Meltdown

I had a meltdown yesterday.

No you didn’t see it. No it wasn’t a big show of screaming, sobbing, lashing out.

It was pain, quiet crying, almost completely unable to speak. I was with my boyfriend only.

So how is this a “meltdown”? If I could control it so that it didn’t happen in front of my coworkers and it was quiet, surely it is not actually a meltdown.

1. I didn’t actually reach the point of meltdown until I was on my break.

2. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know how I can control the actual melting down part until I am in better circumstances. Maybe I am not always actually melting down but am actually in the pre-meltdown stage.

I know that yesterday was a meltdown.

I do know that a meltdown is a response to be overstimulated/overwhelmed and not being able to deal with it. And that is the part I cannot control.

So what happened?

It started with a mask mandate. I am not going to say I can’t breathe in a mask or anything like that because I can. But the inside of a mask is hot and when I inhale, it clings to my nose and mouth. It was a sensory hell. (We found solutions to help, so this shouldn’t be as much of an issue anymore.)

Then it was three people in the library in quick succession who all needed my help, one of which I had to tell to put on his mask.

Then I knocked over a full cart of books. Which was loud and sent people running to me to make sure I was okay.

That caused an adrenaline rush. And the beginning of the migraine I had for the rest of the day.

I helped more people. I took headache medicine. I ate lunch. I tried to do some work on the computer.

I completely didn’t recognize a former employee (granted I never worked with her and had only met her twice). I texted my bosses that she was here and they told me send her down… which gave me a nice social situation logistics problem as I tried to figure out how casual I could be with this and considering I hadn’t recognized her before she said her name and hadn’t given any outward indication that I did know who she was.

I went on my break. The plan was to watch The Amazing World of Gumball while I play Animal Crossing. I can usually multitask and enjoy doing so. I turned off some of the lights to turn down the sensory stuff. I try some stimming things to calm down. (Though I am just now realizing that stimming probably won’t help if I am already overstimulated…)

I couldn’t multitask for long. I thought I was just bored and started playing Minecraft instead.

My boss texts me and asks me to open some doors while I’m downstairs. I run to do it… barefoot and maskless. I realize I’m maskless and pull my shirt collar over my nose and mouth when I see the other person. She points out my barefeet and laughs a bit. I explain I was on break. She’s fine and a bit apologetic.

A guy walking by (pressed up against the wall like we can’t walk around) takes this time to knock a picture frame off the wall.

I go back to break. I just want to calm down and play Minecraft and calm down before going back to work.

Boyfriend is being enthusiastic and cheerful as always. These are traits I love about him but at this point, I really just need some silence. Also by this point, I have lost my ability to talk. I shut Minecraft because even that has gotten to be too much.

My boyfriend asks why I’m not talking. I manage to get out the word “overwhelmed”.

The inability to talk is weird. I have so many things rushing through my head. So many things I want to say but can’t seem to communicate. Sometimes it’s because I am scared of the other person’s reaction or I don’t want to hurt their feelings and it’s a serious conversation (and I’m already overwhelmed). And if I have to speak (like someone else who doesn’t know I’m overwhelmed walks in), I can snap out of it (which makes me feel like this is all somehow invalid, to be honest).

I have to get back to work. I have to calm down. I have to be able to speak.

My boyfriend manages (he is so amazing) to snap me out of my inability to speak. I start telling him everything that happened and I overexplain and spiral and I cry.

All of that. From the time I couldn’t speak and shut Minecraft through the crying and spiraling. The fact that light and noise and movement and trying to focus on more than one thing at once hurt. The overreacting to things that are not a big deal. I should not have been crying. It was just a cart knocked over and some socially awkward things.

That is my meltdown.

It’s not that any one thing is at the root cause of a meltdown. It’s everything. It’s a bunch of little things all piled on top of each other. Like shaking a can of soda just a little bit at a time.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is other than maybe an interesting point about meltdowns. I saw an autistic person on Tumblr yesterday rant about how some people aren’t really autistic because they have better control over meltdowns. It made me question for a bit (self-diagnosing self doubt yay!). It still makes me question a bit, to be honest.

But meltdowns aren’t the main point of autism. It’s a social and communication deficit. It’s also usually a sensitivity to things non-autistics don’t sense. We are literally wired differently. It’s all of those things that cause meltdown. Meltdowns are just one symptom on an already very diverse spectrum.

Autistically yours,

Kitty

What am I Supposed to Say?

Since figuring out that I was autistic, I have been realizing things that I can attribute to autism.

This is actually a very freeing thing. The fact that there is a legitimate answer to “what is wrong with me” but there actually is nothing wrong with me and I’m just wired differently… it is amazing and it is a relief.

But as I find more things to attribute to my wiring and switches, I do want to make note of them.

In the last two days, I have noticed my own social deficits. After the fact, but I have noticed them. Maybe I can learn from them or maybe not and it will probably most definitely happen again.

I don’t know when to insert myself into conversations. Like if I have something irrelevant I want to say to someone but they are already talking or even they are just silent but busy, I have no idea when to speak. I usually wait until they are done speaking (so as not to interrupt) and there are different examples for important things but when it comes to things like I just saw this hilarious thing and want to show you… yeah I don’t know when to talk. And it is always awkward for me. It’s always a guessing game of “how do I say this without being weird?”. A lot of the time, that awkwardness is gone in seconds… unless I mistime things or someone acts in ways I didn’t expect (you know, the “oh that’s nice…”, either in those words or in the actions following).

