Staying in the Fight Without Burning Out: Autistic Tips for Organizing

Autistic Advice #13: How to build a politically engaged life that works with your disability, not against it.

Devon Price

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A photo from a November pro-Palestine protest on Lake Shore Drive, taken by author.

Welcome back to Autistic Advice, a semi-regular advice column where I respond to reader questions about neurodiversity, accessibility, disability justice, and self-advocacy from my perspective as an Autistic psychologist. You can submit questions or suggest future entries in the series via my Tumblr ask box, linked here.

Today’s question comes from two separate Tumblr users, both of whom want advice for balancing their commitment to organizing and community-building with their need for a lot of alone time as Autistic people:

Question 1: I’d like to get back into organizing with my union after some burnout, but I am Autistic and I hate Meetings due to interacting with people in groups. Do you have any advice? Question 2: How as an Autistic do you reconcile the need for community and coalition building with the need to be alone? I have to spend most of my time alone to feel okay. Even if I’m with people I love, even if I’m unmasked, socializing depletes me. How do I find balance?

This is a question that really hits me where I live. Figuring out how to balance the need to connect to others and enact my political ideals in my behavior with my need for bountiful alone time and rest is an ongoing question for me, one that I’ve had to develop answers to numerous times through my years as an activist (and then as someone who stopped identifying as an activist).

I have struggled to find belonging within most politically engaged activist communities that I have joined over the years. So many of the campaigns I joined in my youth overworked me, manipulated me into committing to efforts that did not suit my strengths, misunderstood my mannerisms and quietness, punished me for expressing questions or divergent opinions, and made no space for someone who lacks emotional empathy and processes in a very slow, cold, analytic way. My alienation in activist spaces (and the burnout that such overwork caused) was so extreme that for a while, I said I did not believe in community at all.

My attitudes are quite different now that I’ve actively created the social bonds with other neuro-weird, queer anarchist types that I always needed, and have received their care, understanding, and patience. I surround myself with people whose political perspectives I respect and value, who are forever learning and evolving in their outlooks, and who…

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Devon Price

He/Him or It/Its. Social Psychologist & Author of LAZINESS DOES NOT EXIST and UNMASKING AUTISM. Links to buy: https://linktr.ee/drdevonprice