Meltdowns 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.

This situation was different — the other person said something critical which triggered the meltdown.

Meltdown is 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

your role

and culminate in your decision to let me know

and confirm that I’d failed on other things too

this was necessary

you thought


and if only I had stayed to hear you out

you could have explained these failures in more detail.


Description of meltdowns by LADYANANAS  here

IMAGE  Photo showing the bottom edge of a navy and white striped T shirt running diagonally across the lower part of the image from top left to bottom right with dark blue denim filling the remaining diagonal top area of the image. There is a small highlight of light on the T Shirt in the bottom right corner of the image, and a small lit area on the blue denim in the top right of the image.

#selectivemutism #autism #autistic #actuallyautistic #neurodivergent #neurodiverse #workplace #employment #meltdown #shutdown

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