The other social deficit, and I caught this one earlier today at work… I don’t know what to say after I thank someone. My boss and co-boss (I work at a very small library so they are actually also my friends) cleaned and organized my desk and the messy filing drawers that the previous person in my job had left behind. I was avoiding these drawers because they were kinda gross and I try not to trigger my sensory issues as much as possible. But my coworkers had done this for me and had given me more desk space. I thanked them. I told them I had kind of been ignoring the drawers for a while. They showed me all the nice clean things. I thanked them again (and at this point, I started to feel like I should say something else besides thank you but I had no idea what…).

I actually realized the deficit the second time it happened when my co-boss pulled out something she had ordered. The other day she ordered these cool strips that are made for stimming (they stick to things and you can pick them or rub them because they are slightly textured) and she had told me she was going to give me one when they came. Well, today they came and she gave me multiple (it came with more than she expected or she ordered more, idk) and I thanked her. And she showed me how awesome they were and explained how to stick them and how to pick at them. And I thanked her. And she kept telling me how cool they were. And I felt like I really should have been saying something besides just “thank you”.

And now that I think about about, I have had that issue for a long time. Because I always want someone to know that the things they have done for me are appreciated. But what are you supposed to say besides just thank you and they keep talking?

So those are my “Ohhhhhhhh that’s the autism, isn’t it?” thoughts for today. There will be many more posts like this. In fact, that will probably be a good 80% at least of this blog.

Autistically yours,

Kitty, the Book Dragon

“You’re Not Autistic”

Autism isn’t something that there is a “one test fits all” for it. Still, when you tell people you’re autistic, they have expectations.

One of the biggest expectations (besides perhaps an inability to take care of yourself) is that there should be a social deficit. If you are autistic, you shouldn’t be able to understand emotions. You shouldn’t know how to react when someone is upset or even be able to tell that they are upset. What even is empathy?

So, news flash, autistic people can not only understand emotions (though it varies how much), but they also have them themselves. It’s true that one of the key aspects of autism is a trouble with communication and social skills but autism is a spectrum. You are going to have people on all places of that spectrum.

That includes those who are highly empathetic and those who don’t get emotions of others at all and everything in between.

I am not an expert on this by any means. In fact, I’m still trying to understand everything myself. That’s the purpose of this blog. (That being said, if I am ever offensive, please let me know and I will correct it.)

Oh look. ^^^An example of empathy. So I must not be autistic, right?

Or I’m just a kind person who is trying very hard not to hurt people because I don’t like being hurt.

I am a highly empathetic person. And I try to understand what other people are feeling so I can say or do the appropriate things. Someone is sad, you offer to listen or give a hug. If someone is happy, you listen to what they are happy about and try to be enthusiastic about it too. If someone is angry… you stay the heck away until they cool down or seek you specifically out.

Actually I have no idea how to deal with anger. I’ll take suggestions.

So where is my autistic experience here? I haven’t actually got there yet.

Emotionally/empathetically speaking, my autistic experience is that I can’t tell when people are in certain moods. Sarcasm flies over my head. I tell jokes or share things I think are funny and they either think I’m serious or no one laughs (except for my boyfriend most of the time and he is also autistic).

If you sound slightly snappy, I will leave you alone because you are possibly mad at me (even though you are probably just momentarily irritated by whatever you were doing and my interruption didn’t help) (or maybe your serious tone sounds like your annoyed tone). If you are silent and not smiling, I might assume you are sad and ask if you are okay. If we’re in a group of people and everyone is silent, I will feel extremely awkward, even though nothing happened. I just want to break that silence because it feels like we should be talking and I will find something to say and try to figure out how to say it without seeming weird. How do you actually start a conversation?

Also, I have learned to hide my emotions in certain circumstances. I don’t wear my meltdowns and awkwardness on my sleeve. You can’t tell anyone they are or are not autistic just based on the emotions you see.

I don’t expect you to believe I’m autistic just because of the examples above. If we go with just those examples, it just screams socially awkward. There will be more specific examples later that will help but I don’t expect anyone to believe I’m autistic because of just this.

Convincing you I’m autistic is not the point, though. The point is that autism is a spectrum. There are varying degrees of how empathetic and socially savvy we are.

The other point of this is that you don’t get to say who is and isn’t autistic. I don’t care if you are an autism scientist with two autistic children and a classroom of special education students that you’ve taught for twenty years. Even if you yourself are on the spectrum, you don’t get to say who is or isn’t autistic.

By telling me I’m not autistic, you are implying that I should be doing much worse than I am and that the much worse you’re implying is the norm for autism. You’re not leaving room for learning or the fact that some people who have trouble learning. You’re putting autism in a box and saying “this is what it looks like”. You are hurting the people who need more support than most. You’re hurting the people who are wired differently (including me).

There’s not a one test fits all. I’ve seen the criteria. I’ve seen the examples of symptoms in women. I’ve done my research. I have come to the conclusion that I am on the autism spectrum.

I am autistic. I have emotions and empathy.

Austistically yours,

Kitty, the Book Dragon

I am Autistic

If you stumbled upon this site, welcome. If you are one of the few I have entrusted with the link to this site, welcome.

Hi. I’m Kitty St. Michel. I have just found out that I am autistic.

This blog is kind of to help me sort out and organize my feelings about all this. I have a lot of feelings about this and a lot of thoughts.

I am self-diagnosed. I have done the research for a long time, I’m not just choosing a trending label. Some of these posts will be sort of explanations of reasons why I believe I’m autistic. One day, I might want to try to get a doctor’s diagnosis and I will show them this site for examples. Or I might want to tell people who don’t believe me because I am bad at explaining things verbally– I work better through text.

In the end though, I don’t care whether or not other people agree with me. I know myself better than anyone else. And knowing that I am autistic has answered so many questions and in general, made me more self confident.

So if you’re here for the ride, welcome. Have a fidget cube. There will be special interest ramblings later (you get to hear all about my obsessions, lucky you!!!).

Autistically yours,

Kitty, the Book Dragon