Meltdowns

This Sunday night I got all the way to rumble, almost going full meltdown. I decided to make a TikTok about it, because I felt it was important that people see what it looks like. This is not a tantrum. This is not a fit. I am NOT in complete control of my mind or body at this stage. What little control I have I am fighting my instincts to exert.

In the video you can see that I’m having problems with making clear concise sentences because my brain is starting to fritz out. My eyes are all over the place. If someone had wanted me to make eye contact, it would have been disastrous. I am literally fighting an urge to run or flail or punch or kick or just find someway to get the built up energy I have in my body. If someone had tried to hug me or hold me I would have beat the crap out of them because at this point touching me would trigger the full meltdown and I would have NO control at all. All my emotions were bubbling just under the surface of my skin, and it would have taken just one more thing to set it completely off. So I removed myself from the situation so I could keep my family safe.

To be clear. This is not fun, and just trying to keep the small level of control I have in this instance was exhausting. I am still feeling the effects days later. I was rather harsh to my family in the moment. It was not pretty, and I did have to apologize afterwards for something they know I can’t really control. But I felt it was important that I remind them that while they did trigger the meltdown with the water leak, I was not really mad at them. The situation was out of control, and they were in the crossfire. They have both had meltdowns as well, so they understand.

So, why film it then?

Here’s the thing. There have been multiple incidents of women—white women—acting horribly and then having a tantrum when they were caught on video doing so. It’s not just the VS-Karen, there have been other instances where mental illness has been used as an excuse for bad behavior. Weaponizing tears is a very real weapon in the white women’s playbook for getting out of trouble, and it’s frighteningly effective.

Maybe the woman filming VS-Karen did trigger her anxiety because she realized she was going to be held accountable. That’s theoretically possible…. I’m no psychiatrist or therapist, but she did seem like she was in distress after BEING CAUGHT DOING SOMETHING WRONG.

But does it excuse the people around her telling the woman she was attacking to just back off and cut it out? What if that had been me having a meltdown due to something unrelated. What if the police were called because some little Mexican woman was “having a tantrum’ in the middle of a store? Would the patrons have been as nice? Would the police? What I were darker? What if I were darker and male? I’m not linking to the examples of what happens in that respect. You can do that by googling “autistic man shot by police,” you don’t even have to add “black.”

The takeaway

I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want people to feel like they have to be careful around me because there’s a chance I could get overwhelmed and then it’s an issue. If you feel like you want to swot up on what to do in case someone has a meltdown, you can find a really good resource here. But let me take the most important bit out for you….

If someone is having a meltdown, or not responding to you, don’t judge them. It can make a world of difference to an autistic person and their carers. 

Meltdowns – a guide for all audiences, National Autistic Society

We know ourselves pretty well, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Most of the time (as adults) we’ll try and remove ourselves from the situation to prevent possible issues. It’s a little harder with kiddos, but if you notice the signs of a meltdown coming on, try and help them out. Until law enforcement has better training dealing with these types of situations, they are unlikely to make it better, so maybe don’t call the police unless the person is a danger to other people.

Give the person time alone to let the meltdown run its course if at all possible. Make sure you show them respect; remember, a person in meltdown is feeling trauma in losing control of themselves. They know it’s not what “normal” people do, and it is embarrassing, frustrating, and horrifying. If you can minimize adding any negative input, try to. It is okay if you yourself feel shock or horror, just do not show it.

And most of all, don’t think that this is something that is “normal,” for us and happens every time there is a change. Generally, that’s not the case. But it is something that can happen. We just hope it won’t.

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