My Facebook post from yesterday:
So, meltdowns suck, are painful, are hugely embarrassing, and you cannot stop them . . .
Meltdowns don’t stop when you become an adult . . .
A meltdown has been ongoing all day . . . I am in hell . . .
My environment sucks . . .
Trying to block everything out with music. Life keeps intruding . . .
According to Bec Oakley from Snagglebox, “Anybody Can Have A Meltdown”:
What are meltdowns?
Put simply, a meltdown is a state of neurological chaos where the brain and nervous system overheat and stop working properly. It’s called that because it’s the body’s equivalent to a meltdown in a nuclear power plant, in which the fuel in the reactor core becomes so hot that it melts and releases energy.
Sometimes it gets so hot that it causes an explosion, and the energy is released outside of the core. It’s this explosive reaction (crying, yelling, lashing out) that most people refer to when they talk about behavioural meltdowns, but that’s just the bit that you can see. There’s a whole lot more going on inside during a meltdown.
Bec Oakley goes on to describe what happens during a meltdown:
What happens during a meltdown?
When we find ourselves in a stressful situation from which we can’t easily escape, the brain becomes flooded with emotional, sensory or cognitive input which jams the circuits and kicks off the ‘fight or flight’ responses associated with panic. Executive functions like memory, planning, reasoning and decision making start to shut down, which makes it even more difficult to find a way out of the situation.
Eventually the neurological pressure builds to the point where it begins to trip internal circuits like language, or is released externally as an outburst of physical energy like yelling, hitting or running away. Although this explosive reaction often seems to come from nowhere, it’s just one part of the meltdown cycle.
Meltdowns are horrid things. They hurt so much and you can’t stop them. They also don’t stop simply by becoming an adult. I am 41 years old and I still have them. At least now I know what they are and I can feel them building. Five years ago I didn’t know what meltdowns were. I also didn’t know what autistic burnout was. Five years ago I was finally diagnosed and I finally had answers. I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t losing my mind, and I wasn’t broken.
The first time I went into autistic burnout I had no idea what was happening to me. I had no words to describe it. It was hell. It felt like I had been sucked into a black hole. I was being torn apart, yet no one could see it. I was screaming for help, but no one heard me. I had to claw my way out on my own. It took years. During that time I was diagnosed with PTSD. That was just over 12 years ago. That initial PTSD diagnoses has now been upgraded to Complex-PTSD.
I have fallen into autistic burnout many times since, but I knew what it was and I knew what to do. I have once again fallen into autistic burnout, but this time is different. I know longer have a healing environment to submerse myself in. In fact, it is this environment that I currently exist in that has led to this newest bout of autistic burnout. I have been having more and more meltdowns. Yesterday was a particularly bad one. As I type this I am still struggling to recover from it. I am shaking as I type. The crying that started yesterday morning hasn’t really stopped. My brain wants to shut down, but I have to keep going. I have responsibilities to take care of. I don’t have the luxury of shutting down to allow my body and mind to heal.
Yesterday evening I went through my old blogs looking for ones about meltdowns. I started blogging in September 2012. Pain and struggle seem to be re-occurring themes with me and it is getting really old. Today I have been playing Avril Lavinge – Keep Holding On over and over again. I am determined to make it through. I will keep holding on.
Here are my past blogs about meltdowns:
Why Won’t They Listen? – January 27, 2014
Being Emotionally Exhausted – February 27, 2014
Here I am Again – The Long Road of Living Exhausted – January 8, 2015
Side to Side – May 13, 2015
Here is some more useful information about meltdowns and autistic burnout:
The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them? – Psychology Today Article
Meltdowns: triggers vs. root cause – Blog (Life, His Way – Thriving with Autism)