I was really trying not to post today. This is as much a note to myself for the future as a communication for anyone else.

I had insomnia again last night. There is definitely a work connection. I sometimes have insomnia on Friday nights, but generally only get it the night before work. It’s annoying.

Work was full of minor irritations. I got through it OK, but I was exhausted afterwards. I should really have come home and crashed, but I felt I should attend to emails, even though I was trying to stay offline. I was home a bit earlier than expected, and I thought I was not too tired initially, so I did a little more Torah study, but that was a mistake, as I was soon completely exhausted.

I don’t think I’ve really spelled out here before that when I’m exhausted, I’m not just tired, but feel a heaviness all over, especially my head/brain (a horrible feeling as if someone is squashing my brain). Sometimes there can be light-headedness, particularly if I’m hungry too. I can’t always tell the difference between tiredness and hunger, which I guess is another gift of autistic alexithymia (difficulty understanding emotions).

I did feel better after dinner and did some ironing, but really only out of necessity, as I’m worried what state I’ll be in tomorrow.

I do feel that I don’t know where to start with my life at the moment. There seem so many things to do, and all of them urgent and important and worthwhile, and most of them should have been done ages ago and many of them really need to be done before I can marry E. Autistic executive function issues can come into play here too.

Tonight I was thinking about applying for my provisional driver’s licence (which I postponed because I wanted to talk to the optician about how well I can see with and without glasses, and never did). This was because of a hit-and-run accident on Twin Peaks which, frankly, terrified me. I am terrified of driving in general and of losing concentration for a moment and hitting someone. Alternatively, of driving too slowly and cautiously and someone running into me. This is probably not the most immediate priority, but I feel it should be soon.

It is true that if I can deal with the exhaustion and hypersomnia and have a healthy sleep pattern, that would get me several more hours per day in which to do things, so that seems to be the place to start. I will hopefully speak to the occupational therapist tomorrow and see if that might be one way of approaching it. I also hope to speak to the doctor next week to see if there might be a physical cause unrelated to autism, depression or antidepressant medication.

***

I do feel that one of the things I should do urgently is to learn coping skills. For what? That is the question, I suppose. At any rate, my previous strategies have not been healthy or useful. I don’t know where I would learn them. My therapist has shared a few things, so I could ask her, although I’m wary as my previous therapist was very against giving practical help like that; she just wanted me to talk and think things through.

How do other people learn coping skills? Is there a Big Book of Coping Skills somewhere? I feel that even the phrase “coping skills” is too vague and I should be looking for more precise skills, like dealing with disappointment, dealing with messing things up at work (again), dealing with the fear that my relationship will end, dealing with the feeling that I will never achieve anything worthwhile…

***

I don’t do much with LinkedIn, but I noticed today that it was trying to show me “career paths” that other people had followed, to reassure me that a career does not have to be linear and can move at my own pace. I was curious to see if people had had unusual or delayed career paths, to see if there was hope for me.

Of the two career paths they showed me, apparently taken from real people’s LinkedIn profiles, one went from university and student journalism, to mainstream journalism and on to becoming “Director of Audience” at some kind of media outlet, whatever that means. So, a fairly swift and linear career path. The other was a little more twisty (and relevant to my interests), from teaching to a Jewish social justice leadership scheme, then a detour to paralegal work, then on to being a rabbinic intern and Jewish educator. That was vaguely less linear because of the teaching and paralegal detours, but mostly focused on Jewish leadership. If this is supposed to reassure me that my career can meander slowly and over a wide area, it is not doing it. It makes me feel most people’s careers go like this: do something worthwhile as a student; pursue a career related to worthwhile student activity; achieve success quickly and easily; become acclaimed as some kind of leader, with status, wealth and social acceptance.

I’m not sure what happens to those of us who missed the boat. I was not really involved in any student activities at university, except the Doctor Who Society. I was too busy burning out and breaking down. I did write for the Doctor Who Society fanzine and vaguely hoped that might lead on to writing for Doctor Who Magazine, but, as I’ve lamented here before, they weren’t interested.

21 thoughts on “Exhaustion, Coping, and Career Paths

  1. Maybe this is regional or career field specific, but most of the people I know do not have a career trajectory from uni student group leadership to wild and early success. I actually don’t think I know anyone outside of lawyer friends whose career correlated that closely to what they studied in undergrad. And even some of the lawyer friends have odd career paths.

    I think you are being hard on yourself. You have a lot going on!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I was thinking about this, and you probably are right. I do know a couple of academics, but even they had some detours from what they studied.

      I probably am hard on myself in general.

