MELTDOWNS IN THE PRESENT DAY
I’ve now been writing blogs for SpecialKids.Company for three years, and back in late 2017 I wrote a piece (How an Autistic Meltdown Differs from an Immature Temper Tantrum) about the meltdowns I experienced. In that I discussed what meltdowns truly are and how they were a part of my autism (even though not every person on the autism spectrum has these episodes), along with learned coping strategies both from myself and therapists.
Nowadays I still have autism which I was born with and I still experience meltdowns. Even though it’s impossible for my autism and anxiety disorder to be cured, it is definitely possible for me to learn strategies that can help me live life a little easier, and in the case of meltdowns to also make life easier for the other people in my life. I now continue to use all of the strategies I learned a few years ago and I’ll be doing so throughout my lifetime as they help me immensely. Currently I still experience frequent anxiety and come very close to a meltdown on various occasions. However I’m very happy to say that in the past couple of years I can now count the number of uncontrolled screaming episodes (in the space of 12 months) on two hands. In 2018 I had seven of those episodes and in 2019 I had five of them. So I’m optimistic about this lessening even more in 2020.
In the past year though, my life has become more hectic, mainly from work. The amount of work (in regards to required effort) I’ve had to do has remained consistent for nearly two decades. But now the work I’m having to do is becoming more short notice and unpredictable. This is the kind of work that is good yet more anxiety provoking, and my anxiety leads to meltdowns if I’m not careful. For that reason the strategies I need to do to keep myself under control in those situations require more additions.
Monitoring my heart rate (via an Apple watch) and doing mindfulness exercises are of course essential each and every day and night. In fact I’ve now been doing this so often that it just seems a normal part of my life, and I never have to tell myself “do a mindfulness exercise” anymore, even when I’m asleep and having a stressful dream.
However now that I have a few added anxiety provoking situations in my life, mindfulness exercises alone are not always enough to stop an uncontrollable meltdown.
Often by means of trial and error I myself have come up with some stronger additions to mindfulness exercises for moments of higher stress or anxiety. It may sound ironic that exercises which bring my anxiety down involve me doing work (relating to that of my career) itself.
Yet by saying that it always has to be specific work depending on what kind of anxiety I experience. It’s perfectly true that the work I have to do in my career is as multifaceted as the kinds and causes of my anxiety. From my experience of doing regular mindfulness exercises I’ve learned to listen to my feelings and discover the exact cause of my anxiety at all times. If I hadn’t learned and practiced mindfulness exercises I would never have been able to do this.
I’ve found that studying a foreign language (currently Spanish) helps me when I’m feeling underestimated, and during moments of stress from being overestimated I find that studying Rubiks cube algorithms calms me. Playing chess on my iPad helps to eradicate a stressful thought from my mind, and going on worldwide road trips via Google Street View helps to settle my mind after a stressful social situation. During moments when my thoughts are scattered (usually after coming home from a busy shopping centre) it helps to do mindfulness colouring, and sketching memories and stories from my imagination help whenever I’m feeling worried about something.
If I can hypothetically describe my anxiety disorder as I currently experience it, I constantly feel like I’m in a turbulent sea with up and down sensations in my chest (those sensations I actually experience literally) as I’m roughly sailing over high waves and downwards into steep troughs. However it’s now becoming increasingly rarer that I’m hypothetically washed over by a wave and swept under the water to drown in the ocean. That is very much what a meltdown is like for me.