Discover more from Curiosity Spot
Finding My Autistic Joy
How I stay out of burn-out and nourish my soul
I take very regular leave, partly because I spent most of my life as a student or working in academia so the rhythm of the academic year is in my blood and partly because I know it’s the only way to stay out of burnout. I love my work supporting other neurodivergent folks in therapy, supervision and training, but it needs me to be operating at full capacity and I can’t do that if I’m not resting regularly. (I also want to make sure I’m practicing what I preach about kindness and compassion.)
I’ve just coming to the end of my regular breaks and have been reflecting on how much better I’ve got at making space for real rest and nourishment. As someone who likes to ‘do all the things’ I can have a tendency to over schedule my down-time and in the past have gone back to work still tired. This week I made sure to intentionally schedule in low demand activities and time with my special interests in the hopes of getting some autistic joy in my week.
When I was first exploring my neurodivergence, most of the stuff I was reading focused on the difficulties. This isn’t a surprise given the diagnostic criteria, which focus on external signifiers and the ways in which they impact people around us. I knew this wasn’t the full story, from my days as a disability practitioner, but I was struggling to find the words to that truly expressed the entirety of my experience. Something that was hindered by the fact that I’d been such a high masker for so long, I wasn’t even sure I knew what my experience was!
As well as doing my own research (autism was my hyperfocus as well as a special interest) I was processing everything I was learning in therapy. It was my therapist who encouraged me to start to play again and through this I allowed myself to feel my Autistic Joy and recognise it for what it was. I’d often played down my special interests in the past in case people thought I was too weird or too much and in doing so had held back from really being with my joy. But spending a day with a Lego set I’d been looking at for months and letting myself just be with it was a revelation.
My autistic joy, is very much a bodily experience, it fills me up from the inside out and nourishes me in everyway. It is one of my favourite parts of my neurodivergence, my ability to completely immerse myself in something I love and let it sweep me away on a wave of joy, yet it is something that I rarely see written about or hear others discussing.
Why are we not shouting from the rooftops about this magical state that can help us move out of and away from burn-out?
I have been knitting my self-care Jumper for a while, it has representations of some of my special interests and things that bring me joy woven into the fabric, just as I try and weave them into my life. Can you figure out what they all represent?
Starting from the top there are:
A D20 to show my love of DnD
Waves for the sea, where I find my peace
Pandas which have been my favourite animal for years and who represent my self-compassion
Dinosaurs, because dinosaurs!
A lego brick to stand in for all the creations I’ve made (with instructions)
A dark beer, which also stands in for the Ladies of Darkness and wider community at my local taproom, where I found a safe space and acceptance.
There are a few things that didn’t make it onto the jumper, because I couldn’t think of a way to represent the, but they still deserve a mention.
Books, preferably epic fantasy (I’m part way through The Wheel of Time Series and binged the TV series this week).
Yoga, where I connect to my body and remember to breathe (although as It’s my week off I skipped the 6.30am class this week).
Tarot, I love using the cards for self-reflection and as journaling prompts. (I spent a whole days with my inner child tarot journal justifying my collection of washi tape and stickers this week, inspired byand her course.)
My colourful hair (I’m now purple)
Getting my nails done, they’re currently bright red with bats on!
Connecting with friends who accept me as I am and nourish my soul.
Getting out in nature and noticing the change in the seasons.
After a week of nurturing myself, I’m ready to get back to the work I love and know that I’ll be able to give my clients and supervisees the best parts of myself, because I’ve shown myself the same kindness and compassion I’m always encouraging them to extend to themselves.
Let me know where you find your joy in the comments, or on Notes