I read many posts for autistic adults and there seems to not be that many posts regarding meltdowns in adults. There are plenty of parent posted content about kids melting down.
By content, I am not speaking about someone vaguely mentioning that they had a meltdown. I am speaking of raw emotions and honest, painful, writing. I mean an adult putting themselves in a vulnerable position and documenting their own meltdowns. Not sugarcoating it but exposing the horrors within one’s self as they lose control. It is not an easy thing to write about or but I feel it could give people a better understanding of ASD.
This is why I have decided to document some of my meltdowns and photograph myself after and during my own meltdowns. This will not be so pleasant but I will also provide video of my melting down. It may look disturbing but think about this. If my behavior during a meltdown appears disturbing to the general public imagine how I feel? As an adult on the spectrum, I think it is vital to document meltdowns for numerous reasons.
Why Document meltdowns?
- They are very misunderstood and often mistaken as bad behavior. People must be educated to understand that we are overwhelmed during a meltdown. It needs to be understood that we can lose control and our actions during the meltdown are not our choice. For instance, slapping myself in the head multiple times is not something that I have planned to do . I am well aware it is not smart or charming and understand why the general public may find it disturbing. I am aware that it could result in head injury. It just happens. I lose control over my hands and end up swinging. I can not tell you why.
- Keeping a diary of our meltdowns could help us better identify our own triggers. Since I have started doing this, I know that I am most overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness and social isolation in addition to sensory imput
- We need to teach the NT population the best way to deal with adult meltdowns. Most of the writing about meltdowns is for parents and focuses on kids. The difference is society is slightly more tolerant of kids melting down. Though as a child it did not feel this way to me. As an adult, I have had the police called on me because it “disturbed ” other people . Many cops are not trained to deal with people on the spectrum and an encounter could end in tragedy. More training in dealing with autistic adults is vital. In an ideal world all cops, guards and medical staff would be educated on how to deal with meltdowns.
What exactly is a meltdown and how is it different from a tantrum?
A meltdown is not a choice. It is basically when you lose control due to being completely overwhelmed. Being overstimulated by sensory input would also count as being overwhelmed. We usually do not want to have meltdowns and it causes us public embarrassment. A tantrum as acting like an asshole because you do not get your way. When NT parents write about their kid’s meltdown by referring to them as “Tantrums or outbursts” it can be harmful.
Now, that you know what a meltdown is, I want to share with you my personal story of meltdowns. I have decided to create a photo diary or my meltdowns and take a picture of myself after the meltdown so you can note my expression and see my distress with your own eyes. I even have filmed video footage of an actual meltdown. I do not feel entirely comfortable sharing something so personal but feel it needs to be done. During a public meltdown, I have been stared at as if I am a monster, people have laughed at me and some threaten to call the cops. Perhaps if these people could see something like this, they would be more understanding and have acted differently.
This may be a travel site but I had many meltdowns when traveling because obviously autism does not go way on the road.
Under each picture, I will describe my feelings before, during and after the meltdown. I will describe how I acted and everything that I can remember. It is in dairy form and I will try to explain my thought process to the best of my ability. I have basically melted down every day in March so far
March 5, 2020
Everything felt hopeless and a new worry entered my life. I had just cried for 30 minutes and felt the tightness of panic in my chest. I was hyperventilating and it was so hard to do something as simple as breath. I was heartbroken and I had been for some time. The recent heartbreak had resulted in nearly daily meltdowns.
Many people on the spectrum have difficulty with emotional regulation. Stereotypes suggest we do not feel emotions strongly but for me, it has always been the opposite. If anything, I feel them more intensely than most people. Enter a new negative emotion and my entire thought process changes..
I felt stuck in a meaningless job that is often so demanding . I have to be out in a loud city all day with the deafening howling of sirens and multiple conversations screaming at me from every direction.
I soon lost thought and starting punching myself in the arms. I have no idea why I did this and do not remember making the choice to do so. It just kind of happened all at once. . Luckily, I was safe in bed but it felt anything but safe. I was frighted and there was no escape from my thoughts and my senses. After about 40 minutes of panicking and crying, it ended.
After the meltdown it was as if I were in a trance. I briefly lost my ability to speak. I tried to utter a word but nothing came out. It is not uncommon for me to go nonverbal for a time period after a meltdown. All I could do was stare listlessly with my lips open as the drool ran down my blanket and pillow. While laying on my side i stared at the drool dripping onto my pillow as if it were the most fascinating thing i have ever seen.
