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  • Writer's pictureZoë Benham

Neurodiversity, Depression and Burnouts

Updated: May 9

My brain frequents pharmaceutical cocktail parties every few years when a battle between myself and the cloudy days occur. This year alone I’ve had CBT sessions and been prescribed Mirtazapine and Venaxafilin.

However, since being diagnosed as Autistic at the age of 37, there seem to be blurred lines between depression and autism burnouts.

I have always struggled with low moods, since my teen years, worsened by the complexity of life and eased during simplified stretches. My mental health is something I actively and consciously look after, every single day. It is why I exercise. It’s why I hardly drink now. It’s why I don’t entertain certain things. It’s why I stay away from people that make me feel uneasy. It’s why I spend so much time alone. It’s why I’m in my house so much.

I used to drink to feel confident or to be fake happy and chatty. Now, I don’t drink (hardly) and I don’t put myself in situations that make me need to be confident or put on a mask. My inner peace is my sanctuary, I’m quite fond of the real me which only a few people get to see and I work hard to be vigilant, assertive and do everything I can to look after my mind for me, and because I have three boys that need me and I’m on a mission. You know, suing the council and fighting for SEN school places bla bla ugh bla bla bla.

Realised now, that depression for me, is a constant numbness, that no matter the environment or intervention it never seems to fade, it’s a cloud that I can live with, lasting months to over a year at a time almost unknown to those around me. The little things that fill me with joy don’t have the same effect and I’m a shadow living within my fleshy vessel. Then the cloud passes and it’s gone, without explanation or apology and I’m back to my usual self but seeming no different to anyone else.

A psychologist this year, after dissecting the history of me and the bible of my mental health records said that perhaps some of these periods of depression were actually autistic burnouts. Mind blown.

Going back through the loco times, I realised like this year, which has had immense pressure, I have been experiencing characteristics of depression but actually, it is not consistent like depression and once recognising a cloud appearing, I can take myself off for days at a time, snuggle up, shut off the world, watch something murdery, order pizza, indulge in a marathon of pyjama days with the boys, stick my phone on do not disturb, a bit of online shopping and I’m living my best life. Messy hair, scruffy garms, human avoidance and content in pottering around the same few walls in peace. Massively happy by being alone and undisturbed is how I seem to be recharging during a burnout, I haven’t been told or taught how to do this, it’s just something that I do.

Being asked to leave the house during this time? And blow dry my hair, put on mascara, speak to people, ewww, no thank you. Can’t possibly do that till I’m ready. Whenever that may be.

It was Autumn just gone when I first mentioned to my doctor I think the psychologist is right, I’m having burnouts not depression and then on a recent chat after upping me to 150mg of happy pills, apparently having read over my file with tea and biscuits that he agreed and I should probably come off these next month if I’m still the same.

  • And there’s no moral to the story.

  • No whimsical message.

  • No hard facts or data.

  • I’m no wiser.

  • Still massively blagging life.

  • Coping, surviving, kind of think I’m smashing life really.

  • Iconic vibes.

  • But it got me wondering.

How often are neurodivergent folk pumped with Venlafaxine because the symptoms of depression and burnouts are misunderstood? Especially in adults not diagnosed or diagnosed late.

I feel lucky now, that I’m so in tune with myself that I can put things in place to safeguard my peace and that the closest peeps around me know not to take offence when I’m not talkative for weeks at a time, bypass events or not text back and that they also still check up on me without pressure.

I do feel currently, I’m having an autistic burnout, the thought of having to socialise out of the comfort of my boys feels daunting and the bustle of impending Christmas makes me want to close the curtains and never open them again. Unless it’s a delivery, then I’ll stealthily grab that from the doorstep.

If you want to find out more about Zoë make sure to follow her on her Insta page.


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