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Autistic Burnout | 2 | Booking a Trip to Phoenix

The Mind Outlet

Lee Marvin – Wandering Star | Archive

Autistic Burnout | 2 | Booking a Trip to Phoenix

I just got home from the most terrifying and difficult thing I’ve ever had to accomplish since becoming an adult — I had to fly to Phoenix.

I’m still processing, still evaluating, but I’m pretty certain that my recent trip out west is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. That’s, obviously, absurd. I am in such a death spiral that traveling, by myself (the easiest kind of traveling), was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to prepare for and endure.

This is autistic burnout. 

I’ve had a full life like anyone else. I’ve experienced love, death, failed relationships, homelessness — but that trip to Phoenix, man… that was going to be the thing to break me. I wore all the other trials life has thrown at me like a hoodie. I took them in stride. Never once asking for help, never showing my suffering. Like anyone, just threw ‘em on my back and kept on truckin’. But Phoenix… Phoenix was the final straw.

I’ve traveled virtually my entire life. I had driven across the country a dozen times before I was ten. By that point I had already been on as many airplanes. I carried this nomadic lifestyle throughout my time in music and baseball, eventually hitting a patch in life where I was living in and out of cars and hotels for the better part of a year. Let me put it plainly – I know how to travel. I understand how airports work. It’s not my first time in an Uber. This year alone, I had flown to Colorado and driven back to New England – twice.

So what’s the big deal?

First, I could not make a decision about my mode of travel. Was I going to drive, or was I going to fly? Trains were an option. Buses. Just fuckin’ Forrest Gump it. I desperately wanted to avoid the chaos of airports. So, I plotted gas milage. I picked southern routes to avoid springtime blizzards. I even researched rental cars so that I wouldn’t put the wear of another cross country trip on my own. The bottom line, when all said and done, I could not justify taking the better part of a month to drive — and that’s the only reason I flew.

Yay, airports.

From here, I could not find any flights from where live to where I wanted to go. That sounds ridiculous — and guess what? It is.  America’s infrastructure has changed drastically in the last few years and reasonable regional flights during normal hours are hard to come by.

Over the course of weeks, I tortured myself by creating a logistics super highway that plotted every possible form of travel between here and Phoenix that included departure and arrival times, total travel time, and the costs associated with each. My office was like an NFL draft war room. The lights on my red nuclear phone were blinking with Amtrak and Expedia on standby. This friggin’ trip was my god-damn Vietnam and planning it properly, right now, was my only chance at surviving it.

After all that, I canceled the trip. I actually made a decision, put in my credit card details, and I booked it. And, naturally, as soon as I did, I was consumed with a bottomless trepidation.

Something within me insisted that there was a better solution. Somewhere out in the universe the perfect itinerary existed, I just hadn’t discovered it yet. So, I canceled. I didn’t even make it a full hour into the 24 hour regret window.

I should have just walked away right then. At that point, I should have outright abandoned all thoughts about going to Phoenix. Done. Close the book, move on. I mean, if there weren’t enough red flags in my life prior to booking, there surely were now. But, I didn’t see it that way. There was no rational explanation in my mind that would allow me to justify having these thoughts, feelings, or this type of behavior.

It’s important to note, at this point, I hadn’t realized that I’m autistic yet. I’m existing like a “normal” 40 year old, trying to do something I’ve always done — buy a stupid plane ticket. Boy… I sure struggled mightily.

So, shortly after the relief of canceling came the guilt. The iron fist of my internal monologue pounding the harshest criticism known to human words. To “beat myself up” is an understatement. Then, to add to the mental enjoyment, friends – the people I was supposed to visit in Phoenix – dogged me for waffling and backing out. Bailing. The spiral continued and so, once more, I reviewed the big board in the war room and booked another ticket.

We’re now three weeks out before the flight. Wedding invitations have been accepted. Hotels and rental cars booked. Friends and old colleagues notified about my triumphant return. Naturally, I have plenty of time to pull my life together.

 

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