This self portrait expressed my feelings about the requirements of social interactions put on autistic people specifically. But I think a lot of people can relate to the frustrations I have with social expectations.
“Kicking and Masking” is part of a *very limited printing* self portrait collection. Each digital self-portrait is printed on 8″ by 10″ paper and is limited to 3-4 prints each, signed on the back.
No one has ever told me that they expect certain things from me… on my public instragram, I mean. (People have—in plenty of way at other times and in other places—let me know exactly what they expect from me.) But I still feel this sort of pressure to get reactions or to sell. And when I don’t get the reactions that I thought I was going to get I get really down on myself as a creative. It’s ridiculous. I know it’s ridiculous. I love my work and I love what I do. But there’s an entire extra layer as both a woman and an autistic when it comes to feedback and expectations.
Three or four years ago I was at my career peak. And I enjoyed None. Of. It. I had paid exhibitions. I was selling original paintings at $1,200 each. I was doing goooooood y’all. But there was no joy in those accomplishments. I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be an artist or that I wasn’t on the right path. But when I’m not creating I get sad, too. I was so confused and overwhelmed.
Through therapy and my autistic diagnosis, I realized I had been in burnout for a while. How long exactly I’m not sure. Every time I tried to pull myself out over the next few years I went further back down. Masking and forcing yourself out of burnout takes so fucking much energy. I can’t explain it to allistic people. I know allistic people experience burnout, but it’s just not on the same level. I mean, psychologically it is not. Otherwise, autistic people would not get autism diagnoses. (And at the same time I was going through the first few years of living with a chronic illness.)
So, now, these days, when I feel that sort of expectation rising I try to step away from my public Instagram. That’s one of the reasons I have a private Instagram, too. I don’t know if anyone was interested in an explanation. (Autistic people tend to over-explain.) But I wanted to explain why I go dark when I go dark.
I would like to get to a point where burnout isn’t an issue. But there’s really not enough research into autistic burnout or resources for autistic people to get through burnout. It can last years. So I have to try to mitigate it in any way I can. Sometimes that means completely stepping away from art and sometimes it means making art for my consumption only, instead of art for posting.
So I went dark on Insta and TikTok and plan on staying dark through the next week. I want to see if it helps. If it does help then I can add it to my Burnout Mitigation Tooblox.