When I came out of the trance , I felt the pain in my arms and a sinking sense of shame. As a kid my meltdowns were very bad and my school would abuse me when I had them. My parents had hoped that i would “Grow out of it” but that is just bullshit.
March 6, 2020
Today I was forcing myself to go out amidst my paranoid fears of COVID19 and my current overall feeling of shitiness . It was Friday , the end of a stressful work week where some people had walked off the job creating an overwhelming work load for me. I thought perhaps, I will not cry today but that did not happen.
I just felt so worthless . I did not like myself and could find very little endearing traits about me . I kept asking myself how anyone could possible like me as the feeling of worthlessness consumed my thoughts.
The uncontrollable crying happened and then the self harm instinct kicked in. I punched my arms and legs like the previous day and I guess it was not enough to satisfy my overwhelmed brain . I then hit myself in the head multiple times.
Like all meltdowns this came to an end and I wondered if i could put on the mask and pretend that i was okay enough to brave the public for a few hours.
I had a headache but pulled myself together enough to leave my room.
Some claim ASD is a gift. Well, it never was for me and meltdowns are torturous not gifts.
If you ever see someone you care about hurt themselves during a meltdown , gently come up and speak very calmly to them and grab their hands. Do not allow them to harm themselves . Often we do not know we are doing it. If they like tights pressure and hugs, hug them tightly and tell them that everything will be okay. Even if it is just a lie.
March 7th, 2020
Another day and another meltdown . I just could not seem to get out of this spiral of emotional distress and being oversensitive to everything. I had multiple meltdowns. The photo is taking during crying.
I could not shake my hyper focus on my loneliness . The crying and panicking started. When I was in-between meltdowns , I grabbed my camera to film the second half.
The video may be graphic but it is honest. I have never watched it or listened to the sound nor do ever intend to do so.
TRIGGER WARNING : self harm
Between the deafening sounds and the intense stabbing feeling of panic, there was not a chance that I would not melt down.
All I could think of was emotional pain. I did not want autism or any of it’s other common comorbidities. I wanted to live a normal , healthy life. Instead, here I am at 30 something and weeping like a baby. I often wonder if I am actually capable of dealing with the pressures of living independent as an adult for a prolonged period of time. I know that I can but during meltdowns I am helpless. My worry is that one day a meltdown will cost me my job or my friends.
You may notice my holding my head in the video . I do this because tight pressure makes me feel safer .
March 8, 2020
Today , I did not have a full blown meltdown but I did cry.
I am not joking, I shut down big time after yesterdays meltdown. I must have slept 18 out of 24 hours. I could not leave my bed at all. I could not stand to go outside and see the bright, blinding sunlight or talk to anyone. The last thing I could do was socialize . My arms had some bruising and discoloration from me beating my self up and my head was still sore.
All, I can think of it that I don’t want to face work tomorrow or see anyone. I will have to but I will likely be somewhat withdrawn.
This period of lifelessness after the meltdown is called a shutdown . Many adults transition out of having meltdowns and only have shut downs. During a shut down, I want a tight hug and too be told everything will be fine while being led to a safe, soft place to lie down.
UPDATE: Just before bed I had a crying meltdown. Apparently , i did not go the whole day without a meltdown as i had thought.
March 9th 2020,
“Worthless, worthless , worthless worthless …” . The word kept repeating in my mind like a broken record. I could soon taste the salt from my tears as they ran rapidly down my eyes.
I soon felt a shortness of breath and starting rocking back and forth in the hope that stimming would liberate me from feeling like a subhuman piece of shit. Nevertheless , stimming did not help.
What i needed at the moment is for someone to comfort me and tell me that they care. I often need validation from others to feel better about myself. I felt like a child at this moment . I was so weak and helpless.
During my days of travel I had far less meltdowns . I do not know what has become of me.
My autism has always made me feel as if i do not belong to the society and i want nothing more than to belong to society. Sometimes it wears me down. What am I to do about the recent wave of self harming ? I had beat myself in the arms again during this meltdown.
All I want to do is stay in bed but can not. I often wonder if I will ever become a real danger to myself. At least once a day, I wish that i had never existed and wonder how long, I can continue like this.
Someone please hug me tightly and tell me that you care. I need somebody to want me to exist.
