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Crash and Burn

  • Posted on May 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I haven’t been on for a while. I haven’t been blogging. It’s been much, much longer since I’ve been on any of my other social media sites. I’ve been like an airplane falling from the sky, dropping projects, tasks, and responsibilities in the hopes of getting airborne again, until, eventually…I just crashed.

Crash and burn. I crashed a few weeks before my graduate courses ended. I was in so much pain I could barely stand it. I was taking a round of OTCs every four hours and taking up to three super-hot baths a day to relieve the pain. The low point, however, was the day I tried to do some reading from my textbook. I was having so much trouble concentrating I had to force myself to finish a single page. When I made it to the end of the page I looked up and realized TWO HOURS had passed. I spent TWO HOURS reading a single page from my textbook.

I called the doctor. Finally, he was convinced. I received a tentative diagnosis of fibromyalgia, a prescription for pain relief specified for the treatment of fibromyalgia, and a referral to a rheumatologist. The medicine helped just enough to allow me to finish my course work on time (barely) and secure my 4.0. Now, with less than a week to go to my rheumatology appointment and no more school work, I’m diverting my new-found ability to concentrate on generating some much-needed income for my family and starting up those things that don’t generate income, but do keep me connected with the world—like this blog.

So, I’m back. I’m not at full-strength, but I am back.

Imminent Burn-Out? (Part 2—Rachel’s Experience)

  • Posted on November 16, 2011 at 12:00 PM

So, I knew I was adjacent to the autism spectrum and I thought I knew what that meant. Then, I read Rachel's book The Uncharted Path.

As the full title, The Uncharted Path: My Journey with Late-Diagnosed Autism, implies, Rachel was not diagnosed as a child. Rachel lived for 50 years with no explanation for the ways she experienced life. Essentially, Rachel passed, or strived to pass, as neurotypical—for 50 years. She coped, she lived a successful life, she had relationships, she had a child, and she had a career—for 50 years.

Then, she started researching autism in regards to her father, and that sense of similitude that maybe it applied to her as well crept in. This search for answers culminated with an official diagnosis:

After a half-century of feeling invisible, unworthy, and utterly strange, I wanted someone else to see me, to hear me, to understand me, to take me seriously, and to not send me away until I got a label that made sense. (UP, page xiv)

Sure, she struggled. Sure, it was work. But she coped. Self-doubts (I am oh-so familiar with those) aside, she coped for fifty years!

I used to be able to do so much. I could get up in the wee hours of the morning, drive long distances, go grocery shopping, work full-time at a demanding job, teach my daughter, support my family, pay the bills, cook the meals, clean the house, plan birthday parties, include all the neighborhood children in our holiday celebrations, exercise, and do just about anything anyone asked me to do, except stand on my head. (UP, page 98)

And then, she burned-out. She stopped coping. She lost functioning.

Those times are over. I’m sad that they’re over, and I’m also very relieved. I’m finally learning that I am not an infinitely renewable resource. Walking through the world and taking care of myself is a lot of work. I have to use my energy wisely. As I experience the effects of a lifetime spent defying the way I was made, taking care of myself is the most vitally important work I can do. (UP, page 99)

Rachel describes the differences between what she used to do and what she could do as she wrote her book in vivid detail. I felt a familiar similitude to her experiences growing up and becoming an adult—working hard to be a success, but always being a bit different, standing out in a way that’s not conducive to social success. I felt a similitude to that woman who pushed herself so hard and did so much for others—career, family, friends. I understand, because I do it. I’m living that life right now. And I get tired. I run out of spoons.

And that’s where the fear comes in. Rachel’s words, “not an infinitely renewable resource,” were something of a blow—a terrible, fear-filled blow to my sense of reality.

What if we have a lifetime allotment of spoons? How many have I burned through? How many do I have left? Am I going to crash and burn?