I Had a Meltdown the Other Day

I had a meltdown the other day. Quite some time had passed between meltdowns, looking back it is impossible to remember when my last meltdown even was. Long ago, months, years maybe?

When I was younger my meltdowns were more explosive – fits of rage, yelling, screaming, breaking things. As an adult my meltdowns are far less frequent and have become more of an implosion, folding into myself, alone in my own hell.

My body aches and my stomach twists in knots. There is no air, it becomes hard to breathe. I cry and hyper ventilate.All I want to do is hide in my dark room under a pile of blankets. Lights hurt my eyes, every sound makes me jump, anything touching me becomes painful, even being around people hurts, especially if they ask me to communicate with them.

Over the years I’ve gotten better at predicting and preventing them. I try to avoid encountering too many triggers in one day.

When I’m tired or feeling as if my energy levels are off, I always take some time to relax alone. If I pay careful attention to my mind and body, there are certain hints that my mental energy bank is getting low.

Certain activities take up more mental energy than others. It’ like I’m a video game character with a life bar. Every thing I encounter drains a little of my life away – florescent lights, trying to pay attention to multiple conversations in a crowded room, meetings & phone calls with people at the office.

Some items tick away slowly at my life bar, while others take away chunks at a time. When I run out of energy a meltdown is eminent. Nothing is going to stop it when it gets to this point.

There is one thing that makes life extremely difficult. In general I am a pretty nervous person. Although I’ve learned to push myself through my anxiety, doing so takes up a lot of my energy. Unfortunately I have only so much to give in one day.

Finally, as I get older, I am learning to say no to people when I am not up to going out. The people in my life are of my own choosing. I spend time with my family at least once or twice a month and I can count my true friends on one hand.

My friends seem to understand that I don’t have a lot of social time to give. They don’t know I’m on the spectrum. Most people would have no idea. When I am out in the world, I give 100 percent. Being “socially acceptable”  is work, and I can’t do it when I have limited energy available to me.

Fortunately, there are a few ways that I can regenerate some of my precious (& limited) life-force. Naps are wonderful, soaking in long hot baths, taking my dog for a walk in the woods, reading a book, and writing are all things that help me purge excessive anxiety.

I have to be kind to myself. Learning to listen to my body, though yoga, was one of the best things that I’ve ever done for myself. Many Aspies can feel disconnected from our bodies, but when we reconnect something amazing happens. My body tingles and my brain becomes sharp – cutting like a laser.

My gifts outweigh my curses, when allowed to live my own way. Don’t expect me to conform to all of society’s norms. Autism Awareness is being aware that people have autism. I am asking for Autism Acceptance. Please give us the freedom to be ourselves.

So much of my suffering comes from the negative stigma associate with being Autistic, and the amount of energy spent trying to look “Neurotypical” every day is massive. Until we have more compassion and understanding, I am always – Anonymously Autistic.

 

 

 

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27 thoughts on “I Had a Meltdown the Other Day”

  1. Great blog! It must be difficult to be ‘closet’ ASD but it’s great that you know yourself well and have methods of dealing day to day. I got my diagnosis late but came right out and told everyone, and I found so many people to be so supportive. I don’t think autism has the negative stigma it used to, unless you are referring to the internet culture of calling socially inept people autistic, in which case I personally don’t associate that with Autism. It’s just a label, really, like when people say “that’s so gay” they don’t mean it literally 😀
    I really hope one day you will be able to tell people about your diagnosis, it really does help so much. You may feel a load has been taken off your shoulders as you don’t have to pretend to cope and act like a neurotypical person so much, you can just be your autistic awesome self! I know that when I’m feeling weird or overloaded I just say “I’m feeling extra autistic today” and the people around me instantly get it and leave me alone and don’t interact with me unless necessary. You may even be pleasantly surprised at the amount of support and understanding you get, and may wonder why it took you so long ;D
    In the meantime you do you and keep going with this awesome blog, it’s fantastic and inspires me a lot! Much love x

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    1. Autism has the negative stigma, at least it has in my country (east europe in general) My son is only 21 month old he has only a few symptoms from the spectrum and since he was little i take long walks with him in the neighborhood at least twice a day, we go to the nearby park etc.. and since a few month ago when we got this diagnosis and i told a few people and the word has spread there are lots of neighbors who look at him with pity, and not only the older people. We walk with my cousin and her 1 year old boy and people are talking to him and laughing at him and they just look at my boy, sometimes i hear them say “poor baby” and things like that. They don’t want to interact with him because they heard that he has something, it feels like he is contagious. People can be mean especially in situations like this. And he is only 21 month old, doesn’t even talk, i am sometimes wondering what will happen later, how much would he suffer because i told about his diagnosis to some people. So in my opinion you stay anonymous, it’s easier. At the end you are who you are with or without the diagnosis, they have to accept you or walk away!

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      1. With me, growing up diagnosed, I’ve already been anonymous for my entire life. Wondering why I could not seem to be like everyone else my entire life was painful, however discovering my Autism has provided me with answers and allowed me to have compassion for myself like never before. I spend my entire like trying to be like “them” – normal people, only to find that I either excel beyond what “they” were capable of or to fail completely. There is no middle ground with me.

        I still work to fit in. It takes up a lot of my energy. “Normal People” out number us Aspies, but we are out there hiding in the crowd.

        Now that I know Autism so intimately, I can pick other Aspies out in a room.We share some silent connection, there is often a nod and a smile. I wonder if the person in front of me is aware of what I can see in them, but out of respect I say nothing.

