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Meltdowns Suck, I Hate Crying In Public, & No I Can’t Turn it Off

My mental profile is SO spiky. I am extremely gifted at a few things but certain things I can’t handle.

Last minute schedule changes  stress me out. Meltdowns are the worst and  having one in public is embarrassing as hell. A woman in her mid-thirties crying like a child.  I hide and cry. This also happens anytime someone I trust misleads me (because I trust few people).

Sometimes if the schedule change is big enough I will go into a full blown panic. It is worse if I feel like I am trapped and can’t say no – I feel like I am drowning every time this happens. I know how to recover from them but they are not under my control.

My meltdown is NOT a tantrum – it is a very true expression of inner feelings that I can no longer contain. The dam has broken and a flood is imminent. Everything I’ve been holding in has got to come out.

People think I am being dramatic or exaggerating things but I literally can’t stop a meltdown. In addition the thing that I am reacting to may seem very small to them. They don’t see things from my perspective or know all the other factors that went into building that meltdown.

Maybe someone I love just passed away, or I am feeling sick, maybe I am having horrible PMS, or trouble sleeping, sometimes my social anxiety gets out of control.

These are the disabling things I don’t talk about.

I tend to bottle everything up, which can’t be healthy, and eventually like a can of frozen soda – when the pressure becomes too great, I POP! I’ve done this all my life.

It’s too late once a meltdown has started, they have to run their course – sometimes if I get away fast enough I can help one pass more quickly.

While meltdowns are physically and mentally painful and I NEVER want to have one, sometimes the relief felt after one is amazing especially if you’ve been under extra stress.

I always feel worn out afterwards, like someone who has had a seizure, or an orgasm. Sometimes I feel naked and exposed meltdowns make you feel vulnerable and out of control.

Please be compassionate next time you see a thirty-something woman crying in public, you don’t know what she’s got going on.

She might be autistic, she might be stressed, she might even be me. 😉

 

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52 thoughts on “Meltdowns Suck, I Hate Crying In Public, & No I Can’t Turn it Off”

  1. Thank you for your visceral post. I do not have autism, but I was terribly traumatized as a child. For different reasons than you (PTSD), I have meltdowns like that sometimes because I have flashbacks. I used to have the same problem – changes of plans would really freak me out. I’m better at that now but the crying in public thing when I have a really scary flashback still happens. Thank you for tapping into something that a lot of people face. It makes people like me feel not so alone.

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    1. “It makes people like me feel not so alone.” That’s one of the most wonderful things about this blog. I’m not autistic as far as I know, but I identify with so much of what Anna shares, she’s a huge help. I don’t melt down often, and when I do, it usually takes the form of rage rather than crying. I wonder if this is more typical with men. Feeling powerless, overwhelmed, get out of my way, I’m caught in the rapids and I just have to wait till I get to calm waters ’cause I can’t do a thing about it right now. I’ve never hurt anyone or anything living. A few inanimate objects through the years, though…

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        1. I don’t think so, Anna at least for me — I sometimes do the crying thing, but as a man I’ve learned to hold that in and never ever show it in public — so it actually morphs into a quiet held in rage if I’m in public. The rage feels so dangerous, so shamefully out of control, I’d rather go through the crying. Honestly, it feels like I’ve turned into wolfman or something. Not fun. As much as it sucks, with crying I feel much calmer and less ashamed of turning into a wild animal afterwards. Nothing against wild animals, of course 😉

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  2. Interesting. I’m use to when a female cries, people look for someone to hurt or kill, because she is automatically the victim. What I am use to, is that it is ok for a woman to cry. It is half expected. When a woman cries, she is often comforted, but these days, not at all. Guys deeply fear being judged a molester, rapist, or abuser if he attempts to comfort a crying woman. Females can’t wait to comfort the injured woman, and begin insulting everything without knowing the story. I think you live in a bad spot. Try where I live in North Carolina. Any place in this state. You actually shocked me with this post. I never knew it was like that for any woman anywhere. Interesting. Highly interesting indeed. I want to say something uplifting, but… I’ve got thinking to do. Yeah. Thinking to do.

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  3. It’s just that simple. I think some bystanders just don’t understand the phenomenon (and it in fact has caused plenty of drama at work) and even some law enforcement officers aren’t trained in how to recognize them. I guess all we can do is keep educating the public and hoping they’ll listen.

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  4. “The dam has broken and a flood is imminent. Everything I’ve been holding in has got to come out.” Fanatastic illustration. My daughter, who is 16 and has BP, reacts in a similar way. Trying to educate others about how neuological disorders/mental illness may present itself is so important. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your stories.

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  5. Yes, this exactly. Like others have stated here, I have PTSD that adds to the mix. Makes certain situations just awful. But, I think, for me, harder than my own is watching it happen to my children. We avoid everything we possibly can, but when the unavoidable occurs, it is horrible to know what they are feeling and being unable to prevent it.

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  6. I don’t have meltdowns alot, but I can relate to how you feel with last minute changes. Last minute changes make me feel very agitated and stressed out. 😦 I have had meltdowns in the past, but I haven’t had one for a long time.

    I’m sorry to hear about your meltdowns. 😦 I feel for you. Keep up the good work writing. 🙂 You are doing a great job.

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  7. I’m reading about pent-up emotions in this blog; that never happens to me. Most of the time I don’t “feel” enough to get pent-up emotions. Once in a while I feel more sensitive then usual (I actually think I should add a “thankfully it’s rare”), but I still don’t have meltdowns. Does anybody with shallow emotions (that sounds bad, but I can’t think of any other way to put it) have meltdowns?

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      1. I have a type of Alexithymia that makes it difficult to feel certain emotions, most of the time. I was wondering if anybody with my type of Alexithymia had meltdowns; if so , then my lack of meltdowns probably has nothing to do with Alexithymia.

