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.