Experiencing an Autistic shutdown
I am a bit nervous to share this post. I promote hope and fight for disability inclusion. But sometimes for people to understand why I do that, they need to see this side.
Every day I leave this flat I leave ready to fight through another day before returning home to safety. I actively build myself up to go out there and get through it all.
The below was typed up Tuesday evening and has not been edited since. I wanted it to be genuine and have fought the urge to change anything! Please read to the end, to have a better understanding.
Autistic shutdown. The consequence of too much kicking the metaphoric crap out of me for too long. My mind breaks and it shuts down. It’s a defense mechanism, but not that much of a helpful one. I sit here on a Tuesday night, I’ve been struggling since Friday. Sensory overloads, the tipping point of meltdowns but never quite tipping. Caught on the edge, caught from falling by a shutdown. Sometimes I’d rather tip, I don’t like shutdowns.
Having experienced severe depression, a full shutdown scares me. To feel nothing, a brain of nothing but fog. My mind considers old coping mechanism to make me feel something, anything, and I quickly shut that down, I have come too far for that. I have no deadlines, I know I can just stay shutdown. I can listen to this song again and again and sit here and stare at this page. In limbo, purgatory, nothingness.
The past few days have been tough. Some days are just harder, not sure why. Everything was that bit louder, brighter. The crowds felt like they were looming over me, pushed up against me like I couldn’t breathe. Head down, keep walking, just get to the office. A sigh of relief and then a deep breath to enter the office. The printer, the keyboards, ‘hello exchequer’, the door opens, the door shuts, layers and layers of noises going around and around my mind, building until its one noise banging at the inside of my brain. Nearly lunch time. More crowds at lunch time. But I get 15 minutes sat in my flat. Safe. And then all again.
Every day is hard, but some days are just harder. 3 of these so closely together was too much. My mind has given up and gone. It will be back. Let’s hope by morning, ready for work. Sometimes I wish I would just tip, I could meltdown and recover tonight. But I don’t choose which way it goes, meltdown or shutdown.
Days like today I wonder what I’m doing. I’m not built for that world out there. It beats the crap out of me, constantly. My life is a fight and sometimes I am just too tired. People seem so surprised that depression and autism go hand in hand, it’s not surprising at all. If you had any idea what it is like, every day, it is no surprise we struggle to find hope, strength to keep going.
I campaign for neurodiverse workplaces, and I believe in it wholeheartedly. But days like today remind me that autistic people working is down to us. It is me who fights every day, not exchequer. It is me that lives with the effects of trying to be a part of this society, not any company. Companies that accommodate our needs are amazing, and there needs to be more, but the achievement of autistic people being in work is on us. Autistic people make that happen. We fight every day to be able to do something most people just moan about.
I really hope sharing this doesn’t get misconstrued. Firstly, to say I have waited to post this until I am in a better place. I did come out the other side of that shutdown by Wednesday morning and the rest of my week has been much better. I used to have those shutdowns weekly while I worked at the bank, but they are far less frequent now I am at exchequer and the pressure put on me is less.
I have the most incredible friends and family who support me endlessly and I am forever grateful to them, as am I to exchequer. But nobody ‘lives with autism’ but the autistic person, no one gets to that second image of my mind having given up, but the autistic person. We are the ones the world beats down. I think sometimes people need to remember that. This includes autistic people who need to give ourselves more credit for getting back up every time the world beats us down. We are, by definition, not built for this world, yet we get up everyday and go out and fight like hell, that deserves acknowledging.
Illustrations by Sanna H.