An energetic woman wearing an apron on pink background

Neurotypical people have so much energy, and they don’t even know that.

Of course, not all neurotypical people are the same. Some people have more energy than others, regardless of their neurology. And neurotypical people can also have conditions that drain them. But in general, neurotypical people have more energy than autistic people.

Unlike some NTs might think, I don’t wish I was neurotypical. But I sure envy neurotypical people for their energy levels.

This is what the high levels of energy in neurotypical people look like on TV and in real life. And here’s how it compares to my autistic life.

Neurotypical people have the energy to cook dinner after a long day at work

Neurotypical people don’t have to think about how to get things done. They get things done automatically, even after a long day at work.

That’s what happens on TV as well. The protagonist might be a nurse or a police officer. They have a demanding job. But as soon as they get home after a workday, they start cooking dinner. They also find the energy to talk with their family.

You might say: “TV is not the same as reality!” Of course, it’s not. But NTs cook dinner in real life as well, don’t they? And they cook even after a long day at work.

Even if I had only been to a grocery store, I don’t have the energy to start cooking when I go home. Going out to places with lots of people drains my energy. I have no energy left to cook when I get home. Taking a shower is challenging enough.

Even on days when I stay at home all day, I have less energy than most people. Cooking after spending all day at home is an accomplishment for me.

I wish I had more energy to cook because homemade meals are healthy and cheap. When I was younger and lived alone, I cooked a lot more.

These days it’s a struggle. I can only cook something simple, like fried tofu and rice. I can’t always even manage that.

I do a little better when I cook with my husband. So we try to cook together regularly.

What happened to me? Most likely, it’s a combination of autistic burnout and SSRI withdrawal symptoms. My executive function has declined, and I have even less energy than before.

I hope this isn’t permanent, and I’ll have more energy someday. Until then, I’ll feed myself by cooking meals that take minimal effort.

A smiling woman cooking

NTs have the energy to socialize after socializing

I know I’m generalizing here. Some neurotypical people also get tired after social interaction. That’s typical for introverts regardless of their neurotype.

You know what I’m talking about, though. Some people socialize all day at work and still have the energy to go to a party or meet friends afterward.

Think about any romantic comedy. The heroine has a busy job in an office in New York. After work, she meets her friends for a drink or has a date.

Well, that’s not real life, is it? Except it is, for some people.

For me, it’s hard to understand how that’s possible. I’ve never managed to hold a regular job. The social interaction drained me. It was even hard to attend daily lectures at the university. I was often absent because I needed to rest at home every second day to recover.

And I had more energy then than now. These days I need a couple of days to recover from social interaction. That is even though I rarely attend social events now.

If I have a social event scheduled, I need to plan how I’ll handle other stuff. For example, I don’t have the energy to get much (if any) work done for a couple of days after “hardcore socializing”.

Unpleasant surprises don’t drain neurotypical people’s energies

We just got new neighbors. That was inevitable since the apartment next to ours had been empty for a while.

The worst part is that our new neighbors have small children. That means more noise!

While the neighbors seem quiet (as quiet as kids can be, so still not that quiet) and well-behaved, I’ve been upset.

Dealing with change is hard for autistic people. The new neighbors moved in unexpectedly, and more sensory load is a horror to me.

I instantly started planning soundproofing solutions for our home. That was my defense mechanism, I guess.

I’ve been more tired this week and have even less energy. I guess getting upset about having new neighbors drained me.

Things that are not a big deal for neurotypical people can be upsetting when you’re autistic. I don’t think NTs lose their energy levels when they get new neighbors. Unpleasant surprises don’t affect them like they affect autistic people.

The spoons and forks

Spoon and fork on white background

It all comes down to the spoon theory. According to the spoon theory, when you’re chronically ill or disabled, you have a limited amount of spoons each day. Any activity, whether it’s working, showering, or cooking, takes out a certain amount of your spoons.

The fork theory is also fitting for autistic people. While the spoons symbolize your energy levels, forks are external stressors. Some forks are tiny, while others are gigantic digging forks.

We can all handle only so many forks being stabbed at us each day. A minor annoyance can be a gigantic fork that sends an autistic person into a meltdown.

Having new neighbors was a fork sharp enough to drain me for days.

For neurotypical people, life is straightforward. They have unlimited spoons to spend on socializing, cooking, or whatever they want and need to do. New neighbors don’t affect how much work they get done the following week.

That’s what I envy about people who don’t have any disabilities or chronic illnesses. They don’t need to restrict anything or think about how much they can manage.

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