First, let me be very clear with MY own melt/shut downs… I will ALWAYS have them because that is just they way my body processes stress and anxiety. If one wants to pretend like they aren’t there, than that’s their problem NOT mine. So with that said, let me explain to you what I consider Meltdowns and Shut downs are from my perspective:
A Meltdown is a period of time where I literally can NOT think. My usual/typical thoughts are now panicked and racing like a hurricane of emotions and never-ending pressure… these feelings compel me to either run, hide or do both. I quite literally feel and sense everything all at once and don’t know what to do about it. I’ll say that again, I LITERALLY FEEL and sense EVERYTHING. ALL. AT. ONCE. and don’t know what to do about it. I also cry a LOT during these times.
A Shutdown is also another period of time where I literally can NOT think. My usual/typical thoughts are now stunted and slowed down to the point where my mind goes blank… just like when you shut off your device’s screen. There are no pictures, no words, no thoughts during this time. These feelings are more difficult to describe but I do feel like speechlessness is the only word that could really relate. I also tend to not know what to say or how to react and so I don’t react at all.
As you can tell, I’ve figured out my own patterns almost down to a science and have learnt some strategies to help ride them out:
- I ALWAYS walk with headphones. Not only do headphones block out noise and social confusion but playing my music while I am up or down really helps control my mood. I have everything from happy to sad to angry to uplifting music on my playlists. A song that might be very depressing for the average listener, may give me hope when I feel like there is none.
- I ALWAYS follow a written routine/schedule. Whether you physically see it or not, having routines, aka rituals, aka schedules or however you want to call it, are VERY important and vital for me to function. I need them to get important things done and tend to easily forget if I don’t… especially since I have had Electroconvulsive Therapy done 12 times. I have been purposely demonized and called scatter-brained and selffish because I have simply forgotten about something I started. It’s NOT on purpose but because my literal attention has been shifted to something else, I’m just trying to finish that task as best as I can. So I constantly look at the time to make sure I am on task and getting things done. People can classify it as OCD if they want, I’m fine with that.
- I ALWAYS have my Pets with me. When I get anxious (which is 90% of the time) I have them as a way to appropriately distract and calm me from escaping a situation. They keep me focused and remind me that I have to care for something OTHER than myself which has been life saving. When those negative/self harm thoughts arise, my babies are there for me. They have even licked my ear and forehead when I’ve cried. So no ONE can convince me that animals aren’t intelligent nor intuitive. As long as my animals are healthy and happy, I can carrry on.
- I ALWAYS have on at least 1 Chewigem. These brilliant little sensory jewerly are wonderful for my complusion to pick skin, hair or urge to self-harm. They have been a healthy distraction for me to “feel something” when I unconsciously stim.
- I ALWAYS have a water bottle, candy/gum and know where a toilet is at all times. I’ve always been brought up to “walk” food/drink because you never know when you’ll be hungry or thirsty and need access to food/drink. Which in turn means, I always try to use the bathroom before and after I arrive somewhere… because you never know when you won’t have the opportunity to use it again.
- I ALWAYS walk with a book. Even though I don’t read as much as I used to, I like having a book on hand in case I get bored or feel the need to “escape” a situation. I will always believe that imagination is important to my mental health and wellness.
- I ALWAYS have my weighted blanket at night time. This helps me feel like safe and secure and helps me calm down. My current one was given to be as by my Ex and is 15lbs. I am currently saving up to get a 20- 25lbs in the future. *Please mindful and use safety procautions when purchasing weighted blankets for children.
As you can see, these tips aren’t very complicated and simple to replicate if you so choose. However I do notice that some people, willfully pretend like my melt/shut downs don’t exist. This dangerous mindset of completely IGNORING my nonvisible disability, IGNORES me as a whole person. But how, you ask? If someone (whether neurotypical or neurodiverse) attempts to connect with me during one of these melt/shut downs, it always turns out badly. The person ALWAYS assumes that I am either too emotional or too cold… or the more popular terms like “Crazy” or “Weird B*tch”. I now accept all labels that come because either way, I am still misunderstood.
This is why I cling to my tools and strategies for comfort until I FEEL better, period. Remember, no matter what anyone says at the end of the day: YOUR feelings are NOT their problem. So it might be wise, to just do what works for you.