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        1. Interesting. I have some issues with that but not as bad as when I was a kid. Writing helped me and mindfulness but I still have to concentrate to see how I feel sometimes. I feel the intense emotions and easily identify them but don’t seem to catch anything in the middle unless I focus very hard… even then I often figure out why I felt an intense emotion after the fact when I have to reflect.

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          1. I’ve read a bunch of postings by people with Alexithymia; it’s a “spectrum”. There are also different types of Alexithyma, each with it’s own type of “spectrum”. Two autistic people can have completely different types of Alexithymia. However, according to the research I’ve read, people with different conditions (say autism and psychopathy) can have the same type of Alexithymia; e.g., very shallow emotions. Psychopaths are known for having very shallow emotions (it’s their type of Alexithymia), but an autistic person can have the same type of Alexithymia and it manifests itself in a completely different way (I guess that would be an autistic way) because of their different brain structure (as compared to a psychopath).

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        2. I just had my very first meltdown. I had a tooth extracted today, and the procaine shots were very painful; I usually don’t feel them (or they are tiny little pains). I had horrible pains while driving home, and when I got home; normally this would’ve been a nothing. I actually felt upset; I usually just blow off everything. Then I started screaming uncontrollably; I don’t remember anything after that. My wife told me my meltdown lasted 1 hour,

          I’ve never had a meltdown before, and I don’t want this to ever happen again. Is there a way to prevent this? I woke up to being my normal self; I need to stay that way.

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          1. I normally don’t have triggers. The procedure I had wouldn’t cause me discomfort, normally. I’m always relaxed, because nothing usually gets to me; this came as a real shock.

            The only thing I can think of was I saw the dentist a couple of days before the procedure for a toothache. Without going into all of the details of why I didn’t have the tooth pulled (I wanted to, but I brought my wife, and she was against it) I suffered with an infection in my mouth for a couple of days before the procedure; that made the procedure more painful. Also I had been taking painkillers for the last couple of days; maybe they had some type of effect on me.

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  8. My niece has autism and she also struggles with meltdowns. I understand there are things she can’t control. However, I also want her to learn that braking things and saying hateful things to people during a meltdown is not good. Do you have any advice or ideas that could help?

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    1. She needs a safe empty room where she can be alone to calm down. Time outs were what my mom did. I needed time to regulate myself. It is harder when you are out and about. If you can get her to the car or away and just let her calm down. She’s not thinking clearly mid-meltdown and everything becomes overwhelming ESPECIALLY communication. You asking her to talk or talking to her will make things worse – or at least that is what happens to me.

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  9. Anna, I love that you’re clear about the fact that a meltdown is not a tantrum or misbehavior on your part. Next time you cry in public I hope you remember you’re awesome and human and allowed to exist and be you. Mwah! (Most people are uncomfortable around tears because their natural response is to offer comfort, but they don’t know the rules any better than we do.)

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  10. A very good and timely post. For me, meltdowns take the form of screaming and swearing as well as spinning and hitting. I go into a daze. It is VERY scary & first responders do not often offer compassion, rather suspicion and punishment.

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    1. “It is VERY scary & first responders do not often offer compassion, rather suspicion and punishment.” – This is horrifying. I’ve had a cop yell at me for crying when he pulled me over… which made me cry more… and I cold not stop. Ugh.

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  11. I laminated some cardstock paper and added big clear words that say: Panic Attack!! On one side, and a brief explanation of what it is, how common, and reassurances that I’ll be fine if given a chance to reboot. I’ve edited it a few times from my original, where I warned people to back off (LOL). This educational version has made a tremendous difference so far. Example: a woman caught me melting in a bathroom. She read it, then nodded and was so kind to me. She told me her sister had panic attacks and suggested some dietary tweaks. 😂 When I melt outside my apartment, I call it a panic attack now because it seems to be something most people understand instantly. People know panic attacks are nonvoluntary, whereas, many think temper tantrums and meltdowns are the same things.

    Just wanted to share what works for me, sometimes, when in the wild.

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  12. Thank you so much, once again for helping us family members understand better! My adult son is doing better as he is maturing, but his meltdowns used to get ugly as he included retaliatory behavior. I think along with changes around him, it has helped to discuss appropriate behavior when getting upset. As he is seeing us become more understanding, and as God is healing some emotional wounds, such discussions seem to be something he’s more willing to entertain. We are all growing.

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  13. I don’t have autism but I’m an HSP. I have been able to manage my emotions better as I have matured. Crying is good though. It’s therapeutic. People don’t know how to react to adults crying. They seem to know how to respond to children more. I guess it’s because we don’t expect adults to cry and think if they do they are weird or something. What helps me is to not judge myself or get mad at myself if I cry and especially in front of others. If I saw someone cry I would be compassionate to them so why not myself. Thanks for sharing!

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  14. First, what a remarkable photo! Yours?
    Let’s see. I had huge childhood trauma and live with complex PTSD, and the neurological strangeness that accompanies having had bulbar polio. The symptoms are generally less severe than they once were, except when they aren’t. They can make life seem rather unpredictable and, occasionally overwhelming. Often I react more strongly to my meltdowns than do others. Most people are remarkably kind and understanding. Then there are those who are not. I seem to do best when I am kind to myself. Anyway, thank you for giving the rest of us a glimpse into your world.

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  15. I’m the opposite when it comes to meltdowns. I freak out and loose the plot altogether. Physically, it’s virtually impossible for me to cry as a form of expressing emotion.

    My gran, God rest her, used crying as a form of blackmail whenever I tried to stand my ground. But she had no concept of boundaries herself. Plus, she was too busy grieving for my dad; an only child who was killed in the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ when I was 10 and my brother was just 6 months old.

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