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Understanding My Meltdowns - A Personal Insight into Autism

Introduction

Meltdowns are often misunderstood as a choice or an overreaction. For me, they are an involuntary response to overwhelming situations, particularly lapses in communication. When I feel grossly misunderstood or perceive that the person I'm communicating with isn't open to genuinely hearing me, I become triggered, leading to a meltdown.


The Physical Manifestation


My meltdowns manifest in ways that vividly mirror the turmoil churning inside me. Initially, it may begin with an inability to stop talking, a desperate attempt to bridge the gap of misunderstanding. But as the emotional intensity builds, my body reacts in more pronounced ways.

I start shaking back and forth, a physical manifestation of the internal chaos. This shaking can be localized to one part of my body or spread to my entire being, visibly illustrating the stress and frustration I'm experiencing. It's an uncontrollable response, a vivid external sign of my internal state.

Crying often accompanies these physical reactions. The tears come as a release of the pent-up emotions — frustration, confusion, and the desperate need to be understood. However, this vulnerability can sometimes lead to feelings of embarrassment, especially in public or misunderstood contexts. This embarrassment, in turn, fuels a complex mix of emotions, where rage can intertwine with the initial overwhelm. The crying intensifies the experience, adding layers of emotional complexity that can be difficult to navigate in the moment.

All the while, the shaking continues, sometimes becoming more intense as the emotional landscape shifts from confusion and a need for understanding to embarrassment and then to rage. It's a tumultuous cycle, one that's hard to break without the right support and understanding.

The physical manifestations of my meltdowns — the talking, shaking, and crying — are not choices. They're involuntary responses to a world that can sometimes feel too overwhelming to process in the moment. They're signals that I'm experiencing something deeply challenging and that I need patience, space, and understanding to find my way back to calm.


What I Need


During a meltdown, the support I require must be nuanced and adaptable to the tumultuous nature of my experience. Being spoken to calmly and directly offers me a lifeline, a chance to anchor myself to the present and begin the process of regaining composure. Assurance that communication can continue, that misunderstandings are not impassable barriers, is crucial. It's a gentle reminder that there's a path forward, a way through the immediate overwhelm.

However, there are times when words, even the most well-intentioned, might not suffice. In these moments, what I need most is the space to breathe and the autonomy to take a break from the situation entirely. The option to take a walk, to step away from the immediate environment that may be contributing to my overwhelm, can be invaluable. This physical act of moving away, even temporarily, allows me to disconnect from the source of distress and begin to process my emotions in a less charged setting.

Starting over isn't just a metaphor; it's a necessary step in my recovery from a meltdown. Returning to the situation or conversation with a fresh perspective, after having the time and space to collect myself, often leads to a more productive and understanding exchange. This approach doesn't negate the need for direct communication and assurance; rather, it complements it, offering a more holistic strategy for navigating through and beyond a meltdown.

The understanding and patience from those around me, to recognize when I need to talk and when I need silence and space, are invaluable. It's this flexible, empathetic support that enables me to manage the complex emotions and physical manifestations of a meltdown. It’s about providing me with the tools and freedom to find my equilibrium again, in a way that respects my individual needs and experiences.


Conclusion

Understanding meltdowns from an autistic perspective requires patience, empathy, and a willingness to learn from those who experience them. Through sharing my personal journey and the intricacies of my meltdowns — from the overwhelming triggers to the physical manifestations and the nuanced support I need — my hope is to bridge the gap between misunderstanding and compassion.

Meltdowns are not a choice; they are a profound expression of experiencing the world in a deeply intense way. It's crucial for society to move beyond stereotypes and misconceptions, approaching autism with an open heart and a desire to understand the individual experiences behind the label.

To those who wish to support someone during a meltdown, remember: patience, direct communication, and the flexibility to provide space or a fresh start can make all the difference. And to my fellow autistic individuals, know that your experiences are valid, your needs are important, and there is strength in seeking and advocating for the support that works best for you.

By fostering a dialogue grounded in empathy and understanding, we can collectively contribute to a more inclusive and supportive community. Let's commit to learning from each other and embracing the diversity of experiences that autism encompasses, transforming challenges into opportunities for growth and connection.


-DESTANEY ANDRADE, DA LARAXADU



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