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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

The Energetic Drain that Comes with Autism

Sometimes I forget that autism can cause me to be extra drained.

Tonight is not one of those nights.

I feel like I am drained from every pore. Every last bit of energy has seeped out of me. It’s 6 pm. Too early for bed. And yet, I have no energy for anything physical, like a walk or exercise. I have no energy for anything that requires any mental capacity, such as a phone call with a friend. Luckily that also means I won’t encounter anything remotely emotional, for I am also emotionally spent.

From this description, you might think I experienced a harrowing day - maybe I had some sudden sensory overload.

Continuous Line Illustration by Jackie Schuld

No, this energetic drain originated in my brain overthinking and my emotions following suit.

I am currently closing my art therapy studio and moving across the country. I am concluding with many of my clients and transitioning others to my online practice. In addition to all of the business changes, I am also doing all of the necessary things to move my life to another state.

So how is my energetic drain different from any neurotypical person?

While most people likely find moving and conclusions stressful, my autistic brain is stress on steroids. It sees another person’s 10 thoughts and says, “I’ll raise you 20.”

An autistic brain craves clarity. It wants to know all of the steps. When it cannot know all of the clear steps, it thinks of all of the possible scenarios. Our brains operate on this level without us even realizing it sometimes. This constant background level of planning and strategizing can cause us to become mentally drained.

This level of thinking can also impact us emotionally. As I conclude with my in-person clients, I have to have many serious conversations with them. I am never sure how these conversations will go. Once again, my autistic mind wants to think of all of the possible scenarios. Some of these scenarios become emotionally alarming to me “What if they are upset that I am leaving? What if they refuse? What if they insist on becoming my virtual client, even though I know they need an in-person therapist? What if they get mad? What if they break down and cry?”

Of course, my brain also rehearses what it might do in all of these scenarios.

By the end of the day, I’m not only mentally drained, but emotionally tapped out as well.

Today I had a final meeting with a client, as well as another meeting with a different client in which broached the subject of concluding. Even though both of these meetings went very well, I was still left mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted by the end of the day.

Before I knew I was autistic, I would get frustrated with myself. I would wonder, “Why am I so tired? Why can’t I handle this?”

Now I understand the underlying mechanisms contributing to my tiredness and I don’t beat myself up with judgments. Yes, I am still frustrated that I am tired, but I at least know that my energy will return tomorrow morning.


Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read more, sign up for my FUNletter or check out my book Grief is a Mess.


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