Whew. If there’s anything that’s pertinent to those that are Aspies it’s the dreaded meltdown, since there have been a lot of them throughout the recent transition from internship to moving to being in the summer. While this is by no means exhaustive, it deals with some of the more relevant points.
In my experience meltdowns are never usually caused directly by the thing that seems to set me off, but rather that summoned some other train of thought to the surface. Usually it’s a scenario of “the straw broke the camel’s back” of something that had been bothering me for a while that was dragged to the forefront of my mind by say, forgetting something or failing to do something, or something I read online or listened to, however accurate or true (or not). And usually it’s not just that daily frustrations are aggravating (which is true) but there’s usually some kind of an existential or spiritual aspect about it.
However, in more recent times, my mother has mentioned that meltdowns have changed from crying fits to being more catatonic, that is, just shutting down and not saying anything at all, or just curling up into a ball until it goes away; usually this kind of meltdown happens when one is too afraid to speak or feel as if they can’t convey what it is they want to say without fear of some negative consequence, or else that I don’t even know how to communicate what it is I’m feeling on the spot, in that immediate context. Apparently some of the facial expressions of sheer horror I have made during meltdowns have been good enough to land me in some horror movie and get an academy award for acting.
Part of it is feeling like no one will listen unless I have a dramatic expression of what I’m feeling, which I’ve been told is selfish and indulgent, and it certainly can be. This is also, incidentally, my theory on why behaviors like self-harm or dark thoughts seem to be more common to people on the higher end of the spectrum, which I’ve found from casual research on the Internet, and more sadly, from personal experience. They work, at least for the immediate moment of about three seconds or so. When I get sad, or even just stiff as a board, people listen to me and then help. But it can easily be taken to the extreme of emotional manipulation if one looks so much at themselves and sees others (however unconsciously) as a way to relieve that pain rather than you know, as people. It’s a way to short-circuit having to actually communicate or approach someone about things going on.
Another aspect to it is an easy way of escape (and a rather unproductive one at that). It works as an exit to the scenario one wants to get out of, even if that means getting to a stern talking to later. At least it’s not being in the place that I was before. That means that effectively ignoring the meltdown, in some ways, and the plea for attention it constitutes might be more productive than addressing it, unless melting down means being put in a more uncomfortable scenario than the one the person wanted to escape (which is usually what ends up happening anyway).
There’s also an emotional drain on those involved as well; my mom mentioned that being in that state can lock in others as well, feeling guilty going on doing other things while I seem to be stuck off in a “dark, dark place”, to quote my grandmother. Not to mention the aforementioned emotional manipulation. The parent of a melting down child feel like they can’t move on until this problem is resolved; what if their kid does something even worse while they’re away? There’s a level of worry as well that saps away at everyone and everything else.
However, there’s a distinction between melting down and becoming emotional. Meltdowns hurt other people and cause them otherwise unnecessary grief, and are denying a trust in God to take care of what I think I could gain from making a big fuss about what I want to do. Emotions, however contained, are just a normal part of everyday life. While this isn’t a license to just do whatever emotionally, keeping feelings bottled up can be dangerous. If I’m crying while I’m in prayer time, that (usually) doesn’t constitute a meltdown unless I’m instead directing the same meltdowny tendencies (yes, that is the technical term for it, in case you’re wondering 🙂 ) and childish behavior towards the Almighty, which when one actually considers it is much worse. But to pour out one’s heart to God, however aching, can often be an incredibly precious thing, and turn what I was crying about or frozen about moments before can then lead to wonder and to worship, which is ultimately a deepening of the relationship.
Having said all of that, finding some other means to express the need for an escape or whatever reason is much more productive on a practical level than melting down. Spending a good amount of time on one’s knees as a way to diffuse the feeling, perhaps taking a few deep breaths or else finding some method to communicate to the people around you that there’s the onset of a meltdown and that you need to get away is a preferable alternative to yelling and kicking and screaming, or just shutting down, or else acting out in a way that dishonors God and puts an unnecessary burden on others. Perhaps it’s moving onto a different track of thought or moving to another location for a little while. Perhaps it’s directing the energy that would be destructive into something more productive. And above all, even if the “on one’s knees posture” isn’t available, to pray. Did I mention praying? I hope I did.
The bottom line of all of it is that behavior does not exist without a reason behind it; people are not merely determined by the brain chemistry they happen to possess. And for those in Christ, they don’t have to persist in a cycle of behavior that’s destructive to themselves and others. They’re free.
Some Relevant Scripture (I got this idea from AspergersplusChristian.blogspot.com )
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, KJV [because it’s public domain!])
Soli Deo Gloria