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Most people with Aspergers Syndrome will experience something called a meltdown. I'm an adult with high functioning Aspergers Syndrome. It's a mental health condition that makes you think and behave a little differently to the rest of the world. At least that's how I view it.
A meltdown is like a self destructive hurricane in the brain. It's an apt analogy because like hurricanes a meltdown goes through stages before it becomes a Hurricane Wilma. The aftermath of a meltdown can leave a path of destruction and have negative consequences on relationships with people; including family and loved ones.
I experience an Aspergers meltdown at least once a month. I want to share my experience of what a meltdown feels like.
There's a few telltale signs that indicate I'm approaching a meltdown situation. Personally, I can't distinguish these signs when they're happening but other people around me can sense something isn't right.
Typical indications of an oncoming meltdown are:
At this stage, I'm calm but internally agitated. I usually start rubbing my temples holding my thumb to my ears while rocking back and forth. I do this to try to ease the pressure in my mind and to block out the sounds around me.
Sometimes if the pressure feels too intense I will slap my head or scratch at my face. Other times I will stare into empty space. Doing this does nothing to stop a meltdown, but it helps me deal with the situation at the time.
Throughout a short period, these depressive feelings fester and boil until the pressure in my head is too much. My fiancee says I'm like a pressure cooker that explodes into a full meltdown. I go into self destruct mode with feelings of anger, rage, and frustration; almost Psyctocic.
My family are supportive of my mental health problems and do their best to help me during times of trouble. Although I display signs of anger and aggression it's important to note I have no desire or inclination to harm another person, or another person's belongings. I have never caused injury or harm to another person.
Typically during a meltdown, I can do any of the following:
Causing Arguments with Family Members and Friends
I've fallen out with all of my family members at some point in time as a result of a meltdown. I tend to blame them for all the problems I'm facing. I will dig up old problems, cause arguments and get verbally aggressive.
Throwing and Breaking Personal Items
I've lost count of the number of mobile phones I've thrown up the wall. I've broken several laptops by throwing or stamping on them. During my last meltdown, I punched my computer monitor. The value of an item is meaningless.
Headbutting, Punching Walls and Tantrums
Have you ever seen a child screaming and flailing about on the floor having a temper tantrum? That's me at times.
Sometimes I'll headbutt walls, doors, wardrobes, etc. On one occasion I punched a wall so hard during a meltdown that I broke the Trapezium bone (little finger knuckle) in my left hand. It healed slightly deformed because I refused an operation (due to anxiety) and opted for a cast. It still looks and works fine.
Several times I've put my hand through glass windows.
During a sever meltdown I will self-harm by cutting my wrist. It's not an attempt at suicide or a cry for help. I do it to release anger, pain, sadness, and other negative feelings. Once I self harm the meltdown dissipaters pretty quickly.
Impossible to Reason With
Reasoning and rationale go out the window when I'm in this state of mind. No amount of talking or positive suggestions will help.
Sorry normal people, but you have no idea what a meltdown feels like. It's best to just leave me alone because any advice people try to give me usually winds me up more.
I'm an Emotional Roller-coaster
Meltdowns can cause me to feel a mixed bag of emotions. My fiancee says I go through a stage of emotions that starts with anger, then upset and crying, followed by frustration and anxiety. A lot of my emotions are focused on close relatives I've lost.
A meltdown is always followed by guilt and remorse. The aftermath of the destruction I often cause is left to ponder with a rational brain. A meltdown is no excuse for causing the destruction I do, and it's important to learn from experiences and try to improve. Not only for yourself, but for your family, friends and loved ones.
I get fed up of saying sorry to people. How many times can you apologize for your actions before your apologies become meaningless? It leaves you feeling negative and upset.
For this reason, I will go into hidding (incognito mode) with family and friends for weeks at a time. I delete messaging applications, games, turn off my phone, disconnect the Internet and hope the dust settles. Hoping that family and friends understand.
But, I do also enjoy solitude and separation from everybody. It helps me refocus my life choices and learn to make better decisions. It doesn't address the upset and hurt I cause to those around me. That's something I don't know how to fix.
I haven't found a way to stop a meltdown. No doctor has suggested any medications to help with them. I'm on antipsychotic and anti-depressant medications. They only seem to help with anxiety.
I have found Cannabis helps tremendously with Aspergers and mental health in general. But, it's a double-edged sword. When you rely on something illegal and stigmatized the general population label you a drug addict. Ironically in other parts of the world, it's actively used to treat mental health problems. Where's the logic in that?
Moving on …
A meltdown can last anywhere from a couple of minutes to hours. I've never had a meltdown that has lasted longer than a handful of hours. If things get too bad I take a few prescribed valium tablets and drop off to sleep.
Meltdowns suck. I hate them. Everybody around me hates them. I hope this article was informative and helpful in understanding what meltdowns feel like from the perspective of somebody with Aspergers syndrome.
Wishing you happiness, and good mental health …