        I must mention something about bullying and teasing. Unfortunately, it seems to be extremely common for Aspies to be teased as children. With our without a diagnosis, people seam to be able to “sniff out” our Autism, although they do not know what to call it. We are obviously different, with our eccentric ways and erratic body movements. That is why Autistic children learn to blend in, to avoid being picked on – or at least that’s how it was for me growing up.

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  2. I haven’t had one of those in awhile, but I did have tell my family that I was to my breaking point on Sunday. I admit to putting my head in the sand every now and again and waiting for the decision making process to go away. But I also don’t like to rock a boat.

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  3. I think it is very brave of you to share your story. Meltdowns are often misunderstood as a person manipulating a situation or others. I have told the naysayers, “Who would want to impose limits on their life if they didn’t have to?” I notice nobody had any comeback for that. Imposing limits gets easier for me as I get older, because I am not a child or young person to be manipulated any longer and have learned the hard way what to say and to reveal and what not to.For me, limits are necessary and vital to maintaining sanity and safety.

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    1. I think more than anything with this being Autism Awareness / Acceptance Month – I really wish people would be aware of what being an Aspie is really like. I have a very hard time maintaining social relationships with people because they take it personally when I don’t want to hang out after work regularly / as often as people expect friends to be available. The truth is, I don’t have much social energy left after a 45 hour work week.

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  4. I try every day to pretend to be “normal”. It is pretty close to impossible. I lost a job in less than a week because I tried too hard. I just couldn’t be what they wanted me to be. I couldn’t do what they wanted me to do. I personally feel like an alien around people and they notice it no matter how hard I try. I know of two people who have identified me as an Aspie. They literally saw it the moment I walked in the door. They didn’t tell me until things got weird or went wrong. It is possible your friends and coworkers know and haven’t said anything.

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    1. I think people who know Aspies or anything about Autism would definitely spot me. The thing is, and this is why we need Autism Awareness / Acceptance, people don’t know anything about Autism for the most part – except for the stereotypes. I am also very good at keeping my head down and staying under the radar for the 8 hours a day I do have to be around people. I also try to pick jobs that do not require me to do a lot of socializing.

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  5. A part of me is sad that you feel the need to hide your autism but I do understand why. Hopefully one day it won’t be that way. I love the understanding you have of yourself though and what you need. The way you describe the energy drain helps me to see things from my sons perspective.

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  6. Oh, my word, Anna, this was life-changing. My 19 year-old son is autistic but nowhere near as verbal as you are. You write beautifully and you gave me priceless, luxurious insight into what he might be thinking. I can totally see when his life bar is beginning to drain and I rush him to someplace calm, but I never understood it the way you write about it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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    1. Kate, I am so happy my words have been so helpful to you. If you can teach your son to love reading and writing, it may help him communicate better in the future. Out loud I can blend in with a crowd, but on paper I shine. 😉

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  7. It’s just getting harder and harder at the moment to prevent meltdowns…
    By the time I get home from work/university, especially by the end of a week, as you said, the pileup of my sensory overload bursts out at anything or anyone my mind perceives as a last straw…
    It sort of settles, but the guilt of lashing out at people, remains…
    Just had one this morning, and I feel awful. I am very much aware that I shouldn’t have reacted that vehemently, but sometimes my best efforts just make things worse. I just ordered a pair of ear defenders, as even the best plugs aren’t helping sometimes, especially when shopping, the otherwise probably normal noise, shatters my ears and my brain…
    I wish I could sit out, but the light is too strong…
    You’re not alone…
    Wish you well,
    Moshe

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  8. Thank you so much…
    I just managed to stop another one this morning, or rather backed out midway through… It looks like my meltdowns are triggered by high pitch noise like raised voices, clinking of cutlery, dripping taps or gutters, having people too close in my face…
    I noticed though that there is a small window when I can still back out, the problem being that if let’s say in an argument I feel being right (and unfortunately most often I am) a few seconds might go into the PONR…
    Any advice? I’m at the very beginning and I feel lost in (my) space sometimes.
    Moshe

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keep paying attention to any reoccurring signs you may be headed in the direction of a meltdown. A symptom journal can be good. “Were you tired? Hungry? Did you have a headache? anything else strange?” etc. I’ve noticed I get a certain feeling even 2 hours before a meltdown sometimes, but I had to learn what to look for like someone who has seizures would learn to look for Aura.

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      1. Hm, never thought of it, but it really makes sense, and I guess I’ve already have done it rather unconsciously. But I’ll have to learn more consciously. I also am T2 diabetic on meds plus severely controlled diet, so yes, hunger might be an extra factor to consider. A diary might actually be a great idea. Thanks a lot AA 🙂

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  9. I can so completely relate to this; when I was younger I would explode, either directly at people or I would throw things or I’d have to go away and punch something.
    Now, though, I tend to internalise things more and maybe restrict myself to a swearing fit, as happened the other day after a very bad morning topped off by an idiotic health form the job centre wanted me to fill in.

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  10. So how do I help a 15 year old boy with frequent meltdowns where he screams, breaks things and often hurts himself in the process because he is not aware of what he is doing? What can I do while he is having a meltdown to help him? The meltdowns usually happen because he is told no to something that he asked for.

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    1. That is rough. I am not a doctor but there may be a lot of underlying anxiety. Any way to teach him calming breathing exercises? Everyone is different so it’s not easy to give a solution. Hormones probably play a huge role at this point too.

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