The Mask Fell Off


Hi guys,Depending on which of my posts you have read, you may be aware that I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and that I was using strategies, apps and tools to try to work with my brain, manage my symptoms and improve my life now that I know I have ADHD.

It turns out there is a bit more to it....

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Image by Hanna Kovalchuk from Pixabaya>

Hi guys,Depending on which of my posts you have read, you may be aware that I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and that I was using strategies, apps and tools to try to work with my brain, manage my symptoms and improve my life now that I know I have ADHD.

It turns out there is a bit more to it....

And also relates to the amount of time I've spent on my creative projects and the amount of time I have spent on here.


The last few months

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay



I recently went through a massive burnout.

I started a job after spending a decent amount of time studying and then jobsearching once I decided I wanted to leave study for a bit and work instead. I was excited when I got the job. Then I was exhausted, almost straight away. I was so tired I'd come home from work and sleep. I assumed it was me not being used to working that many days since it had been a while since I had. Nope! That was a sign of worse to come.

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Image by Mashiro Momo from Pixabay

This job was not the right fit for me or my skills. It was a B2B telemarketing position involving booking appointments for a salesperson / consultant to go to a business that appears like they could benefit from the products the business I was in sell (there were qualifying questions I had to find out the answers to in order to determine if they would benefit from an appointment in the first place). The salesperson would take it from there, having an appointment with them and assessing their situation and what products might suit that situation etc.

I won't go into too much depth on this right now, but basically this role required the use of skills and traits that I just don't really have access to. It's not that I don't have them at all, but depending on the skill, I either don't have it or I have a limited ability to do it and the way that I do it tends to be more deliberate and cognitive and less automatic than it appears it may be for quite a few other people. One of these things I would be hesitant to say that I don't have, as I for the most part don't, but people equate a lack of that thing as meaning a lack of other good traits I actually do have as well. People seem to think that those traits have to go together, but they don't.

It also involved a lot of talking to people (of course), deciphering what people mean, communicating with a goal in mind and trying to meet targets. The last one contributed to burnout. The other ones contributed to burnout but also to Social Exhaustion.

Around the same time I started my job, a friend came to visit. This meant that as well as adjusting to a new job, we were going out and doing things, at least more than we would without someone visiting. Since before then up until now (it's still going) we have had weekly Dungeons and Dragons sessions on the weekends with friends.

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I really enjoy these dungeons and dragons sessions. The game is fun, we've had some funny moments throughout it and it's a good way to spend time with friends and with my partner.

However, one weekend we were having a party on the night of the same day we would play dungeons and dragons. This was with a lot of the same people, plus some other friends and was also when our other friend was staying with us. I thought we weren't going to Dungeons and Dragons that day because we had the party that night, but apparently we had decided to and between being exhausted and just the fact I generally miss or forget parts of conversations (something I try not to do but it is related to the ADHD), I did not have any memory of us discussing that decision.

The thing was I was socially exhausted from work and then other stuff that I was not able to do both. I needed time to myself before that party. My partner went and so did our friend who was staying with us, but I didn't have the social stamina to do both the party and our session following the week at work.

Sudden changes in plans that aren't my doing (ie I can be quite spontaneous when it's under my control as mentally the effects of that is quite different) tend to throw me a bit and while this wasn't a change in plans, it was a diversion from what I thought we were doing, so that threw me, but even that wasn't enough to account for this. Even if it was expected, I couldn't have done both. I had an unwritten social quota I wasn't really aware of that I had passed. I needed time to myself and time for my interests. I just couldn't do it. It didn't matter how much I liked playing - I just couldn't.

This was still in the early days of my time in the position I got burned out in.

As time went on, the general tiredness got better, but the overall exhaustion and burnout got worse. I needed time to myself and I needed time for my interests and for self-care. My interests actually fueled me and made it easier for me to cope. I loved recording and working on (editing etc) my Scribblenauts video I made in the time I was working. Recording it I was the happiest I had been for some time (I have another one recorded too btw, I just need to edit it).
Even though they help me cope, I still have a limited amount of energy to work on my creative work, so while my creative interests are interests that help me cope, they couldn't be all I did outside of work.

