Always this time of year is hugely exhausting. I have noticed this year after year after year. In te past the reason for this has eluded me. As it is only really been in the last year that I have accepted my autistic state of being and therefore been able to get a handle on things that are difficult and challenging for me and how autism is a factor in that.
For years I have experienced the waves of tiredness that appear to go with this time of year. The Christmas rush, the many social gatherings and then quickly followed by another round at New Years. It leaves one absolutely rung out. For years I have seen this as a weakness or failing or something that shouldn’t be. I have now realised that this is not the case it is a real and present result of the extra social interactions that are taken on.
A generalisation that is prevalent is that autistic people do not like socialising or, as I refer to it at times, peopling. This is for me a completely inaccurate belief. I enjoy being with people, I want to be with people, but, and it is a big but, It is exhausting and difficult. Years of faking it, pretending to be like everyone else, and trying to work out the social rules, trying to work out when it is my turn to speak, dealing with unwanted and painful eye contact and everything that goes with the occasion is really hard work.
I am sure I am not the only autistic who feels the same way in this regard.
What does happen, at least for me, is that I often choose not to go ahead with social things, not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t want to pay the energy and emotional cost that goes with it. I choose a safe road that will not lead to meltdown or shutdown, will not result in prolonged heightened anxiety. It’s not a bailing out or a rejection of responsibility. It is an act of self-care and it is right and appropriate.
Of course there will be many occasions where I will suck it up and go ahead with the difficult social or peopling activity. When the importance of the event outweighs the cost incurred. In a way it is a simple formula. A solving of an equation. A mathematical outcome.
I am sure that many allistic and neurotypical people would struggle to understand how simply going to a family gathering, a drink with friends or even a quiet new years eve party could be such a difficult thing. And of course they would be wondering as the struggles and issues that are present for autistics are in effect a foreign concept to them. It’s tiring to be running a continuous dialogue with yourself discussing how you are meant to respond, what you are meant to say, was that a joke or serious, am I looking like I don’t care, don’t go on too much about your interests, is that a private conversation there or can I join in? Is it my turn to talk yet or will I be interrupting? Do they really want the truthful answer to that question or not? That dialogue coupled with the heightened anxiety of being in the situation takes a massive energy toll and whilst one manages to get through the situation the next day is often like having a massive hangover and just getting out of bed, using spoken language and completing the everyday tasks required is a real challenge to complete.
Peopling, yes it’s exhausting…