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      1. You’ve had a lot to deal with too, and autism sounds really difficult to manage. Not because of the condition but because societies are really autistic unfriendly. Either way, both you and me get judged for brain and body stuff that we cannot do much about, and compare ourselves to peers with a career. I too would feel like the examples you cited aren’t unorthodox/atypical paths to success, because I run into the same issues in my lack of “career”. It’s like there’s no clinically significant impairments/disabilities for them and we are judged or judge ourselves by that standard due to how ingrained ableism is.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks. Yes it is tough for both of us, and not really beneficial to compare. As I said in some comments below, I think I was just in a bad mood and writing stuff to bring myself down further, a rather self-destructive habit I still have sometimes.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Besides, I don’t really compare who had “more to deal with” or not, as folks find different stuff tough. Unless the person is being aggressively persistently shaming / belittling of me or others as “lazy” or “making excuses to not work/build a career”. Or if they think chronic illness and/or neurodivgerence is “beneficial because you get pity/sympathy/an easy life being provided for” which shows they really don’t respect their disabled/struggling friends…

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  2. When did your extreme fatigue come on? Have you always needed to sleep for 12+ hours? And if you do cut your sleep short e.g. to 8 hours — do you then feel fatigued all day? It will be interesting to see if reducing the olanzapine helps with this. And do you have more energy/less fatigue when you are under less pressure and more relaxed generally? And finally are your long sleeps refreshing? Do you feel energised by them or do you feel they are somehow counterproductive?

    Re: career paths — I don’t think you should worry about not following through a standard career progression. Many people don’t — it does mean you don’t so easily reach the top of your profession if you are doing different things, but it can make your CV interesting. I have had four distinct and different “careers” in my life — starting with research (history) through librarianship/IT systems and ending up in mental health support and stroke support. All of these have nothing in common! I am coming to the end of work now, but I dealt with my bitty career by having a thematic rather than chronological CV. Prospective employers can see you are interesting and flexible — it need not be a negative.

    Driving — really encourage you with this one. I must be the world’s most nervous driver and I learned in my mid 30s and failed my test 3 times. Plus I have monocular vision. If I can drive you can. My main advice here would be to learn on an automatic and get a good, patient driving instructor.

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    1. The fatigue started with the depression. If I cut my sleep short, I tend to be tired for a while, but not necessarily the whole day, admittedly largely due to caffeine consumption. I don’t think I have less fatigue when not under pressure. And my sleeps are definitely not refreshing. I often wake as tired, or maybe even more so, than I went to bed. This applies to days when I have slept a lot and to days when I have slept less (e.g. when I got up early for work), so I don’t think it’s as simple as starting a second sleep cycle in longer sleep as one psychiatrist suggested.

      Good point about careers.

      I do want to at least take some driving lessons, I’m just procrastinating over it (or possibly prioritising more important things). I do plan on learning on an automatic, and my sister, who also learnt to drive in her thirties, has recommended an instructor, but I need to get around to checking about my eyesight and applying for my provisional licence.

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      1. Interesting that the fatigue began with the depression. I am wondering when the depression began — assume in your teens or twenties? But if it does not get better when you are less depressed there must be something else going on — unless it is entirely medication related. Just wondering what else it could be. Any chance you might be suffering from sleep apnea? I am reading an interesting book at the moment called “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker. I am interested in sleep as my son (who is also autistic) has a sleep disorder and is on a waiting list for a sleep clinic appointment at the Royal London. Sleep clinics do treat all kinds of sleep disorders except insomnia, so you could see if you could be referred perhaps – but the waiting list is, like the Maudsley, getting on for years.

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        1. Until a year ago, I would have said the depression began when I was sixteen. However, I now wonder what was depression and what was autistic burnout, as I didn’t have such obviously low mood. But it could have been mild depression at that stage. Certainly by the time I was nineteen I was quite severely depressed, and sleeping for fourteen hours a night.

          I think you might be right about it being something else, which is why I do want to go back to the doctor at some point if the vitamin D doesn’t help.

          Someone else suggested sleep apnea the other day. I don’t know enough about it at the moment.

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  3. I would encourage you with driving. It will open up your world. I can’t imagine not doing it until I’m old. It can be scary at first, but you get used to it. The fear of it probably only grows because of having put it off.

    I’m disillusioned with LinkedIn. Lots of schmoozing and self-promotion and spammy introductions. Maybe it’s my network, and I need to do a little housecleaning. It just never feels like a productive place unless you’re a CEO or VP.

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  4. Coping skills vary from person to person. For me it’s reading, walking and the Great British/Canadian/Australian Baking Show. Blogging and talking with friends or some family also help.

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    1. I was really hoping for some more specific techniques to deal with intrusive depressing, anxious or self-critical thoughts, but, yes, I do have things like journaling and watching Doctor Who (and a few other programmes) that can help. And talking to E or my parents.

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  5. While I’ve known a fair bit of people who ended up in the career field they went to school for, this bit is not something I’ve seen much of: “achieve success quickly and easily; become acclaimed as some kind of leader, with status, wealth and social acceptance.” I think social acceptance is less of an issue for people who don’t have mental health issues, but most people are not acclaimed leaders with high status and wealth.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I meant to respond to that point too. I haven’t seen “achieve success quickly and easily” either. I’ve met very successful, wealthy people (by the way, wealth does not always correlate to status and social acceptance), and their success was not quick or easy. I think you’re envisioning something that largely doesn’t exist.

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