I am trying very hard to keep this post direct, and clear sharing the many resources that helped me. I had to analyze and process many years of information that had been tucked away in my mind. I am using the recent events between David and myself, but much of this applies to numerous social encounters and relationships that I have had. I need to first clarify that my entire life I had no idea that others experienced my meltdowns/shutdowns. I watched my mother have them – as I got older I assumed that I had learned the behavior and that it was controllable. When they would happen, after me using all of my willpower trying to control them, I would spiral into deep depression and self-condemnation. I assumed it was based on my emotional dysfunctions. Many times this brought me great confusion, and would trigger negative self-talk.
“Why couldn’t I just be alright and not act ‘all crazy’?”
I have gone through this line of thinking since a child. It is hard-wired in my brain and I struggled deeply to understand myself. It is crucial that I understand myself in order to accept my limitations and be able to see and accept my strengths. It is very important to me that I stay intuitive with my children. I do believe that understanding myself helps me understand my children and know how to be a better mother. When I was faced with Daniel’s meltdowns, starting while he was an infant, I wasn’t sure what was going on. In my gut I felt like something was wrong. It did not feel like a regular child tantrum. I did not respond to them like they were tantrums either. Something inside me understood that he was not doing it on purpose. It was still confusing, draining, and would exhaust me. I never thought of myself as sharing in this same type of behavior. In my eyes he was a child and that meant he lacked the control I had as an adult.
The mindset that an adult Aspie has full control over their meltdowns is erroneous.
While I do have the ability to stop them sooner at times, work through them in a more controlled way, and possibly be able to communicate the reasons later, they are not always controllable. Understanding that has given me great freedom. Removing the shackles of guilt has allowed me to explore ways to help myself. It is a shift in thinking, and part of the acceptance of myself. I have accepted my looping process, I have accepted my anxiety issues, I have accepted my social confusion, and with all the acceptance has come progress. It has helped me to learn with a clear mind becoming much more capable of handling my situations.
The embrace of limitations has brought a boundless amount of healing for me.
Stripping off negative thinking about my meltdowns/shutdowns has removed condemnation, and that makes life a whole lot easier. I can’t function when I feel like a horrible person, or like I have done something wrong. If you are not aware of the difference between meltdown and shutdown here are several resources I recommend. Some of these resources are geared toward children, but they do apply for adults as well. Sometimes meltdowns/shutdowns can be triggered by something entirely different than what is being expressed during the meltdown.
MY meltdown had been building up for over eight years.
I did have a few small eruptions throughout these years, but ended up stuffing them down because I was too confused or unable to articulate what was bothering me. There was another huge factor – my life’s focus was on Daniel and trying to help him. I felt like I HAD to control and ignore my emotions for the sake of all of my children. I also was trying to keep life as stress-free as possible for David. He did not ask me to, I just felt like that was what I needed to do to keep a calm house.
Since David and I have been together, it has been continual change.
I have not had any down time to deal with all of the instability in my life. I have been a mess for years trying to establish order and stability. David does not have a need for order, and stability the way that I do. He does not get tripped up or stuck by details like I do. For instance, having a house completely unpacked and everything in its proper place is not that important to him, to me it can cause a series of emotional break-downs. Once things would start to feel settled then, something would happen and shake everything up. Another move, (this is our sixth house) a new job, a different church, etc…During these years I had to be alright for everyone else. This is a lifelong role that I have had so it was an automatic process. I have completely denied myself to ensure that everyone else was fine. I think that it is part learned and part my personality that seeks to help everyone.
In our time of marriage we have moved across the country twice.
The first move I was completely isolated from family, and ended up having no friends. I only had David and the kids. We went through traumatic church/ministry issues, God issues, family issues, waking into the world of autism, and many, many things. I am surprised it took me this long to erupt. My frustrations and anger have been boiling for years because I have tried to express myself in multiple ways. I thought I was making myself very clear, but David forgets things and didn’t understand the severity of some of the things I was sharing.
There is no fault, or finger pointing here.
We both have our issues, and we both have had a lot going on in our lives dealing with stress differently. I am used to holding all of my stuff in to try to make the other person happy. In one way I molded myself into a very similar image to him so that I could be empathetic and stay supportive. I got exhausted trying to explain myself, and having the conversations spin into different directions. I spoke up on certain issues, but many times, I gave up and submitted to whatever he was saying.
I became too tired to do anything else, but shutdown.
He never asked this of me. He has never forcibly done this. I was seeking calm and quiet. There is a lot packed into all of this, but frankly, I was desperately seeking stability. I shutdown parts of myself to cope. Again, there are many factors that play into this I am not saying that David is the sole reason. He is not and he has tried his best to be supportive as best he can. We thought we understood each other, but in reality we have both been speaking foreign languages to each other.