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Self care and my interests are what helped me manage as long as I did. Throughout this whole time I still struggled with exhaustion, burnout and needing time for myself and my interests, but in reality, it was a lot deeper than that.

I was getting stomach pains, my gums started bleeding from random spots and I found myself chewing things more. My tongue was a wreck from me chewing it. My automatic / scripted small talk I would do with cashiers in the shops, was not something I could muster the energy to do most of that time. I also came to realise that it was only a script anyway. My emotional reactions and the emotional dysregulation that comes with ADHD worsened and increased in frequency while I was burned out, and sometimes ended in what earlier me would have called a panic attack, but I now realise is a meltdown. I found it harder and not as possible to give people consistent eye contact. A lot of skills just dropped without me choosing to drop them. My mask had come off. It was one of the scarier things I have experienced.

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I wasn't completely in the dark as to why this happened though, luckily, as being in communities related to ADHD had meant I had seen information about other forms of neurodiversity.

Based on how people were describing their experiences with ADHD in ADHD related communities, and based on the description of the experience of having multiple disabilities / forms of neurodiversity, I had an inkling I didn't have just ADHD going on and had some idea of what may have been going on - but it was simply an idea at this point (one I intended to explore as I didn't want to do the same thing I did with my ADHD and miss it for years but still just an idea).

If I was completely in the dark it would have been even scarier.

What happened from here
I saw my psychiatrist who treats my ADHD again. I told him everything that had been going on. He said I probably have autism, but that a diagnosis may be hard and expensive as it would involve seeing a neuropsychologist. This has more credibility than me just suspecting a possibility of something like this, but not the same credibility as an assessment and diagnosis. I am not yet sure where this is going to go from here yet.

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I had no choice but to drop my mask as it happened without my consent to a large degree. Masking in the case of autism is essentially making yourself appear more neurotypical and it can be useful at times but it can also lead to burnout and cause anxiety within an autistic person, and is a good tool to have in your kit for when appearing more neurotypical would be helpful but it is not a good thing to be doing on a daily basis as an autistic person. It's actually good that the mask came off as masking was making the burnout worse. It's still just a very scary thing to find yourself losing the ability and energy to use skills that you had, including the skill of wearing the mask and appearing neurotypical. I didn't know I was masking for the most part. I didn't have any idea I may have been autistic until not that long before starting this job anyway, and it wasn't until I got really burned out it seemed like anything more than just a slight possibility as I felt ADHD didn't explain everything.

I made some conscious choices about what is worth the effort of masking for or not.

I learned more about myself and about what strengths and skills I have and what weaknesses I have (or non-strengths I guess in some cases, as some are only applicable in certain situations so would be a weakness in that particular situation but isn't a weakness if I don't have to use it - it just simply isn't a strength and isn't something I should pursue unless it was matched with other strengths or interests enough to make up for it).

I lessened my hours at work but only temporarily and still struggled and was still burned out but the physical health issues that went with the burnout improved, including my stomach cramps and pain stopping and my gums stopped bleeding, indicating that the physical issues were indeed caused by burnout (the gum bleeding was not in a spot that could relate to chewing my tongue from stress and bleeding gums can be directly caused by stress).

I learned warning signs that signal that I am heading into a bad place mentally, that I previously would have just not even noticed as a warning sign.

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Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

I learned that I don't have a very high awareness of my emotions.

I learned that I sometimes need to consciously take time to stop and process my emotions, because apparently I don't always do that and remain relatively unaware of them when in reality it is causing internal havoc and it would have helped to process it properly. I've come to realise that certain things are signs that I need to process my emotions and work out how to respond from there, or I will likely head into a bad place mentally. Often these are things I already do, but the frequency and need to do it and how extreme it is can be a giveaway.

