I have autism. My brain is wired differently to most people. I want to blog about my problems dealing with the world.
(Please, other Autistic people, if any of this is myth, legend or just-plain-wrong please let me know. I have no psychological qualifications, I’m just an autistic person sharing his thoughts.)
Occasionally this means I may meltdown as a response to overstimulation. It may be too much light, I have light sensitivity or being in a crowd with too much going on at once, or too warm. Usually it is a combination of things. Then bang! What looks like a grown man having a childish tantrum, but is nothing of the kind occurs. It is not a tantrum to get attention or to get my own way, it is the opposite, I want peace and quiet to calm down from overstimulation, I need a quiet place. I have become not childish, but child-like, vulnerable.
Meltdowns are not the normal behaviour of autistic people. We do not need lecturing on them, particularly during or soon after a meltdown occurs, that just makes things worse, we are already overstimulated, another stimulus is not the way to go. We need less, not more.
But it is more than just sensory things, that can lead to meltdowns or even burnout. There are five main pillars that hold us up. They are mental, emotional, physical, social and sensory.
I am not anti-social, social is anti-me. I like being with people but some social settings can be difficult. Parties, where a room is full of people having conversations, is not easy when you are unable to turn off the conversations so you are hearing four or five conversations as well as the one you are having and trying to concentrate on. Being against the wall helps as it reduces the directions that these other conversations come from.
This is also true about meetings where people break into groups, church meetings included, it is difficult concentrating on the group you are in if you can also hear other nearby ones. As I said, I am not anti-social, but being it these social situation is tiring so I have to ration my social time.
I have arthritis in my right foot. The pain has been constant since the accident that caused arthritis. Sometimes it is no more than a dull ache at others, fortunately rare, the pain overloads everything, but worse is when the pain is less than an ache, then it itches inside the joint which is inaccessible for scratching. This tends to strike at odd hours, mainly when I am wanting to sleep.
I also have type 2 diabetes that can make me tired, and I catch infections the same as everyone else.
Some say that autistic people have no empathy. This is untrue, and I wrote about this back in April. But still, it persists. Only today (day of the first draft, 28th August 2019) someone has reported on Twitter that a lecture started, ‘Everyone can empathise, except autistic people.’ Bad science sticks. Then there is the energy caused by masking, trying to act like other people in order to be accepted. Some things just make you tired.
Autism is a psychological condition, not a mental condition, but the stresses of living within a world designed to be bright, loud and full of fluorescent lighting mean that autistic people are more susceptible to depression than others. The suicide rate among people with autism is higher in the autistic population than the general population: 9 times higher in autistic adults without learning difficulties and autistic children are 28 times more likely to think about or attempt suicide. (Data from Autistica)
These five pillars are what keeps me balanced. if any of them crumble, well…
Don’t get me wrong on this, I love my life, I am mostly happy, but there are times when things are unnecessarily difficult when all it would take to be easier for autism or physical disability was for other people to give a little more thought. Not chatting in doorways would be nice, or there always being a quiet place, a bolt hole to escape to when autistic apprehension comes on.
Things can interact. I get apprehensive in strange places, when I get apprehension I pace ar walk fast, then the pain increases and the tiredness. If there is a sensory issue at the same time such as bright sunlight or flickering light, in a place where a crowd of people cannot be avoided, then that’s all the pillars affected at once, I need out or I an heading towards burnout, just by being in a strange place.
But burnout is another subject. This blog is long enough. Bye for now.
Thanks to Seeking Sara, whose video I have ruthlessly plagiarised in writing this blog.
4 thoughts on “Autism and Meltdown. 5 Pillars to be aware of”
Thank you for sharing. My older sister has autism and when we were growing up if the room was too loud she would start rocking back and forth and looking at her hand. If she was overwhelmed when we went to the store she would put her head in her shirt or try to run. now that she is older she communicates with us if something is bothering her. I thank you for letting me in your mind because when I try to talk to her she doesnt all she says is that she wants a radio
Thanks for the reply, loveli.
Autism is like that. It is both sensing things differently and also communicating differently. I’m pretty good at communicating except when stressed when I forget common words. I need to communicate only when I am ready to communicate. All autism is different, she may talk when she is ready if you don’t push it. One common thing most autistic people need is space.
Brightly lit stores are bad for me as I have light sensitivity.
Anyways, every blessing to you and your sister.
“Autism is a psychological condition, not a mental condition.” Wrong, it is a developmental, i.e. neurological condition (or ‘disorder’). One that often goes undiagnosed into adulthood, but that often cascades into psychological conditions directly derived from having it.
I’m not sure what you mean by “a mental condition” as opposed to anything else, you mean mental ILLNESS? Correct, Autism is NOT an illness. Illness can be treated and is acquired.
I personally believe that many alcoholics have it, and are using alcohol to handle the stress of masking. I’ve had ex-girlfriends like this, for example. It would also correlate with why they say alcoholism is genetic – like autism (as of the current state of understanding in 2019).
Personally, I’ve had it so rough that despite huge self-control (ridiculous levels of it, very harmful repression and masking) I’ve been called a ‘psycho’ and it has been believed by tens or hundreds of people. So now, that’s my reputation, despite it being 20 years out of date in my case. Despite 10 years into that 20, getting a diagnosis of AS. It’s like being trapped in an invisible cage of other people’s lies. It gets real old. Is a huge civil rights issue, as I found out.
Also here I must mention a very common, very nasty prejudice based on an error of common person’s (NT) logic known as ‘Fundamental Attribution Error’. This means mis-attributing the behaviour to the person and judging it as a failure of their character, NOT as a symptom of the situation they were forced-into (a situation that anyone would react badly to, perhaps significantly-worse, too).
Thus, it being neurological, so the resulting mental health conditions are not inevitable, and are subjective. Some fortunate AS people are basically asymptomatic, or only have tolerable symptoms (‘quirks’) as they are sheltered, have a suitable environment etc.
I always said myself: I am not anti-social, society is anti-ME. I’ve been saying this for years before knowing what Autism was (bar Rain Man which I didn’t relate to at all).
I never asked to be ‘special’ or for abuse, and got LOADS of it just for existing. Turns out I am not alone. Wow.
Oh, and thanks for your, well, ‘loving’ blog is the best word, I guess, Steven, I didn’t respect you enough in my need to vent, and write (on a few posts now).
Thanks for replying Donkey. I am sorry that I have taken over a week to reply, Life happened.
You are of course right in saying that autism is neurological, that was the theme of the blog and it was up there at the start of the blog. By psychological, not mental I was saying that autism shows in the personality and that it is not a mental illness that can be cured. So you are right. Psychological in the way that people who do not know about my autism thing I’m a bit strange.
It does not mean that we are immune from mental problems, I’ve had PTSD. I also have problems with anxiety which is connected with autism, which in me is down to social awkwardness.
Alcohol: I know at least one alcoholic with autism, but I am not aware of autism being any more likely in autistic people than in neurotypical people. I have found that alcohol enhances my current mood so I avoid it when I an feeling down or within a few days of a meltdown or shutdown.
I need space to vent too, I do not judge people who vent. Rant away.