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.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Links to previous posts about meltdowns:


and also here

Feeling heartsick and very discouraged. I thought things were better. I was so excited to see him.

I would not for a minute say that things are all his fault, or that I am a victim. But I do think that problems get swept under the rug and stuffed away and dismissed instead of being resolved. I also think that we sometimes treat and speak to the people who are closest to us in ways that we wouldn't speak to/treat a regular friend or a complete stranger...and this goes for me as much as anyone else. The first time I realized how I sounded when I spoke to my own kids....speaking to them in a way I would never speak to anyone else, I was so ashamed of myself...but, we all do it, unfortunately.

I KNOW that I am flawed. I realize that I am hypersensitive and take things more personally than I should. Yes, I get anxiety attacks and meltdowns. Meltdowns and anxiety attacks are not a conscious, voluntary decision. No one would *choose* to have one. Anyone who is having one, or for that matter, who's had their PTSD triggered, would love nothing better than to have it STOP instantaneously and to feel better again. The rate of substance abuse among people with these disorders is high for this reason- we want something, anything, to either make it stop or not happen in the first place. Getting angry for someone for getting triggered, experiencing a meltdown, or having an anxiety attack can only do one thing: make it worse. It is not, unfortunately, something that one can "snap out of". And yes, as a parent of kids on the spectrum, as someone who used to be partnered with an aspie, I'm very aware: dealing with meltdowns sucks for everyone. They are a truly sucky experience.

It might be germane to this conversation to discuss what a meltdown is, what it feels like. Because now that I think of it, I've read a lot of reports of parents punishing their autistic kids and/or treating meltdowns as if they were tantrums. When I am feeling a little better, I'll try to find some examples of meltdowns I've had and elaborate on this icky, aversive topic....because as much as I hate it, I do think that every parent whose kid is on the autism spectrum should know what a meltdown feels like from the inside.

Went back and looked at text communications from almost a year ago. I was struck by the difference in tone as well as the content. I recall really, REALLY struggling to stay together last year....yet as a whole, the communications tended to be affectionate. When we fought, we were both sorry. There was more affirmation and affection on both sides. There was more respect. Also, there are a number of small details which I remember differently from what the text records show; my memory isn't as accurate as I thought.

What's changed this year? More stress overall. Job loss, an additional concussion. The chronic, long term stress caused by a prolonged recovery, exacerbated by already existing health issues on both sides. But also, a kicking and screaming inner resistance against wanting a repeat of 2013's summer. I really wanted quality time this year, felt like I'd endured a horrible winter and wanted to bask in the reward of the summer sun and warmth and take advantage of some of the fun stuff our area offers this time of year. This hasn't materialized as I had hoped and my emphasis on wanting it seems only to have cemented against it. I will admit to growing grudgy, crabby, and jealous on this count, and to struggling with comparisons with other women, wondering what they've got that I don't. I have been feeling really negative and pessimistic about these things. Have been thinking of them as "The Popular Girls", "The Birthday Girls".....and so on....which, honestly, doesn't make me feel any better. I have agonized over what shortcomings I might have, why I might not be good enough for the things that these other girls get, and for happy outdoor adventures. Have kicked myself for not having enough money, thinking that if I had money, things would be different/better/whatever. I have been feeling bitter, left out, socially excluded, like I'm back in grade school again. That stuff people say about negativity hurting the bearer of it more than other people? It's true.

Meanwhile, I could be doing fun outdoor stuff with my kids. Yes, it would be 200% better if my partner was with me. Yes, it would be nice if we could have quality time. All I really, really wanted this weekend was to be able to talk to him about farming stuff...but I wasted most of my weekend feeling sad and left out. I need to just give up on hoping for his participation/involvement and resolve to do that fun stuff whether he's there or not, and NOT waste time moping around, hoping that he'll go on a walk or a bike ride or to the beach with me, if I'm patient. I wish that I could do these things with him, but sitting around feeling upset about it is just unproductive and makes me feel even more sad.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

That moment when you realize that it doesn't matter....that your feelings, thoughts, whatever are actually pretty irrelevant. :-/

Tuesday, July 08, 2014