My job ultimately ended. It wasn't a good match for my skills and strengths and I couldn't meet the targets. I also really needed a break from it all as even with less hours I was still burned out but I couldn't really bring myself to quit over that. The boss was good and the business worked with me to try to make this work before we ultimately concluded it wasn't the best fit and wasn't going to work out.

I've discovered I have a wall of self-hate built up inside of me. I was already aware that my thoughts are not always the nicest towards myself, but having been forced to accept and confront a lot of things about myself lately has lead to me realising just how strong and big a wall it is. I have built this over more than a decade. I started building it in high school and built a very strong foundation. During high school I didn't know how to socialise, make friends and fit in. I did make a couple of friends in high school, one of whom I'm still close with now, but for the most part I didn't fit in and my thoughts turned very negative towards myself. Constant masking like I was doing subconsciously more recently is not good, but neither was my situation in high school where I was just totally lost. Neither is ideal, nor a solution. The skills that made up the mask are now part of a toolset for me to use when they can help, much like the strategies I use for managing my ADHD, rather than something subconsciously applied that increases stress and anxiety.

But why didn't the wall go away given that was so long ago? Because high school was the foundation. I built on it with every failure that followed throughout my life, brick by brick, experience after experience. I may have built the wall just from adult experiences even if I didn't start it in high school, I don't know, but in reality, it did start back then. And I'm trying to take it down. I'm not quite sure how, but I'm trying to demolish this wall.

Despite this wall of hate, this whole experience means I've learned to accept certain aspects of myself a bit more (to a degree I had no choice as burnout forced my hand with it) and I've been learning about how to succeed as myself rather than by trying to make myself succeed in ways that don't suit me. I think it's time to try to swim rather than be a fish climbing a tree.

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What Happens Now?
I am in my second week out of the job I was in now.

I have been working on my business, which includes this Steemit account, as well as my Dtube and YouTube channels and other projects. I have also been putting some time into self-care and recovery and I have learned some lessons from my experience that carry over into how I self-care, work with my brain, run my business and live my life now. Going through that experience made me not the same person I was before that experience and knowledge and self-understanding I gained from it makes the difference greater again.

I strongly feel that I need to put some time into my business and try to make it work as I feel that ultimately self-employment is what is going to work out best for me in the end, plus a lot of what I do during self-employment relates to special interests of mine, which actually improve my mental health from spending time on them. It doesn't mean I won't get another job down the track - I very well could - but I think the ultimate goal is to get the business profitable.

I am currently working on a project for the business now, which is a printable card game with RPG, deckbuilding and dice rolling elements that will be sold as a digital download on Etsy. I intend for this to have expansions which will also be digital downloads. The working title for this is Unicorn Robot Party and I am really hopeful for this project to work out. I'm having fun making it at least.

There is also some programming involved as I am intending to use an AI (which is nothing I've never created before) in order to generate some of the content for the game.

I will be providing more updates on this as I go along in the process of making it. This is an exciting project for me, I'm excited about getting the business to a better position and I'm loving working on my creative interests at the moment. I hope as you learn more about Unicorn Robot Party, it interests you guys too.

Unicorn Robot Party is my major project at the moment, but I will also be writing occasional posts and making occasional videos.

Thank you for reading about my experience and about my plans moving forward. I learned a lot about myself through this experience and despite it being an experience that in some ways was a bad experience for me, I think with the understanding and knowledge I have now I have come out the other side better than when I began.


If you have children / are a child, get a free copy of the base game of Unicorn Robot Party (when it is complete) through contributing via my Survey Monkey Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DMZX8T7

Vote for my next ORTI character here: https://poll.ly/#/LBp54z3X


Birchmark Website / Portfolio: http://birchmark.com.au/

Redbubble: https://www.redbubble.com/people/birchmark?asc=u

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/BirchmarkAu


Thank you for reading!

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