Meltdowns and shutdowns can build up over time or happen seemingly out of nowhere. This is one I was aware of — building up, due to overload that I struggled to communicate, over many months.
Since originally posting, recent conversations with autistic friends, not directly about meltdowns, have enabled me to find more words and rewrite this intro. (May 2018) Experiences like this are cumulative and continue to resonate in mind and body.
Stress affects my ability to communicate and translate from autistic into non autistic — into neurotypical. What follows has played out so many times in my life — a silent response, an inability to get to words, or getting to the ‘wrong’ words, makes others doubt my abilities and question my professional experience. It’s like being in the same accident over and over, in slow motion, knowing exactly what the outcome will be, but being unable to stop it. Usually in this situation nothing is said, but I’m acutely aware that the person has, (metaphorically) crossed me off their contact list.
Already barely functioning in shutdown mode — the other person said something critical about my behaviour which triggered the meltdown — overwhelming sobbing and tears ensued which went on for over an hour.
The image of the rare orchid was one I had taken an hour before.
Meltdown and shutdown are an autistic response to overload — not to criticism. Criticism was the trigger not the cause of the meltdown.
Using a poetic form enables me to write about the experience, and writing about it helps. Sympathy and understanding also help. Being advised to deal with things better —does not. Nor does pathologising a natural autistic reaction. Though “the incident”, opened up a place for dialogue, and moved understanding on.
It was a red day
matches had been burned months ago
Consciously or unconsciously you noticed
the many small failures to speak and
convey information in a timely way and
respond ‘appropriately’ and
direct others —
and these ‘failures’ would invite you
to make a judgement
and feel confident in your abilities to do this
comfortable in your skin
in your environment
and culminate in your decision to let me know
and confirm that I’d failed on other things too
this was necessary
and if only I had stayed to hear you out
you could have explained these failures in more detail.
IMAGE: Pyramidal orchid — bright pink/magenta flower, amongst bright green leaves. Wild orchid, low growing, looks a lot like a hyacinth — lots of closely packed tiny flowers make up the head of this flower.
#selectivemutism #autism #autistic #actuallyautistic #neurodivergent #neurodiverse #workplace #employment #meltdown #shutdown