Back to work – overload and exhaustion

I’ve been back at work for almost a week and while off for the summer holidays I forgot how much sensory input I have to take in and how to deal with it. After half an hour in the staffroom on the first day I had a pounding headache. While in the staffroom one of my managers came and started speaking to me just to chat really and she almost instantly said “It’s a lot in here today isn’t it?” It was probably all over my face how much energy it was taking me to concentrate on what she was saying while the noisy, hustle and bustle of the staff went about there chatting, giggling, typing, photocopying, coffee pouring, feet shuffling morning. At the beginning of the day I already felt like ‘how am I going to do this?’ and there weren’t even any kids in that day. Almost wanting to give up. But the day I give up on something, like work, is the day I’ve given up on life really. The reason I say this is because, for me, it would mean my autism was destroying me rather than thriving me. In life there are some things that understanding, compassion and adaption can’t help with. So for me the sensory sensitivities that come with my autism are things I need to live with, no one can make my brain process the sound/light/etc. any different and people can’t stop making sound.

A couple of days later I almost had a mini-meltdown at work. Getting back into the work routine not only means I’m exhausted but also I’m getting confused a bit. My manager asked me to do this task of sending some books back to a place that they’d ordered from. It involved instructions that were vaguely worded and phoning a company. My heart sank as I tried to figure out what it all means, how I am supposed to do it, etc. I’m a person who HATES the phone (some of you readers may know this). I asked for help about what things meant and for clearer guidance a couple of times each time feeling stupid for not understanding. The thing about me is that over the years I’ve become very good at controlling my autism and using strategies to disguise what I find difficult, so unless I say something people don’t know and that’s what I struggle with is admitting that I find something too difficult. After being told the steps of what I needed to do I got to the step that involved making the phone call. I have real anxiety related to using a phone my mum phones companies for me quiet often because I get really panicky and I don’t know what to say, what they are going to say, can’t hear them, etc. I stood there plucking up the courage to ring because I didn’t want to fail and look stupid to my managers. I began typing in the numbers and it wouldn’t work. I couldn’t operate a phone! What is wrong with me? I stood in the corner of this room by myself covering my ears, eyes, just stimming like mad basically. I paced and stimmed wanting to cry for like 10-15 minutes thinking what do I say when the manager comes back, will I look lazy or foolish or stupid? I was embarrassed that I was feeling this stressed and it was one moment that I realised how much my autism does effect me. To cut a long story a tiny bit shorter after all this rambling is that my manager was fine with it and even came to apologise to me for not seeing my signs of distress. How lucky am I that I have such an understanding manager who apologised for overloading me?

All in all being back at work has been hard because having to readjust is hard. I feel bad that I can’t do certain things. I still fear looking stupid or lazy even though my department managers know how hard I work. I don’t usually think of my autism as a disability but this week it felt a little like a disability. I worry about using the term disability because I think I don’t deserve it, that people have more things to overcome and work through than me. It’s something that I think I’ll always feel like time to time. But today autism was disabling me. Tomorrow well don’t know about that yet.

Not my most coherent post so apologies for that.

Thanks for reading. Hope you liked it. Peace out!

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