Feminist Aspie

Things I Wish I Could Say When It’s All Falling Apart

on July 17, 2016

I’ve had a weird couple of weeks. There was a lot of uncertainty, although that settled down towards the end of this week. There was the worst meltdown I’ve had in years. And now there’s a heatwave coming, which my hypersensitive anxious brain interprets in much the same way as “there’s a zombie apocalypse coming”. Tonight I’ve been thinking about a common thread running through the various different low points: needing more than ever to express things and seek help and reassurance, but not having the ability at the relevant time to do so verbally, or not doing so for fear it sounds ~weird~ or ~silly~ to others. So here’s a list, off the top of my head, of things I wish I could have said to the people around me about when I’m not coping so well.

  • Meltdowns are not just about the behaviour that you, a neurotypical observer, can see from the outside. For me, meltdowns feel different each time, depending on the circumstances. The main things I remember from this time is lots of crying, the mother of all headaches, and feeling sick whenever there was new input. This meant there was no way I could look at my phone screen, so there was no way of contacting friends even if I would have had the typing words to explain it all. It’s inescapable and at the time, it feels like nothing will be okay ever again.
  • If I’m going into meltdown and I walk away from the conversation, don’t follow me. And don’t pressure me to talk right now, because I can’t.
  • For you, this was upsetting, but probably just one of those weird blips that’s over now. For me, this was huge, and it won’t leave my thoughts so easily. For a while now, I’ll be operating in a sort of survival mode – the primary focus of decision-making is that I don’t want that to happen again. This probably means I’ll be more anxious than usual, too.
  • If I’m apologising more than usual or otherwise appear more anxious than usual, the correct response is something like “You seem a bit nervous, are you okay? What’s up?” The correct response is not “stop that!” as if I have a choice.
  • If I’m in meltdown, honestly there is no correct response; only time will calm me down. Having said that, “stop getting upset!” is an incorrect response.
  • Use some of that empathy and theory-of-mind that you claim to have – just because something isn’t scary or hard for you, doesn’t mean it isn’t scary or hard for me.
  • I am so so so super anxious right now. It would be nice if I could be open about that without feeling silly and pathetic. You probably don’t think I am, but some would, and that’s enough to put me off opening up. Hence all the apologising suddenly.
  • On balance, today has gone well; there have been wobbles, but I’ve taken an approach of lots and lots of distraction (for example, I’m actually blogging for once!) and it’s all under control. Again, it would be nice if I felt able to talk about this.
  • A lot of small talk right now is going to trigger that anxiety response. And I’m not sure there’s anything that anyone can do about it. Sorry.
  • I’m withdrawing a lot, I know. It doesn’t mean I’m angry with you or upset with you. It just means that I need space, that a lot of input right now is overwhelming. It will pass, I promise. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself.
  • Mainly,  I want someone to tell me it’s okay and not shameful to feel like this. I feel like I’ve got a better grip on the rationalising side of things now – this will pass, and it’s not going to hurt me – but I do find reinforcement of those things helpful,  even if it seems obvious and patronising. What I don’t need is your judgement.

13 responses to “Things I Wish I Could Say When It’s All Falling Apart

  1. Karen Wintman says:

    It’s very OK to feel like that. I have huge meltdowns…would actually call them breakdowns, with crying, rage, breaking stuff. I am learning to open my heart to myself and others because I seriously don’t want it to happen again. It’s been six months…l totally grok the out of control thing. You are OK in my Aspie world, totally OK!

  2. Shane Thomas says:

    Your feelings are valid. Whether it’s anxiety, anger, irritation, or any other emotion we’re conditioned not to feel (or at least not feel in public so we don’t make others around us uncomfortable), however you’re feeling is valid, and should always be recognised as such.

  3. wordphage says:

    This speaks to me, and I feel like the most important thing to remember is that people who don’t give a shit about anything but their own convenience even if you apologize from your heart for being scary/crazy/whatever and are really working on it, are complete assholes.

    I’ve been accused of bullying/manipulating people when I’m in tears of (disproportionate for those normal people, whoever they are) of pain and terror. And you know what? The last and one of the worst times that happened, a complete stranger came and held my hand. Sometimes people really are decent.

    Then again, I allow my damn dog to withdraw when things are too much, let alone another human!

    • Yep! I feel like (some) neurotypical people would want to have people around to comfort them in those situations, so it comes from a place of meaning well, but… surely there comes a point where they must realise it’s anti-helpful for us? Thanks for reading! 🙂

      • wordphage says:

        Oh, I needed the comfort, that guy was the only helpful person I met. Because he, y’know, treated me like a fellow human being in pain, instead of a problem/bully/malfunctioning wind-up toy.

        But yes, I let domestic animals have more bodily and emotional autonomy than some people want to allow other humans, and it makes me sad.

        And of course, thanks for writing.

    • Jennifer says:

      For me, it’s shutdowns. Chin to chest, eyes dripping… my main memory of elementary school is dreading hearing the voice of the girl in the desk in the next row telling the teacher I was crying again. Different teachers crouching and quietly talking until I somehow pulled it together enough to head to the girl’s room, often escorted by my only friend. At least 3rd through 7th grade. Hoping I’d be in there alone… you know how looking back you wonder how you not once thought to do something like go into a stall?… because if a random girl came in she was programmed to want to hug and talk and that’s worse than the crouching teacher. They seem to be interchangeable, the 3 last elementary school teachers, must’ve decided on the method.

      A few months after my diagnosis, day before I turned 35, I was with a group of 20-40 year old adults volunteering at a youth center. Didn’t know there was the half-court basketball, well, court, cement walled, the room the elementary age kids were doing dodgeball in, and one with a video game. I walk with a cane, so was sitting against the court wall, watching a blob move in patterns I couldn’t discern (extra people so tagging in and out so new people I was supposed to talk to but there was this loud blob sometimes coming close to my feet and even staring at the basket so I could clap if the ball went through was too much…) Someone had seen how I interacted. They saw “shutdown.” I was in the girl’s room, somehow with her having touched me very little, and she was behind me with her hand on my shoulder, very lightly. My brain stops recording for most of a shutdown, but I remember the feeling when I knew I really could talk… and could be silent. And she waited for entire sentences. Second person who I told (I live with my retired father and my mother, who has dementia as well as physical disabilities. One of my aunts pops by every month or so but hadn’t, or not when there was a good time… but Dad’s probably an Aspie who doesn’t have an interest in people who aren’t family or who isn’t happening to be at the same place doing the same hobby and Mom’s side of our family is across the country. So mostly it’s him and me, although I do get out a bit more than I used to.

  4. Andrew Hickey says:

    It is *entirely* appropriate to feel like that. Obviously I don’t know your personal situation, but the combination of this *evil* weather and the horrific political uncertainty have made me have one of my *very* rare meltdowns recently.

    I’ve been in a longterm meltdown that’s stopped me even writing – hellooooo menopause hormones plus me plus kids all summer…..
    This REALLY helped me.
    Thank you, truly.
    Full Spectrum Mama

  6. […] Things I Wish I Could Say When It’s All Falling Apart – Not sure how this one made it here given that it was basically desperate post-meltdown rambling, but apparently people liked it. […]

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