March 10, 2020
No meltdown today but tightness in my chest and the usual horrors that come with chronic anxiety. The City is in mass panic due to COVID19 and this heightens my anxiety. I sense it in the air and absorb the emotions around me. I feel what you are feeling too and pretty intensely too. My senses are razor sharp and your panic is my panic.
I do not want your panic but I take it anyway. I haven’t a choice . I am damned to have this oversensitive brain to the point that is can become torturous . I feel a crying spell coming on and would be surprised if I get through the day without an explosion of tears.
I am very worried that i have CODVID19 but exhibit no symptoms and infect someone else and they die. I have been obsessing over this for some time.
Update: There was brief crying and again i felt the need to hit myself
March 12, 2020
Why is hitting oneself so addictive? Is it trauma , adrenaline , self punishment or all of them ? I think it is all of these for me. Pain has been said to release endorphins that may make one feel less numb, However my meltdowns made me feel anything but numb. I felt an overwhelming range of negative emotions .
For the last week, I have had a shortness of breath . I thought it was perhaps a medical issue but no, it was anxiety . I was worried about the idea of having to self quarantine from this pandemic. I still felt heartbreak because , well, people can be shitty.
Today , I did not have a full blown meltdown but I started punching my arms . I punched my arms hard and watched as the color of my flesh changed into a shade of purple.
COVID19 has now disrupted my routine which makes me anxious . It is as if I have to reprogram my thoughts and that is difficult . I could not buy the things I usually buy at the supermarket and walked out with noting . I can not take the hysterics of people panic buying . It is uncivilized and this virus seems to make the neurotypical people acts like animals. As scared as I am I would not hoard supplies so that others can not have them. The world was competitive enough .
Another worry that surfaced was that my clients for my dog walking job are canceling . If I do not get enough walks, I won’t get paid . There is no safety net. All of these is causing my metal health to falter . I want to stay in bed and cry. In survival of the fittest, I am clearly not the fittest. Should I let the other animals trample all over? Should I just retreat into isolation and depression and give up?
It is not even about the virus so much . It likely won’t kill me but the uncertainty overwhelms me.
I find it very hard to not hate myself sometimes. Pain offered me something and I am not sure just what that is yet.
I am aware that this is not good, healthy or normal . This is meant to document how I feel and my actions . I am not sure of documenting this is healthy . In a way it is like watching one’s own deterioration.
I can only expect that this whole month will be bad for me . My autism does not do well in panic stricken environments.
March 13, 2020
Did I meltdown when travel the world? I estimate to have melted down in nearly 40 counties . The worst meltdown that I could remember is in Romania where I slammed my phone into a brick wall and broke the screen .
Another was when I walked across the border of Ukraine and Romania and everything went totally wrong . Another bad one was in the Berlin metro . The point is that when traveling , I still have just as many traits of autism as I do at home.
It makes things harder but I still pulled off long term travel. Now, being back in the work force with all it’s pressures my meltdowns are more frequent .When I moved to NYC over a year ago, I started having more public meltdowns than ever before. It is a mixture of the sounds lights and lack of space. Add that to the constant financial worry and it is an ideal recipe for a meltdown .
This is not meant to be a daily dairy but to just document when the meltdowns happen. With the paranoid enviornment , i am sure there will be the need for more updates pretty soon.
March 14th, 2020
March 2020 is the month of the meltdown. I awoke overwhelmed and frightened. I had no idea how to cope so I punched myself in the arms and created new fist shaped bruises. I then cried .
I know this pandemic is worrisome to everyone . However, autistic people are often upset by disturbance of routine . This shattered that. I now have to chance my entire lifestyle so that i can do what is best for humanity. I realize that I do not have the luxury to work from home and am more likely to be exposed to the virus than people who do.
I can not go to concerts and museums and libraries as a way to escape . I also went to the super market for the first time in months . I realize i may not be able to live on takeway any longer if things get worse .
One thing this virus taught me is that I am not the shitty person that i often feel like. I only bought what i needed at the store, did not buy anything to hoard and waiting my turn through the madness . I was even feeling more generous and bought my friend a coffee. If anything it has made me feel more community oriented as opposed to individualistic . The revelation that deep down i am not an asshole should make me feel better.
Not really. My tendency to obsess over things like this is unhealthy and harmful to my mental health. Then, routine is fucked and the uncertainty is the worst of it. I am uncertain if i will have a job after this. I fear being sick and all alone. I also fear loosing my parents and friends who are older or have health conditions .
