No, I wanted to get on here or on youtube and make a reaction video to something else entirely. I wont mention what that is yet just in case I do it later then it can still be a surprise.
Instead, I am writing this. It's 6 am and I cant sleep, even though I should. (I'll be working a late shift tonight and I know that I need to rest up.)
But instead of being able to rest, I am writing... and I am writing because I find myself unable to do the one thing that I wish I could... to let myself break down.
Sometimes I still fear using the terms that were given to me in my twenties. There are people in my life that would be ashamed to see me use them. While it's easy to admit to people in my personal circles, to say it publicly feels like I might injure those who I've either not told, or who would rather ignore their perception of a particular set of facts...
However, the facts are not something shameful and they aren't something that I should feel the need to hide. Those people will never read this anyway. At least I hope they won't...
So just to give a little bit of insight for the reader... I have Asperger's. I am "on the autism spectrum", and there are things about my life that make it a little different from most. What I need to write about right now, is that I am an adult, in the middle of a meltdown. Yet rather than complain about what has led to this or why I am overwhelmed, I feel that perhaps I could do something constructive with my feelings. I can talk about the idea of an adult Aspy meltdown, through the lens of my personal experience, and perhaps let others know a little bit more about some of the possible variations of life "on the spectrum".
There are other people like me who know what it means to have a meltdown in the sense that I speak of. I know that you are out there, but to most people familiar with the concept of the "meltdown", it is through the perspective of a child's version.
That would be because at this point, the world is somewhat more familiar with the idea of the autistic child than the adult. When we talk about Aspergers or autism spectrum disorders we are almost always shown the examples of children. Sometimes it's treated culturally like it's exclusively a child's condition, which by the way is entirely false in case anyone is confused. I suppose I can understand the lack of adult reference. It's because as we get older, the signs change outwardly. We do learn to adapt and to display different outward behaviors, especially when it comes to the dreaded "meltdowns".
When I was younger, my meltdowns, though not called such at the time, looked extreme to other people... Sometimes I would wind up in the fetal position, my eyes full of tears, rocking back and forth until I literally fell asleep that way. Other times my emotions would overwhelm me to the point that I would slam my head against the floor until I lost consciousness on purpose or I would punch holes in walls while screaming at the discomfort that was tearing me in half from the inside out... (that's actually how I broke my hand 12 years ago. Now arthritis adds a lovely reminder every time the weather changes)
From the outside these looked like tantrums. They were normal for a toddler but they became less and less acceptable as I aged, or at least they did publicly. In the privacy of my home, I suppose they were simply adjusted. I was who I was and there wasn't a name or condition linked to that, (lots and lots of therapy, a dozen trial and error medications and recognition of "emotional and behavioral problems", but no inclusive diagnoses). It was one thing at 12, another at 16 and even 18. My family knew I had reactions like that, they dealt with it as they could... Some of their reactions were just as extreme if not more so on occasion... but by the time I was married and my ex wife had to see them for the first time, I had begun to realize that my behavior wasn't quite perceived as easily or summarily dismissed as normal anymore.
Outside of my home other people didn't act this way, even the children... and my outbursts were a major cause for alarm. Discovering this was a pretty big blow. I had worked my whole life to try and become some form of normal or socially acceptable. I honestly thought everyone had these moments in private. I did not know any better. Now as a young adult discovering otherwise, with no clue that I had aspergers, I purposely worked to restrain, control and eventually eradicate my meltdowns entirely from my life.
This may sound like a good thing you say. To most people this is progress. A grown man throwing a child's tantrum is ridiculous and unacceptable right? Well, yes, that is something that I have to agree with sadly... but the thing is, that nothing quite replaced them. I took medication for a time that helped me to suppress my emotions, and I learned ways of stemming that could abate the outward projections and loss of control that came with an outburst, but whether released or not, the emotions still built. The feelings that led to a meltdown, still overwhelmed me.
So what happens to someone like me when the emotions that used to be released through meltdowns, are kept under wraps and covered by the socially acceptable facade of normalcy? What happens when all the finger fidgeting and deep breathing that I use as a coping mechanism, has left the inside of my head shaking and humming like a bomb that isn't allowed to go off or a caged hulk that has no way to smash its way out; when the practice of suppressing tears, leaves you unable to cry even when the pains are tearing you apart?
You see, here's the thing. I know that I need the meltdown right now... I know that my head feels like that aforementioned bomb, and if I could let the pressure out, then I can avoid the destruction that feels inevitable. I purposely tried rocking this morning, hoping that it would coax the tears from my eyes and begin the process so that I could get it over with, but the moment I felt the tears get close, I immediately moved into breathing techniques that ushered them back into their cages. Consciously I know that this happens because of my deeper fears. I fear a full on, old school meltdown like its the end of my world.
I know that I cant let myself lash out physically without major consequences to my life, so control has become involuntary at this point. There is so much shame and fear associated with my history of meltdowns, that through whatever is in my power, I promise myself in every situation, that there will be no holes in walls or head smashing release ever again. Part of my now involuntary self control means that those days are long behind me. At least, that is the intention.
But that still leaves one major problem. I don't know how to let it out.
What I wish more than the rest is that I felt safe to just cry, rock, and hyperventilate until the meltdown left me as the puddle that I need to become right now. I wish that someone could hold me in the middle of it while I groan incomprehensibly, a shaking mess with my hands in my hair, heaving exhausted with muscles spasms... and that they not look away in discomfort or frustration.
Instead, I sit stone faced and cold on the outside while my insides burn themselves alive. Instead, what has replaced the meltdowns over the years has been a long journey thru drugs of both the prescribed and self administered variety, unhealthy sleep patterns, suicide attempts, blackouts, seizures, broken bones, featureless depressions, chain smoking, embittered resentful attitudes, displacement, outbursts of angry screaming that come and go without realization, and an aftermath of personal losses that I can't always comprehend in scale... Nothing has really ever replaced the release of simply being able to let it out.
I just find new ways to bury it, until I can LET IT GO...
And THAT is the trick. That is the one saving grace that each of us finds in some form... That most of us with this need, having grown up with it as a part of us whether we knew it or not, eventually learn enough about ourselves that we do find a place or a practice where the bottled up tensions can in fact melt off. The stressors that push us to the brink can be alleviated just long enough that we get to start over. Maybe it's through writing, or painting, or fishing. Some people can find it at the gym, others in the outward vocalization of a song... We find our ways when we can and that is important.
Instead of a meltdown, we have a melt-off... but until then, it stays bottled.
For me, it's in campfires and self reliance. I know I need it soon to get away from all of this noise and socialization, money and career stress, worry about the world and my relationships, or the relationships in my world, marketing, publishing, living situations, unfulfilled potentials, 3 jobs and late checks, heartache, heartbreak, losses from the past, obligations and weights and nervousness about how people see me, answering questions that I don't know how to answer, looking in the mirror just to see if anyone can tell how sad I feel or just plain wanting to punch a hole in my steering wheel...
If I don't get it soon enough then I'm afraid I might take one of the other routes. I need my fire. I need my rain, I need to chill with my avian buddies who show up every time I go (crows) and if I'm gonna be real, I probably need a joint while I'm at it, but ya know what? That's ok... It is ok to know that I am in a meltdown right now and need a melt-off, and its ok that I still have them.
They just look a little different these days.