interesting tidbits as this makes the conversation more engaging and exciting. Our preferred way of communicating is perfectly acceptable although there are settings where we need to reel in our enthusiasms and engage in more socially acceptable ways
*The more I work on conversation skills, the more I find the “take turns to dump” style grating, It’s hard to follow the conversation and contribute anything meaningful. My brain wanders off when I try to sit and wait my turn! read more
I can relate to so many parts of this article. I found in my life from an early age that if I was myself it often resulted in getting punished in some way or another. Disciplined on a job because I was not kissing ass to a manager who told me that was my job. At work they had a sign on the front desk door “ you are going on stage now”. I used to completely be mentally drained at the end of my shift, I took a nap in my car before leaving work. I got disability because most employers would not allow frequent mental breaks according to the state. I have had challenges in dating, and with my family, so I spend a lot of time alone. Deep down I was always a rebel without breaking the law. In my marriage trying to meet my ex wife’s expectations did effect my wellbeing. – Greg
In an article in Spectrum, Autistic burnout is defined as “the intense physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion, often accompanied by a loss of skills, that some adults with autism experience. Many autistic people say it results mainly from the cumulative effect of having to navigate a world that is designed for neurotypical people.”
There are many kinds of burnout in the world: workplace burnout, parental burnout, social burnout, to name a few. Autistic burnout differs from other forms of burnout, as it often includes sensory distress and sensory-related triggers. Many of the pressures from the outside world that cause Autistic burnout are invisible to most people.
Many Autistic People are already spread too thin in a hostile world that doesn’t consider our needs. Then, when we do try to speak up for our needs or try to rest, people around us often won’t understand and may even push back with well-meaning comments like “it’s not that bad” or “please come out with us; it will be fun!”
Other people recharge in environments that drain my batteries, like going out to parties, dancing, socializing, and attending happy hours with friends and colleagues. For me, something like that can be more tiresome than an 8-12 hour workday – which can also take a lot out of me, especially when I used to drive back and forth from a physical office full of sensory triggers, social expectations, and the unspoken nuances of office politics.
Before my Autism diagnosis and my very conscious decision to take my life back from the NeuroTypical expectations that had been crushing me (mentally, spiritually, and emotionally), I had been in survival mode. I was constantly teetering on edge, in and out of burnout.
I would come home from work at my corporate job and had no energy left to give to anyone or anything – not my hobbies and passions or the people in my life I cared about.
When things got bad, I began to neglect everything around me: my home, chores, life, body, friends, loved ones, and family. I was floating through life but not living. I didn’t have the energy. All I could manage was the bare minimums in life as I watched my mental and physical health fail, like a passenger in a speeding car headed for the edge of a cliff.
Hitting a crisis point was my wake-up call. Hitting a crisis point was what led to my Autism diagnosis.
The life I had built was for the sake of others, doing what I thought had been expected of me. I squeezed myself into the NeuroTypical mold that I was not built for – forcing, distorting, and breaking myself to fit.
My Autistic burnout at 29 hit me like a ton of bricks – stopping me in my tracks, forcing me to reevaluate my life. Without it, I don’t know where I’d be today.
I am still recovering over five years later. If it hadn’t happened, it is unlikely my Autism would have been discovered at all. To be diagnosed as Autistic, the person evaluating you has to see you are struggling. Before my burnout, I had managed to hide all my struggles well.
Would I still be stuck in that soul-crushing corporate job, living for the sake of other people, never learning how to speak up for my needs, and not understanding that sensory issues are real and they impact me significantly? Would I have made it, or might I have given up on life? There were many days, at the peak of my burnout, when I had not been sure how much more I’d be able to take.
When you’ve been trapped in a vicious cycle of burnout for most of your life, without knowing why things can feel quite hopeless, you start to wonder when it will end, and ending can mean a lot of different things. In my case, the end was completely changing my life and finding a more suitable and authentic way to live. The end was learning to establish boundaries and speak up for my needs. The end was quitting a job that wasn’t good for me and realizing I needed to work less.
Too many Autistic people are trapped in these cycles of burning out over and over and over again. That’s because the pressure to hold yourself to NeuroTypical standards is enormous.
Putting those expectations down can mean freedom, but also it can mean judgment. With so much on the line, it can be hard to make that leap unless you are pushed, like I was pushed, to that place of crisis, to that wake-up call, and one day you say, “Enough is enough. I’m taking my life back.”
My ending is happy, but it could have just as easily been a much more tragic and early ending if I wouldn’t have course-corrected when I did because I’m convinced that if I hadn’t made those changes when I did, my burnout would have killed me.
I want so much more than burnout and survival mode for the Autistic people of the world. I want to see Autistic people thriving and happy in life. I want to see authentic Autistic joy and success, but it is difficult when we live in a world that wasn’t designed for us.
Lyric Holmans is an autistic self-advocate from Texas who runs the neurodiversity lifestyle blog Neurodivergent Rebel. They are also the founder of NeuroDivergent Consulting.
Lyric is known as the pioneer of the #AskingAutistics hashtag, where simple questions prompt open-ended responses that Autistic people can easily chime in with, and invites participants to engage each other in conversations related to the topic. This hashtag connects NeuroDiverse people who would not otherwise have a reason to engage with each other, and fosters collective understanding of the Autistic Experience.