Posted in Catholic leadership, Self-Care

Preventing Overload or Not: The Guilt of Being an Autistic Leader

Just a quick note to say since our school reduced numbers, it has been quieter and the classroom that the family was in is now much more peaceful.   We did the right thing.

Meanwhile, it is hotter than average and I’ve had longer days again than usual, with extra meetings.  I’m getting over a bad cold (which was at least relatively quick in passing).  My pre-arthritis (I can’t bear to call it arthritis yet…) is twingy.  I can feel myself heading for overload.

I know it is important in this situation to do self-care.  I need to sleep longer, and spend more time resting in general.  However, I feel obligated to others to keep going.  Yet I know if I don’t take a break, I’ll be no good to them.  The weekend is coming, but when you’re a Catholic school principal, Sunday Mass is worktime, too.

But overload is coming.  Since I know my limits now, I can feel it coming on the horizon.  With no end to the unseasonably warm (and often humid) weather in sight, there is a factor to this that is simply out of my control.  When I know that, I know I need to get defensive.

I think I’ll take Monday off and try to work from home after my afternoon meeting today.  I have a project to research and could use the time.

But then, I have an appointment on Monday and that person is only available on Mondays.  Oh, and then I don’t know how early some of my students will get there, so I have to inconvenience the secretary to have her come in early to make sure they get in okay.

Asking for what we need as Autistics is hard, even when we’re not working at a non-profit with a tiny budget and limited staff.  It’s easier because they understand I have needs and try to help me, but it’s harder because I feel guilty.  In a bigger place, I imagine, they can cover, but then you worry that they’re going to fire you for daring to be Autistic and needing some time to prevent overload and, what’s worse, Autistic Regression.

I don’t have time to go in-depth about all of that, but if you hit regression, you roll back some of your skills at coping with the world, at masking your Autism, so to speak.  Overload means you need time for self-care but (hopefully) you can pull yourself back out of it soon and get back to where you were before the incident occurred, however, regression means you’re not where you were and have to rebuild.  Burnout is an in-between stage where you can’t find any interest in any of your normal self-coping mechanisms.  It’s like all the love you had for books or trains or computers or whatever is simply gone.  Burnout can happen from overload, too, and that makes coping with overload harder since you can’t use what calms you normally at all.

Obviously none of this is ideal, but overload can be managed.

But as long as our society isn’t made for us, we have to make compromises and feel guilty if we need to ask for something that’s important to our overall state.  It’s not like a broken arm where people can see it’s broken and they say, “oh, yeah, you’d better go fix that.”  No, we carry our disabilities inside, and since everything is new and different to society, it’s hard to explain to them you need something that other people don’t.

And I know my workplace will get it, yet I still feel guilty for even thinking about this.

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