Most of the time, you probably wouldn’t know I had ASD. I hide it pretty well.
When I’m oversensoried or have a meltdown, any sort of learnt behaviour goes away. I am autistic.
Some small part of my brain knows I’m being autistic. I can recognise that what I’m doing is like a little kid with severe autism. But I can’t do anything about it.
Everything is emotion, sensation, and clinging to rules and routine.
Emotion: anger, frustration, lethargy, sadness, numbness, grief, fear.
Sensation: too loud, too sticky, too prickly, too clingy, my skin crawls and I have to get away.
I can feel it coming on. Tension in my muscles. An uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Tightness in the chest. My skin feels numb; I’m walking through honey.
I try to stave it off. Release tension. Fingers tapping out Rondo Alla Turka. Hands flapping at my sides. I pinch my skin with my nail until skin comes off.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes I can push it to the back of my mind and ignore it.
A meltdown is like a bell curve. You can stave it off for a little while, but it just keeps looping around at the same spot, building tension, and then it’s all much worse in the end. Better to get it over with, but that’s not always possible.
Imagine a rubber band is stretched almost to snapping point. You need to let it go. It might hurt, but it will be over. But you can’t let it go. Imagine keeping that rubber band almost at snapping point for hours, even days.
You probably can’t tell, at this point. I don’t know how. I can tell when it’s happening to kids. Maybe I’m just better at hiding it. I can smile and nod and engage in normal conversation. It feels like I’m inside a bubble. Everything sounds weird. My skin is numb. My guts are crawling. I’m detached from the interaction.
I don’t always know what causes it. Sometimes I can make a guess, afterwards. It’s just a build-up. Sometimes there isn’t even a “straw that broke the camel’s back”. It just keeps growing.
I want to run and hide and cry and hit. I need to feel something. I imagine taking a knife to my skin or a pin to my leg. To feel something, to release the tension. I don’t want to kill myself. I just want to equalise. I don’t know why I want to. I don’t want to. I feel like I need to. Sometimes I do.
I’m angry. I’m not angry, I’m sad and frustrated and scared and broken inside. It comes out as anger. Shouting, running. Stop talking to me, I can’t handle it! Just leave me alone, just let me be!
Don’t leave me alone, I can’t stand to be alone, I can’t stand having you there. You’re useless, what are you doing, why aren’t you helping, I don’t know what I need you to do, but you’re not doing it.
Lord God, help me. Why am I like this? Help me deal with it. Please help me not upset her. I can’t tell her how I feel, she’ll be upset, I can only tell you, you already know what I’m thinking. Help me, Lord, I need you.
Tears sting my eyes. I don’t know why I’m crying. I can’t deal with everything I’m feeling. Tears hurt, but it’s all the brokenness inside me coming out. I bury my face in my fists and sob.
I feel week, I have no energy. I can feel the tension leaving. Stop hovering, I’m dealing with it. I curl up in a ball. I try not to touch anything. It’s sticky, it’s slimy, it’s touching and I don’t like it.
I need time. I need time to deal with things and to recover. I don’t have time. I have commitments. I have assignments. I need to change out of these wet clothes, have a bath, I can’t wear dirty clothes if I’m clean, I can’t wear clean clothes on a dirty bed, I can’t have a bath in the middle of the day, better to wait until tomorrow, I can’t have a bath tomorrow morning, there isn’t time, I don’t bathe on a school morning, I do it the night before, but I can’t be clean in a dirty bed.
I need a day to recover. I don’t have a spare day. I have work to do. I have classes to attend. I need to pull myself together now, push all this away and behave like a person again.
I ignore it. It’s not gone. I haven’t released it all. I never will. Things will always be too loud, too much, too fast.
But I can deal with it.