I rarely have meltdowns. I usually have shutdowns. However, yesterday I had one and I would like to share with you how I felt.
First of all, I usually have meltdowns just from emotional overload. Usually, with sensory issues, I feel exhausted, have a shutdown (vague, internal gaze) and fall asleep wherever I am. Since I have alexithymia, I have a very hard time understanding and identifying how I feel. This leads to me having difficulty processing emotions, and becoming emotionally dysregulated. A lot has happened in my life, and the mixture of emotional charges, has been too much.
I can’t exactly explain the beginning of a meltdown, mainly because I never realize I’m starting to have one. I start to feel a heaviness in my head and in my eyes. I know I felt confused, brain foggy and a feeling of an “emotional balloon” getting bigger and bigger. This is the best way I can describe it. The more it grows, the more desperate I feel. Eventually, I simply blow up.
I lose the ability to understand what I’m thinking and I cry. It’s a desperate sob, not a normal cry. As if everything is externalizing. When that happens, it’s like I go into shock. As soon as it starts to calm down, the feeling of being sick comes. Every time I have a meltdown, it’s like I have the flu afterwards. I feel feverish, cold and shaky, with headaches and body aches, and I couldn’t sleep properly. That was yesterday. I almost didn’t sleep and today I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck (and you can see how my eyes look below).
I had to take my meds and now I need to recover. I just want to warn you that meltdowns are NOT tantrums. I am an adult and it is still deeply tiring and stressful, and I will have several days ahead of me feeling exhausted. We have physical signs of the impact of this on our bodies and minds. It is confusing and debilitating. I feel emotionally drained.
So be understanding. I wouldn’t blame a person with epilepsy for having a seizure (and sometimes meltdowns can be epilepsy seizures in some autistics). Avoid placing expectations and help us recover. Give emotional support and don’t make us feel guilty.
Obviously, this is MY experience. Every autistic person is different and meltdowns can be with biting, screaming, crying, hitting, etc. It is an externalization of energy, so it depends on the person.