Autistic burnout, shutdown, meltdown, and other distressing things
It can’t be avoided, these are stressful times. Life always throws something extra at you. All times for mankind were stressful times: war, famine, floods, invasions, pestilence, plagues,revolutions, and other traumatic and negative things have always been with us. ( as human kind)
What is new, is that today we are getting information about it all, all over the world, almost as soon as it happens. Until recent generations, news was not spread nearly as quickly, and there were far fewer people in the world. The advent of electricity and the way humans have been able to use it has changed everything. We have changed from a species which mostly worked and lived from sunrise to sunset to a species which works continually, and at the speed of electricity (or light!)
I don’t think our minds and neurology, let alone our bodies are equipped to deal with these changes.
Forward to today, where we are constantly presented with images of horror, terror, distress, anger, fear, and anxiety showing and reporting on things we have absolutely no control over.
Media of all sorts presents these things, sights and sounds, in as upsetting and emotionally provocative a way as possible, since those in charge of making the $$ money $$ have found such distressing things sell the news better than word of health, healing,beauty, safety, caring and informative non-distress-causing reports.
I am still attending forums and reading blogs, and I find so many autistic people are so distressed, angry, unhappy, anxious and fearful. This applies not only to the autistic communities I attend on line. One only has to look at today’s headlines or watch a news report. News will inevitably tell you that things are horrible, frightening, and about to get worse. $$news$$ will be happy to tell you all the ways you are about to suffer and how others in far away places are suffering or about to suffer as well. It will show you how many people hate you, tell you why, tell you every mean and horrible act that one person or group has done to another.
$$$ are there in every report you buy into $$$ and they keep escalating the horrors so they can sell more advertising and make more money. Don’t buy into it!
I have never had a “filter” for images, and never been able to tell myself “its over now, they are not suffering” or to separate myself and my own emotional experiences with those of others, remaining aloof and unaffected. Each horrifying image, report, sound (such as distress, grieving, painful crying or fearful screaming) Stays in my head and repeats itself with nowhere or no way to remove it or soothe it. I put this down to my neurology and my inability to process visual and audio input in the way most people seem to do. But such anguish and distress seems to be everywhere these days, not just in the autistic community.
Have you noticed? Did you ever ask yourself why?
I learned a long time ago that I simply can not listen to the news, watch it, or see photos or read reports of painful and distressing traumas, fear causing “what if” events, nor can I assimilate the huge deliberately pain-distress-fear-anxiety-anger-causing, emotionally provocative input of so many web sites, newspapers, or other printed matter.
I have learned that to survive emotionally and remain functional, I must be very careful of the “input” I get every day. Add to this inability to process upsetting things, the daily load of worries over things like jobs, health, family, demands of your “out of the home” commitments such as volunteering or participating in community events, and you will understand why it is so very difficult to maintain a steady attitude and a feeling of stability. I suspect this is true for all humans in varying degrees. How would I know for sure, though?
Here are things you can do to help yourself avoid overwhelm, shut down, melt down, anxiety and perpetual distress.
1. Consider controlling the “input” you are forcing yourself to deal with daily. Do we need up to the minute reports on the election, the hatred of one group for another, the horrible ravages of every tragedy occurring all over the globe, the sights and sounds of so much distress, fear, rage, etc?
Choose to visit a news website once a day instead, or to watch one tv broadcast, listen to one news report on the radio. Do you need to subject yourself and those around you to the constant battering of so much emotional (for the $$$ media company’s $$$ profit!)
You already know that distress and emotional turmoil are what is used to market today’s news. “if it bleeds it leads”… the more upsetting the news, the more likely somebody is to tune in, buy the paper, etc etc… “$$$gotcha$$$” Do you need to experience every one of these painful reports repeatedly? Why?
2. Consider whether you need to attend every holiday party, or even one.
Decide: If anybody in your household needs to attend every class, group meeting, visit or activity the season offers.
3. Do you need the media blasting away in the background all the time? Can you substitute music or nature sounds, silence or something like a “white noise” machine instead?
4. Are you playing over- stimulating games with loads of disturbing graphics that create a sense of urgency ( especially meant for video-gamers). Can you substitute others, watch a documentary, nature videos, take a break to take a walk or a hot bath or to prepare a “real” complete sit-down meal or to do a hand’s on craft, artwork or something that involves all of your concentration without the perpetual demand to process distress? You can be activating your fight/flight anxiety response over and over instead of finding peaceful and interesting things to fill your time with.
5 If you are a reader, do you read nothing but upsetting, graphic, anxiety causing stories? Can you change to another topic, read non fiction, read blogs, studies, feature articles about other topics that interest you? If you have a ‘special interest’ or hobby, can you read about those instead, or at least substitute some of the input for things less likely to create feelings of stress or distress?
6. The human body evolved to be in motion. It is not natural for us to sit for most of the day in artificial light. Why not make motion of any sort at least part of your day? Your moods, anxiety level, and attitude may show improvement, let alone the health benefits.
7. Remember the old saying about “accept the things you can’t change, and change the things you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference” .
I have almost completely cut out and shut out all of the things I have no control over. I check news once a day in print using a source that is not prone to graphic images. I am sure I will hear if doom is on the horizon, if there is some huge catastrophe I need to prepare to move my household or myself to safety for.
Otherwise, I let those who are in control of those things take care of it all.
My job is to care for myself and those I care about. I do this to the best of my ability.
I practice responsible behavior and “adulting”, do my civic duties, volunteer for things I think are important, donate to causes I believe in, but I deliberately turn my back on so much of the hate, horror, distress and fearful things reported in the media daily.
If you are constantly distressed, angry, fearful, or overwhelmed, perhaps you can find ways to reduce the input that feeds those feelings. It is something to think about.