I seem to forget every time it is over – what was the problem? It really confuses me. Why did I just have a meltdown? Why did I have to sit rocking on the floor crying, not really knowing why?
Surely I have some idea about what probably brought it about – I am stressed about something, usually when I feel the demands from my life exceeding what I am capable of doing. Yet this explanation cannot account for the fact, that some days I am fine, and can do lots of things, and other days I fail to get out of my pyjamas.
So what exactly happens when my brain seems to stop functioning properly?
My best guess is, that it is some kind of overload. If I think about too many things at once, and these are things that ‘need doing’ or it is something I feel I should do a really good job about (like a paper at uni or an event I am hosting), then unless it is an extraordinary day (where I am full of energy and positive vibes) I get into a mood that is a bit like an existential crisis. I think: Oh – no! I am NEVER going to be able to solve this problem, or do this right (I cannot deviate from my plan or from the ideal!) – there is only right now, and I am STUCK! Aaargh!
Then another part of my brain is simultaneously in problem-solving mode, and it keeps going: Come on, now! You KNOW that there are strategies for solving this problem. You MUST have encountered some strategy that can be used now, right? Can’t you just forget thinking ABOUT this and just DO something? Or if it is all too much why don’t you play a tape with some relaxation technique or soothing music? Or…
And that ‘existential crisis’ part of my brain will just keep saying: no, no, no – it is no good. And I feel how my whole body is just stuck in that rocking, ball-shaped position on the floor. Just trying to calm my breath, stopping this from evolving into an anxiety attack…
The best trick to make it stop is also the worst: play games on my iPad. It conveniently takes away my focus and stops my worries, there is only that game, and the frustrations it may produce when a level is a bit tough, is all within the limit of the easily tolerable. Why is it also the worst? Because as soon as I go back up to the surface of ‘the real world’, I feel miserable again, only with an extra layer of guilt, for having ‘wasted my own time’ playing such a pointless game.
The next best thing? I am still working on that… Sometimes writing my thoughts down helps, sometimes if I accept to just ‘wait it out’ then that in itself can slowly calm me, and sometimes it seems there is nothing to do, but simply play those stupid games while I wait for my husband to get home from work. Things always get better when he comes back home, because I feel safe with him, and we can talk about it and try to find out what is the matter. Being an aspie himself probably makes it easier for him to understand me.
Some years ago I would not even think to distract myself, I would often be caught in the misery of crying, until I was exhausted. So at least things have improved a little…!
An open question for the readers: If you are autistic yourself and have meltdowns, anxiety attacks or something similar – what are the strategies you use to get ‘back on track’?