One may say that it is not a big deal but it is not. This could wipe out 3 percent of the population. It could kill millions. So perhaps , hitting myself is not the answer but i don’t know how else to cope when i am this overwhelmed.
A word of advice is if you have an autistic family member, please keep in mind how hard a change in routine can be. They may be more meltdown prone . Try and make them feel safe and if they self harm , gently hold onto their hands. Don’t let them harm themselves as I do.
I will always remember this day because it was a nightmare. COVID19 changed my entire life within a timespan of one week. I was laid off of my dog walking job. Much of the service industry was also laid off on the same day. I also got word that my friend was leaving the city. Who would blame them though? Many people are leaving because the state has more confirmed cases than any other place in the county. New York was just is not the same .
My job loss hit me hard. How was I going to buy food? How was I to feel a sense or purpose ? What of my routine ? All these fears were bottled up inside of me. It hit me very hard that life would not be the same. To be honest, I did not feel comfortable working as soon as Broadway and museums shut down. I wanted to social distance like It was suggested to do. This whole thing is causing me immense panic. I had a panic attack and thought it was shortness of breath. Frankly, I wanted to get the virus and get it over with. If it killed me, it killed me. It was better than living in fear . It was better than feeling so helpless and alone.
Did I meltdown ? Of course I did . I cried , hyperventilated and hit myself. I punched my arms and legs longer and harder than I ever did before. The bruises that were yellowish and healing , would soon have new bruises over them.
I have to learn to cope better but how? The news just isn’t good. In Crisis humans typically depend on each other for comfort. during 9/11 New Yorkers comforted one another. Now ,another person could pass on the virus to you. Don’t forget to stand 6 feet away and wash your hand 70 times a day
This was meant to be a documentation of metldowns but lately COVID19 has consumed much of it. That is because the uncertainty, death of my routine and increased feelings of isolation. Due to this I have had more meltdowns than I ever had in any time period of my life.
March 19 but technically early March 20th
For a day things were getting better. I could focus on other things for a bit. I cleaned so long that I got a headache from virus killing , disinfectant bleach. All seemed as okay as it could get considering the circumstances .
Then I got to looking at social media and the constant talk of Corona . I then started reading new articles. Researches suggest that social isolation could go on for 18 months until the vaccine was tested. I read of the coming of the Second Great Depression and worried about the future . I read of the 26 dead in New York.
If this goes on for months then I would rather just be dead. Let the fucking virus kill me but it probably will not. Sitting alone allows me to focus on my fears, insecurities and social isolation. I can not cope with isolating and being stuck in a room to think myself to death for over a year.
By that time, I would starve anyway. If this continues suicide may take more lives than the virus. Between unemployment and loneliness , there seemed to be little hope.
I was very anxious and the feeling of fear overwhelmed me. I put my blanked over my head because it made me feel safer. Somehow having something surrounding my head makes me feel better.
I cried for a while and then waved my arms without thinking . I ended up hitting myself in the head multiple times. First with me fist and then slapping with my palms . I also hit my leg but do not remember doing so. I just felt the pain afterwards.
I filmed myself doing so. The images are graphic so be warned . I did not watch it of course . It is there for educational purposes .
It has been over a week since I have updated this page. On Tuesday , I had a temperature of 99 degrees. My normal temp is in the 97 range. Last night my fever peaked to 102. Due to having some COVID19 symptoms, I am not going to leave my house until a week after all are gone. I have never had influenza (that I know of) in my life. This would be a strange time. I must deal with the uncertainty until I can get an antibody test. If the antibody tests is positive ,I can donate my blood to possibly help those in critical condition.
I have not been hitting myself as often and the bruises on my arms have nearly faded. I do still cry multiple times a day and panic . Perhaps the initial shock of having my routine and entire lifestyle shattered has finally hit home. Sometimes people think I am self centered but grieving over your entire world changing is not selfish . It is natural .
Even Its are having a difficult time with this. I walk around and see the sunlight outside but I know that death is in the air. I hear multiple sirens going off a day. More so than ever before and I wonder how many are due to this plague.
I don’t know if my tears are due to panic , social isolation or the knowledge that so many people are in critical condition. I think it is all of it. I fear that I will forgot the social skills that I taught myself. I have used social media to vent and I think people are getting sick of it.
This has been one of the worst months of my life but I think it has been for many others too.