A great quick read to insert here would be “Misinterpreting emotional cues goes both ways!”
There are many changes going on here sending me into a tailspin of instability. David has started a new job that has brought him into many transitions causing anxieties and added tension. I am moving into new areas and trying to transition into the move that is supposed to happen in several months. One of our goals with this move is to transition me into being fully self-sufficient. I have lost a lot of my skills that I had while I was in the the world on my own. I need to regain them. That lingers anxiety in my mind as well. In addition, our relationship has changed on multiple levels in the past year.
I have gotten exasperated repeatedly over the years with David’s way of communication.
He is a person who talks out everything. I do not do this, and I can get overwhelmed with having to “discuss” everything. The night of my meltdown, I had been on the verge of explosion all day. I could feel the tension from David, and so could the kids. I was having my own issues because we were encountering a new social situation the next day. Also, I had been talking on the phone dealing with Daniel’s reevaluation schedule. As well as not getting enough sleep for days. Plus, the kids had their own meltdown issues that I was trying to stop from erupting all day.
I felt accosted by negative energy and couldn’t take it.
Long story short, we both got angry and frustration levels hit the roof. We have never had an episode like this, though I am sure it was still quite tame compared to others. In the past, I would shutdown, and internalize with self-condemning talk. This whole thing was very surprising as well because David and I have not had fights throughout our marriage. This was our first fight in our, over 8 years together. I read “How the rules of relationships need to change to accommodate the needs of meltdown-prone adults” recently and it made a lot of sense to me.
Throughout our marriage, we have always had “other” enemies.
It was not until this summer that I began to see just how far I had spiraled into a completely different person in order survive my life. There were times this summer when I felt so helpless that I could not talk, or eat. This brings me to how much David did not (does not at times) understand how exasperating it is for me to have to “talk things out.” One night over the summer, after three hours of non-stop talking, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I started to lose it. I needed quiet, I had already shutdown, I told him that I could not talk anymore, but he needed to talk. I asked him to please just stop. He didn’t understand my behavior, or the extent of my frustration and exhaustion. I scared myself because I started having thoughts of self-harm. I had not had them in years.
I was able to snap out of it, but it was after I had a minor meltdown.
This last meltdown had taken over in a way that I haven’t done since my last ex-husband. That is a long story, but it was well over 10 years ago. Throughout my life I have had meltdowns that felt like I was out of my body watching my physical body being utterly helpless to stop what I was doing. I had no control. (This brought about many fears during my lifetime that’s another whole post.) This night I didn’t even remember things that I had done. There is one thing that always causes me to shutdown or erupt and that is when someone will not stop talking, or leave me alone when I ask (tell) them to. It is triggered to heights when I believe that the person is well-aware of this. I think they are doing it on purpose. I can’t process. I cannot think. It makes it worse when words like always and never are used because it makes my mind start to race into a movie – scene by scene for every year I have known them.
I comb over all of my actions, words, and the other person’s too.
I begin pointing out things that prove that it could not be true that I “never” do this or I “always” do that. Which can escalate into other arguments and frustrations for the other person. This particular night I could not even do that until later, my brain filled with black inside, and I went blank. Unbeknownst to me I put my hands over my ears, pacing back and forth in the living room yelling, “Stop it!” over and over again. (The kids were in bed in case anyone was wondering where they were at.)
I do not remember doing that.
I do vaguely remember thinking “Stop talking, please God make him stop talking.” It was during that when the words about “being a seven-year old” were thrown into the air. My mind was hazy, dizzy, and consumed with just needing quiet. At that point, I screamed something not very nice. I have never, ever done that to him before. Part of it came from years of feeling like I have not been heard, and that all of the things I have done were nonexistent in a moment. Those words were also a trigger for experiences with other people in my life. I was consumed with confusion as well because David had never talked to me that way and I didn’t understand this sudden change.
When I erupted I was not in a right frame of mind.
David went upstairs and I went into my bathroom. I started to beat my head with my hands, clawed at my arms, pinched, and dug at my flesh, while my head spun in anger. Then, I began to hyperventilate I think it helped me grab a moment of reality causing me to be able to stop myself for a second. I was able to think clearly, and tell myself that I had to go talk to David. I knew that I had to stop my behavior. I went upstairs still fuming, controlling myself as much as possible. I ended up breaking down in sobs because I just couldn’t explain things to him in terms that he understood. I already have such a hard time understanding him when it comes to emotional type of things. I know that it can be incredibly frustrating for him to talk to and understand me as well. We have very different ways of communicating. (I want to add that I have shared this post with David.)
He describes our different ways of communication as him being horizontal and me being vertical.
These are simple images of how I see it – sound waves seem appropriate.
To be continued Speaking Of Meltdowns II…