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You Can't Pour Creativity From a Burned Out Cup

Updated: Apr 18

This blog post is from a guest writer, Izabelle Azevedo. If you would like to learn more about Izabelle's great work,

I remember feeling like this in my late teens, when adult responsibilities started to

kick in… Undergrad, work, undiagnosed Autism, ADHD & co. Trying to keep up with

grades, sleep, social life, and taking care of myself. “Overwhelmed” is a word that

wasn’t part of my dictionary back then. But even though I didn't know it, it doesn't mean

I wasn’t drowning in it.

Back then I was also pursuing a degree in the medical sciences. The human

body and how it works has always been a special interest of mine. Though I remember

when it came time to pick a major, I was torn between science and something in the

arts. Deep inside, I wanted to be creative for a living. Probably since I was 5. But there

was a voice inside me saying: “Your creativity is unreliable.” And I believed that voice. I

believed it for most of my life. Until I started asking myself: "Why is my creativity

'unreliable?'” Also… Is there something wrong with me?

Welcome to the AuDHD Club

The answer to the latter came when I was 34 and found out my brain works

differently (meaning there is nothing wrong with me, nor you).

Suddenly, my life made sense.

So I, obviously, had a lot to discover and relearn about myself and about what it

meant to be AuDHD. Since then, I learned about how it very much influences who I am,

how I behave, and the choices I make. I learned why, for a long time, it felt like I was

broken. I also learned about why I often felt overwhelmed and on the edge of burnout.

Or more specifically, the autistic burnout.

With a quick Google search you will see that autistic burnout is characterized by

extreme fatigue, loss of interest in special interests, increased sensory sensitivity,

decreased executive functioning, and even (temporary) loss of skills. It took me a bit of

time to connect the dots and realize that the voice telling me my creativity is unreliable

was wrong. My brain just can’t pour creativity from a burned out cup because all its

energy is focusing on one thing: staying afloat in the overwhelm (aka surviving).

Therefore, there is no energy left to get my creativity flowing, have new ideas, or even

to keep current projects going. It is as if the creative part of my brain never existed.

Identifying all this was great, but I still needed to learn how to prevent it from


It took me a couple of years of watching possible signs and working on self-

awareness. From my own experience, what autistic burnout feels like is depression. Not

the regular type of depression that sneaks up on you, though. The depression I am

referring to feels different… It gets you quicker, and it might go away as quick if you

extract what is causing it before it turns into real depression, in which case it may be beneficial to pursue therapy that is autistic friendly.

Out of a Downwards Spiral

It happened very recently.

Spoiler alert: that medical science degree I was

pursuing? I dropped it over a decade ago. I am now 37 and finishing my first bachelor’s

degree– in Electronic Media & Film.

This semester I was forced to take 12 units (I’ve been taking 9 units), and one of the classes was heavy on reading (a really hard task for me). It took only 5 weeks for the feeling of overwhelm to kick in. I was already going down spirals. I knew that, if I continued, I would start neglecting everything, especially my creative projects.

And I was getting more miserable by the minute.

I was on the edge of autistic burnout. My creativity was suffering. My well-being

was suffering. Something had to be sacrificed because, either way, it wasn’t worth it to

keep going. So, after a big meltdown in an evening while sitting at this very chair I am

sitting in right now as I type this, I decided to “extract” the cause of my overwhelm: I

dropped the reading-heavy class.

My concentration and creative energy came back almost instantly. The amount of relief that followed makes me believe that was not only the right decision, but a necessary one. And I caught it early (enough).

Of course one can’t always “drop” or “extract” what is causing overwhelm. But

learning these early signs, or what can lead to it, can be helpful to avoid committing to

more than you should. It can also explain why you are “losing” skills, or why you think

your skills are “unreliable,” and allow you to work on the root of the cause instead of

giving up a career or hobby or whatever it is you might want to do. Sometimes, what

you need is to find a way to manage the overwhelm.

And always remember: you can’t pour [fill in the blank] from a burned out cup.

How can you manage your workload?

Are there areas of your life where you feel like you've been trying to pour from an empty cup? How do you manage or adjust your workload so that you have control over your schedule, and it's not your schedule that's controlling you?

Our life coaches help autistic people plan and manage their schedules so they have enough time to get things done and decompress, so their cup can refill.

If you would like to learn more about how our life coaches can help you, book a free call today.

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