Autistic Meltdowns, the Chernobyl of Neurodivergence

I’m told this is an apt representation of one of my meltdowns.

This past Monday seemed like any other Monday. Not outstandingly good, but not totally sucky either. Or so I thought. Until I got home from work and my son told me he may have destroyed the baby gate (it keeps the robo vac out of the laundry room). Hearing this, I thought, “Hey, it’s a baby gate. How complicated can it be?” and decided to take a look. Within a minute–literally, like 60 seconds–I had become so frustrated that I was yelling curse words and throwing the gate across the room, breaking it even worse. At that point, I gathered up all the pieces, calling them every motherfucker in the book, carried them outside, and slammed them into the garbage can. Honestly, it was one of my more epic autistic meltdowns.

What the Hell?

You’re probably thinking, “Okay, that reaction seems a bit over the top.” You’d be right if it was just about the baby gate. But, this shitstorm of anger and frustration was about so much more. Like the stresses of the day. Monday had way more stress than I thought it did. I had to socialize with other people, even though I wasn’t in a place to handle that. The goddamn grocery store was out two of the three items I needed, which was irritating as hell, And, then I had to drive home with a bunch of people who didn’t even seem to have gotten their fucking license from cereal box tops. It was a perfect storm of stress.

It Gets Worse

And, there’s all the shit I’ve dealt with since the last time I freaked the fuck out. By that, I mean the multitude of indignities and microaggressions that are part and parcel of neurodivergent life. Inhabiting a system that is not set up for people like me and dealing with neurotypical folks who are utterly goddamn clueless that not everyone is like them is exhausting. It creates a baseline level of stress that is always fucking there and the everyday stuff builds on it. Looking at all that, is it any wonder I snapped?

It’s Weirdly Therapeutic

Notice that the last paragraph mentions “all the shit I’ve dealt with since the last time I freaked the fuck out.” If you’re thinking there’s a hint of a restorative aspect in that, you are not wrong. A good meltdown can be surprisingly cathartic. Unfortunately, it can also cost you money (i.e. replacing baby gates), make people around you super fucking uncomfortable, and make you look like a raving goddamn lunatic. And, those are just the negatives I came up with off the top of my head. While it is a definite pressure relief valve, it ain’t a cheap one.

School’s In, Bitch

I’m trying to approach this as a learning opportunity. One of the big takeaways is that my life really has to be built around my neurodivergence. I’ve said it before, and apparently need to be constantly fucking reminded of the fact, that coping skills are my best fucking friend when it comes to this shit. In this case, Monday’s meltdown tells me that my first act on getting home should be decompression from the day’s stressor. Not trying to fix a fucking recalcitrant baby gate the minute I got home. It was, in retrospect, a terrible fucking idea and one I paid for with a broken gate and a sore thumb. Basically, I need some way to let my fucked up brain know that the situation has changed and requires a different approach.

Another Goddamn Ritual

Transition rituals are, apparently, are key here. Who fucking knew? Probably everyone but me, which is not a new phenomenon. But, as I was in the midst of writing this, my friend, Hugh Hollowell, posted an entry on his blog about transition rituals and how they’re an important part of the way he handles his neurodivergent weirdness. Really, it’s not that I didn’t know transitions are important, I’ve always had them. They weren’t rituals, though, and they don’t occur with any kind of regularity. I’ve always just… done shit, you know? No true intention, no real consistency, just me, farting around doing whatever dumb shit was at hand. So now, I get to cook up some kind of regular, consistent thing to help me get from the “Fuck, I hate this shit!” feeling that dealing with other people brings on to the “Thank you God for providing this sanctuary” sentiment of finally being home. My life is so goddamn exciting.

This Is Not How Shit Was Supposed to Go

So, does it suck coordinating every-fucking-thing around the way your stupid goddamn brain works? Duh. But doing the sucky thing so your life doesn’t fall apart is what being an adult is all about. Which is a far fucking cry from what I thought adult life would be like when I was a kid. Like every child on the planet, the number of times I said, “I can’t wait till I’m an adult and can do whatever I want!” is beyond count. Little did I know that “doing whatever I want” would consist of coming up with weird little rituals to keep from losing my shit on a daily fucking basis. But it is what it is. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hermitize myself before I punch someone in the throat.