Is It Burnout Or A Midlife Crisis?

Blue solid foreground with text "Is It Burnout Or A Midlife Crisis" and to the side a picture of a pale skinned woman looking at the camera.
One of my clients asked me recently if he's not actually going through burnout and it's just a midlife crisis. It's a good question, let's talk about it.
Is It Burnout Or A Midlife Crisis?

Do you know which you’re experiencing?

One of my clients asked me a question recently, which he gave me permission to share with you. He’s been wanting to quit his job and he has this great idea for a new business, and he’s wondering if he’s deluding himself. If he’s not actually going through burnout, but it’s just a midlife crisis. He’s not by the way, it really is burnout in his case, but it’s a good question. 

A midlife crisis is when you’ve been working really hard for a really long time, doing all the things that you think are gonna make you happy, and you wake up one day and you realize that you’re not happy. So you funnel all of your energy back into doing those same things harder, but now you’re older, you have more social status, a better position in life, more money. 

So you dump all that into getting the things that you wanted when you were younger, when you felt good and thought everything was going to be great. You get the fancy car, the younger partner, all the stereotypical stuff. That’s a midlife crisis. 


On the other hand, a lot of people who end up in burnout go through working really, really hard for a long time and doing all the things that they think are gonna make them happy. If you’re autistic, this is not just the job and power dynamics, but it’s also the masking. It’s doing things the right way, doing things the neurotypical way, meeting expectations.

You wake up one day and you realize that these things are not bringing you happiness, and so you actually make changes. You do stuff to get rid of those things that you are now realizing hurt you. You reinvest in finding the things that actually bring you happiness.

That isn’t a midlife crisis. That’s a midlife wake up, or whatever time of your life wake up. 

That may or may not involve a burnout, burnout is one of the wake up calls that some people get (one I got multiple times before I really paid too much attention to it), but it doesn’t have to be burnout. 

If you’re in burnout and you’re realizing all this stuff that you thought was going to be the keys to a great life just aren’t, and you’re trying to reinvent yourself, but not because you want to make a new mask but because you want to be more authentically truly you: that isn’t a midlife crisis. That’s a midlife wake up, or whatever time of your life wake up. 

I hope that helps and I hope that you’re finding the things that do genuinely create happiness for you, whatever that happens to be in your life. Take care, have a neurowonderful day.

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Picture of Heather Cook

Heather Cook

Hi, I’m Heather. I’m an Autistic writer, advocate, and life coach, and I'm building a life I love. I help other Autistics to build their own autism-positive life. I love reading, jigsaw puzzles, just about every -ology, and Star Trek!

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