Be Gentle with Yourself

As an adult living post autistic burnout, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my limits are not what they once were. Things I used to be able to easily mask my way through are now able to shatter my thin mask without much effort. 

Nowadays, I’d still be able to push through any one of the following things, but when they all happen in the course of 48 hours, it becomes overwhelming. 

  1. Getting up super early (6 a.m. is not for everyone) to load up art and display items for the farmers market.

  2. Realizing that the market now starts an hour later this month, and deciding to take my dog for a walk since it will be too hot later.

  3. Setting up at the market. Lots of lifting. Lots of decisions. It’s getting warmer, and it’s only 8:30 a.m.

  4. Interacting with people who come to look at my art, trying to be encouraging to fellow artists and not too eager with possible customers.

  5. Not selling a single thing… until a vendor a couple booths down comes to buy two bookmarks (probably after watching me watch the vendor between us sell out of his pies halfway through the morning).

  6. Being reminded that my limits (even previous ones) seemingly opened a door for a best friend to walk through to greener friendship pastures. Knowing she wasn’t the last best friend to do so. 

  7. Sitting in the sun, which - due to seasonal shifts in the sun’s path through the sky - no longer hides behind the church’s bell tower for most of the morning. (For non-locals, the farmers market takes place in a church parking lot.)

  8. Forcing a smile when people would stop by to view the art. (My happy mask had cracked and started to fall apart at this point. Actually, all of my masks had cracked - the happy one was just further along.)

  9. Tearing everything down to go home, which wrapped up Saturday morning. (I was mostly useless the rest of the day, even taking an unintentional 5-hour nap.)

  10. Crying in the bathroom because I’m exhausted and feel broken as a person.

  11. Not sleeping well at night because of weird and vivid dreams.

  12. On Sunday, traveling an hour and a half for a wedding, and losing control of my tone and reactions when trying to direct the driver to the correct exit to reach Starbucks. (I’m still very sorry about that - the tone, not reaching Starbucks.)

  13. Attending an outdoor wedding ceremony in 90 degree heat, and not knowing it would be outside. (I did not wear an outside-friendly dress, and the wind was not helping. I should have looked at the website.)

  14. Attending a wedding for someone 9 years younger than me. (It keeps getting more difficult to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”)

  15. Sitting in a packed reception hall with very little air conditioning, lots of people clearing their throats because of the heat (which triggers my anxiety), and many loud noises once the bridal party was announced, including ice being poured into coolers while speeches were being given.

  16. Realizing I had not recovered from my burnout as much as I thought I had.

  17. Wondering how I’d manage the demands of even a part-time job, which I really need to supplement my art business.

  18. Dealing with reflux and a TMJ flare up at the same time (I need to eat soft foods for my jaw until it calms down and bland foods for my stomach.)

  19. Not being able to eat inside at a restaurant on the way home, and causing everyone in my vehicle to just grab food to go. (We ended up with Panda instead of Culver’s, so… you’re welcome? Though we did miss out on conversation with people in the other vehicle.)

In between all of these things that raced me toward my limits, there were beautiful moments, too. It wasn’t all exhausting. I got to help my mom around the house and spend time with some friends on Friday, as well as see a gorgeous wedding dress (no spoilers). There were several good conversations to be had on Saturday at the market. And the wedding on Sunday was a beautiful celebration of love between two pretty awesome people (plus, there were some really tasty desserts at the reception). And the road trip there and back was full of good conversation and laughter.

Overall, it was a great weekend. It was just a bit overwhelming and overstimulating. (Maybe more than a bit.)

Everyone experiences the world in different ways, whether it’s through the limits of a late-diagnosed autistic adult or the inconsistent good and bad days of someone with fibromyalgia/arthritis or the ups and downs of someone living with grief. We don’t know what someone else might be living through, but we all need some grace as we work to make it to the end of each day. 

Try to be in the moment, “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” but also be honest with yourself. Sometimes, you need to push yourself. Other times, you need to be gentle. 

It’s okay if you’re not okay. But if you’re not okay, don’t settle there. Talk to someone. Go for a walk by yourself or with a friend (your dog counts; good luck if you’re a cat person). Text a friend or family member. Watch a movie that you know will make you cry - tears filter out bad things, then watch something you know will make you smile. 

And if you’re ready to talk through what’s weighing on you, find someone who will listen and really hear you, be it a friend, someone in your family, or even a professional (therapists are often pretty cool people in my experience). If you’d like prayer for something, tell someone. Tell me!

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22b-23 NLT)

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