Monday, July 28, 2014

Meltdowns: In Our Own Words

The following descriptions of meltdowns were written by a variety of people on the autism spectrum. In the interest of protecting privacy, I'm not disclosing names, but I will say that I have permission to share these quotes and also, I didn't write any of them myself. Also, all of these people are functioning at a level such that they can type or otherwsie articulate their thoughts.

"Meltdowns feel like vertigo"

"When I have a meltdown, it's like I've turned into a tree. I have to make a huge effort to utter one word (if I can) or move (without collapsing to the floor). My legs give way, it's like I'm falling down a deep tunnel and I can't climb out. Speechless, paralyzed and scared, terribly scared. When I find a way out, I will be aggressive verbally. I can manage to choose the words, but the manner is very choppy, blunt, like karate chops.. It feels like I'm fighting for my life. Usually I'll find a way to say I'm leaving now, or please leave me a moment alone. If someone is aggressive back, I may scream. Out of pure defensive mechanism."

"when i have a meltdowm i become agitated and usually physical and verbal....but usually i just scream. when i shutdown i freeze, tense up and am very quiet"

"I shake all over and feel intense frustration and fear. I also cry, usually to the point of being inconsolable. I may raise my voice to get my points across. There is no use in trying to reason with me when I have these moments. Unfortunately, when this happens to me, the people in my life react by essentially scolding and blaming me, which does not help at all!"

"When I have a melt down I scream at everyone and everything. Everything feels so unfair and it feels like no one understands anything at all. I'm not physical, but I scream and scream and scream. Then, it's OVER! Just whoosh. My anxiety is better. I don't understand it too well yet but I am getting pretty good at recognizing when it is starting and averting it."

" I can feel both meltdowns and shutdowns coming on so I try to get away before it gets to that point. When I have a meltdown, it's like I'm inside my own body watching my body throw this fit. I'm inside my head screaming "No! No! Don't say that! Don't do that! Stop!" but I can't make it stop. When I have a shutdown, I'm trapped inside this body that can't move. If I'm in an argument with someone while having a shutdown, I'm thinking stuff like "Say this..." but I can't make my mouth move and can't make any noise. Both are like having a seizure. I knew of a lady who was epileptic and when she would have a seizure, she'd do things like throw a table over in a restaurant or pull the stove over on top of herself. It's a lot like that."


One thing that interests me about these descriptions is that several of the writers took the time to distinguish between a meltdown and a shutdown. I seem to experience the shutdown variety more often. It feels so incredibly you're prey about to be consumed.

Next I'd like to explore practical help/solutions/advice for coping with meltdowns and shutdowns.

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