I’ve had problems for years with just zoning out or completely shutting down. I don’t know what causes it sometimes, it’s like if I sit still everything shuts down and I either completely go to sleep or it’s like I’m asleep with my eyes being shut but I can hear things, but I just can’t respond or even move. Does anyone else get this? I was told it’s a response to being constantly overwhelmed and my body needing to rest from it all.
Other times, like the three days annual leave I’ve had this week, i zone out for hours in a similar way, it’s very unproductive but it’s like I can’t fight it. I had plans this week for my three days off but spent most of each day just lying still as if asleep but without being asleep. Just zoned out and completely still. I go back to work today and despite all this I feel completely exhausted.
does anyone else get this? I read that it’s common for people with autism to be tired all the time.
Yes, what you're describing is something which happens to me rather a lot - sometimes only for a few seconds, and other times for much longer. Like you, I can sometimes identify the source of the problem (e.g. overwhelming social environments), and at others, it seems to happen completely out of the blue (though notably more so when I'm generally stressed out or haven't slept well.)
From talking to other autistic folks about it, I get the feeling that there are at least two possible reasons why this happens. Firstly, as you say, it's just our brain deciding that if we're not going to let it have a rest, it's damned well going to have one anyway. Other times, I think that executive function problems may be the cause, as if there's a blockage between the bit of the brain that wants to do something and the part that actually does it - if I'm able to speak, I find that I can sometimes "unblock" these by commanding myself out loud.
The bits or amount of my brain that shuts down can be very variable too. Sometimes I get the almost complete catatonia which you described, and other times, I'll just lose one or two functions - not being able to speak or understand speech, or losing the ability to find my way around a familiar place, for example.
Improving the situation is definitely a matter of prevention, as far as I can tell - once I'm in that state, I'm powerless to do anything about it, and I don't even know how long I've been like that unless there's some outside way to tell. So, for example, I take precautionary breaks from social situation now and then to stop the overwhelm from building, and do my best to manage anxiety and my sleep (not altogether successfully!) I suspect, too, that many autistic people live with far more stress and anxiety than they're aware of. It's been there since infancy for many of us, so our measure of "normal" levels of stress is likely to be very different than for most other people. It was only thanks to the careful observation of a counsellor that I was able to really see just how much pressure I was always under which I'd always accepted as routine.
I’m glad it’s not just me. And yeah I too lose ability in just some functions at times. Like I sometimes just completely lose the ability to process what’s being said to me and be able to respond. I hear what’s said but it’s like it goes to the wrong part of my mind and then I can’t do anything with the information. And sometimes my mouth moves as if I’m going to say something but nothing comes out.
When I watched a video of how people without autism view the world without the same sensory problems I was really shocked, and it made me realise that no wonder other people were able to just ignore things like they’d been telling me to do for years, and no wonder other people weren’t so stressed about stuff as me, or constantly tired.
Any time I go somewhere like the cinema or theatre or on a train etc, any where busy, bright, loud, I have shut downs that can last a few seconds or go on for ages.
try to reduce the trigger via sunglasses and headphones. might help. keep watching videos thats where i picked up knowledge about myself. eg princess aspie (utube) Charlotte poe (utube,bbc), agony autie (twitter, utube, facebook), aspie world (utube). also TEDx channel on youtube. just remembered agony autie does videos on meltdowns and shutdowns