How long does a burnout last?

Hi, I finally realised that I’m autistic in December, I was fine about it for a couple of weeks and doing a lot of research. I then one day had an unexpected appointment thrust upon me which caused one of the worst meltdowns that I have ever had. It was the full 4 horsemen of the  apocalypse. I couldn’t get out of bed for 48 hours. That was six months ago, since then I’ve just been constantly tired and have no interest in anything, I’m self employed and just can’t engage with my work. It’s as if I’m drowning. I’ve been processing every thought of the last 50 years, I seem to fit adhd as well, my mind is always at Mach 2, I have never been able to sit still and anxiety is 24/7. I’m on the waiting list for an asd assessment, not knowing the time span is driving me mad, I’m actually thinking of selling the family house so I can get a private assessment. I’ve cut down on work as I can’t manage taking very much at the moment. I tried antidepressants but felt no different.  Any ideas people?

  • Hi Roy,

    From your message it is clear that your mind is racing with trying to process this. 
    In essence nothing has changed - you are still the same person, the idea of diagnosis and diagnosis itself does not fundamentally change who you are. I do understand though that the thought of this is changing how you view yourself and your life. I think you need to slow down, take a breath and don’t make any sudden decisions about selling your house. 
    Getting a diagnosis more quickly is unlikely to provide with much in many ways. I think the security of owning your own home will provide you with more comfort that a diagnosis will. Nothing massively changes in any practical terms with a diagnosis. 
    I would strongly advise you against selling your family home to go to a private therapist. Bear in mind you might not even GET a diagnosis. And then you would deeply regret selling your home.

    I think you need to give yourself time to slow down and to think. Practice whatever soothing and reassuring measures you can to get yourself to a calmer, more considered state of mind. Put off making any important decisions. Rest. 
    Do you have support from family or friends? Is there someone you are close to who can help you work through this? 

  • Hi Kate, Thank you for your kind reply. I’ve messaged my GP to get an idea of how long the waiting list is in my area. It’s just the not knowing that affects me. The house to be honest is now too big for us , the children have grown up and moved out and I have always struggled to make enough money to pay all the outgoings. It seems to take me twice as long to do anything, I never charge  enough, I always have this feeling of low worth. If we slightly downsize we can live mortgage free which would make my life a lot less stressful. I think you are right that I’m still trying to process the last 50+ years. Finally knowing that there are other people out there who are the same as me has been a help and a shock. I hope that being able to work less and being a bit kinder to myself will help me. The last 50 years have been like running a marathon and all you see is people running past you. Thanks for listening.

    Kind Regards Roy.

  • Hi Roy,

    I see what you mean. It sounds like downsizing would make sense - not having a mortgage is definitely a big stress reducer. We’ve always been in a similar position of only just managing money wise - it’s not a lot of fun is it?! I sympathise with feelings of low self-worth too - when so many aspects of life feel like hard work it’s hard not to feel bad about yourself. I try to remind myself that I try - and my family try - our absolute best and we can’t do more than that. We need to be kind to ourselves, forgive ourselves, and give ourselves credit for what we do achieve - even if it’s small by other peoples standards. 

    I hope you find ways to improve your life, so you can be happier. We are working on this too at the moment after the most dreadful few months. We are struggling too. But life really is too precious not to keep trying. 

    best wishes to you x 

  • No idea some times mi e wi last for 30 hours I find I can't switch off brain even though I'm physical exhausted and won't be able to sleep  because my mind will be hyper as *** but my body physically shattered then it prevents my sleep to the point where I've gone 30 hours with no sleep even my body wants to shut and rest but my brain won't let me cause it's over actively thinking. Then I when I do sleep I'll be in bed in for Luke 24 hours then I'll usually be alright but I'm ADHD as well as ASD so I think are burnouts are slightly different to your average autistic burnouts. 

  • Hm, my last burnout was about 6 months long, and I had about 4 weeks off work during it. I remained completely unmotivated and lost for almost 2 years after it. I still don’t think I’m 100%.

    Antidepressants aren’t really helpful for it, but CBT and lots of self care can improve matters. It’s about finding how much you can do, and how much down time you require to function at your own ‘best’ setting. It’s a long orocess!

  • There are remedies for burnout, and worth googling and learning about things that might help.

    My advice is work towards having healthy thoughts and mindset, take your mind off troubles and focus only on tasks you need to. Mindfulness is useful, but just distracting yourself can help, as can living in the present is really important - go for a walk and focus outside your mind, no judgements of anything around including people.  Being at one/peace with yourself and things is good generally, so worth working towards.

    Excess focus-on-self (and your worries/trauma) is not good, it can trap you in a negative thoughts/feelings - anxiety alone can be crippling, but it can all lift if you are able to live in the moment and think healthily/positively and only about what you need to.

    Thoughts from the past can come to you and some might be useful to help you see something in a different light, but others painful, don't dwell on those at all, but appreciate the helpful ones and spend a bit of time thinking about what is revealed.

    I would say selling your house is a last resort as the added thinking and stress might not be a good idea, explore other options that are less challenging.  If you work on healing then your mind will be clearer and work better, you might be less desperate, and more productive also.

    If you have trouble managing thoughts that is worth seeing a psychiatrist about, they can help with medication for that kind of thing, but it also helps to manage thoughts as best you can as well, otherwise you are dependent on the medication and whilst not always addictive, it just means if you want to stop, or feel its time to stop, you will just go back to not managing well again.

  • lol been there before CBT what a joke lol

  • My mum used to force me to do CBT and take medication. Total joke it did nothing at all except make everything worse.

    Longest burnout I had was a couple of months after my dad died. I couldn't do anything at all really, I was exhausted, ate very little and barely moved. I spent all my time in my bed. I haven't had a burnout like it for a long time. Usually when I get burnout it's usually for a week sometimes two.

  • I didn't mention CBT specifically, and I haven't had CBT therapy myself as its difficult to get, and I was told it might not be suitable.  I did though buy a CBT self help book to have a go myself, and previously learned about CBT online but hadn't really understood it for some reason.  Its not designed for autistic people, its a NT therapy, and so its used with ND people without any adjustment and can feel like a conversion therapy - stop having these ND thoughts and think more NT, and maybe other things, so I get the problems it causes.  Needs an ND alternative, but that could take a while.

    But the basis of CBT is that what you think affects your thoughts, and that is fact, and that is what helped me the most.  Other people don't affect your feelings, you do (with thoughts about what they did/said).  Also, extreme thinking (like catastrophising) is unhelpful, if you think less strong about something that affected you then you won't feel as bad, and better able to accept it and move on. 

    I just give advice that might help, autistic people are varied so I wouldn't expect to help all, hopefully some at least.  Some autistic people just cannot manage their thoughts even if helped to, but many might benefit from managing them better.

  • Forcing CBT on anyone won't really work, a person needs to do CBT by themselves over a long period and that is challenging.  CBT isn't autism friendly, it wasn't meant for autism, its all there is really that might help with things like anxiety and depression.  It needs a ND version, but that could take a while.

    Not surprising that big events like that would cause burnout, processing those kind of things are difficult for NT people but ND people will process them differently or over-process them.

    Burnouts are fatigue and so you can't just snap out of them, only minimise or avoid things that cause it or don't help you recover.