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Meltdowns & Shutdowns

I had a meltdown when I was in an airport overnight waiting for the next days flight. I remember feeling fine one minute then completely lost and afraid the next and in the moment I didn’t even realize I was banging my head on the glass because my meltdown had escalated past logic. The cops took me out of there and I never did get any of my belongings back from my luggage. I don’t even remember the days after that because I shutdown next.

I remember one particular shutdown I was homeless and scared and I hid inside of a sign that was propped up like a triangle (like the giant wet floor signs) and I was rocking myself back and forth and the cops came and I couldn’t say very much but yes or no. So they took me away from there.

It feels like my blood is pumping and boiling through to the top of my skin but also deep inside my bones. I notice every sensory detail magnified like if I haven't shaved my legs it feels like lots of tiny razorblades. I have a strong need for a temperate environment as hot or cold makes it worse. I feel like I can see the future and its all bad. I also feel like I have always felt this way and am just now expressing it as it came to my full realization. I feel smarter than everyone else like they can't tell me it's not true because they just don't know things like I do. I cry uncontrollably for hours then pace and pivot for even more hours. I don't usually self harm or harm others. And I don't usually have a meltdown in front of anyone other than an intimate like my mother, brothers, boyfriend, or just alone. I did have a meltdown in front of my Mom and she threw the Bible at me because she didn't know what to do. I had a meltdown in public once that I can remember. It was at school when I was 16. They sent me to the counselor's office because I was sobbing uncontrollably and couldn't stop even though I was trying to. I would gulp, cry, and dry my tears repetitively. The trigger was my boyfriend of a year breaking up with me the week before. It wasn't just the loss of an intimate though, it was the loss of a routine because we met in the same exact places at the school everyday. In the counselor's office I had started to numb already and went into the fetal position and held my knees into my stomach. My stomach felt like that feeling when you are hungry but multiplied until I felt like stabbing it with knives to make it feel better. My Mom always knows just what to do to make it better. She will make me tomato soup and grilled cheese. She always knows exactly what to say to comfort and build me back up. I tell her all of my stinking thinking and she corrects it. She makes me feel like my negative thoughts can't hurt me anymore and that they were so silly. It's eye opening. She also would play guitar to soothe me and to this day guitar still soothes me during a meltdown. It takes me into a trancelike state so that I shutdown instead of meltdown. Shutdowns are easier to control. My stims have changed from childhood to movements that look more natural because I didn't want to be forced to stop self soothing. I feel fire in my fingertips and its like my hands have energy in them that feels violent so I spread my fingers apart and then relax them over and over again. I do the same with my ankles by twisting my feet in circles like I am stretching my feet. I want to run because of all the intense adrenaline I feel. But I slow it down and pace instead. Sometimes after the adrenaline passes, I hide. I run then hide. I had meltdowns after sex a lot especially in the beginning. I would run a block away and the guy would be chasing me in his underwear. When I used to be married, at least once a week I would have a meltdown after sex because intimacy won't let me shutdown so the only option left is to meltdown. It is best if I am left alone when I have a meltdown so I can turn it into a shutdown but someone should check on my ever so often because I get suicidal if left alone too long and feeling like no one cares how I feel. I need to center myself with gravity. My ex would send out a search party to look for me and I would come home once he found me and actually feel kind of relieved that I was found because sometimes I would actually get lost. I get lost easily, especially in crowds. The world spins, I can't see straight and everything gets loud. If I have a person with me then I don't have to see where I am going. I can tune out the world and be unaware of my surroundings and float through a self made bubble; even though I can do this alone, it's just harder. I only look through the keyhole of the world occasionally. I meltdown when I am incompetent, overwhelmed, or overstimulated. When I am in a meltdown, I deeply want to shut down so making me use my 5 senses makes me very angry. I don't want to be seen, talked to, or touched. I don't mind touch during a shutdown. After a meltdown I can't make decisions, I purposefully go mute, questions hurt, I can't use my coping or problem solving skills, and I feel easily confused. Simply put, my brain stops trying so hard. In order to shutdown and stop feeling a meltdown I talk to myself in my head. I play a game where I pretend to be something else like a spider (which I am afraid of) and I make motions spiders would make until I can laugh. Sometimes I just visualize the motions of a spider. Sometimes I see myself in my head as a spider but then I remind myself of all the good things about spiders and I try to write on the web so others know what I am experiencing. Choices help me too, but only if there are two choices. That's the only way I can be talked to during a meltdown. The choices work best if they are rewards too like, "Do you want a snack by your bedside or do you want a pillow to hold?" If no one checks on me occasionally with at least one eye for a second then I can start down a dark path towards suicidal. I have always thought I was just a brat and compared myself to a toddler. So having Erik Erickson's definitions helps me identify better so I don't see myself as bad. When I was a baby my Mom found me in a box and took a picture. She thought it was so funny. During one meltdown I started to dance and then sat down and banged my head on the plastic glass at the airport because I was alone and only the janitor was there. It was at night and I felt lost and lonely. The cops brought me to the hospital.

I can only answer yes or no questions and become mute because my brain is on fire. I am exhausted and unable to communicate because even when I feel fine it is extra effort to communicate because I have to translate pictures from my right brain into words for my left brain. During a shutdown, that is just too emotionally expensive to do. I need to be held and rocked by an intimate. I need to know that all of my needs will be met by someone else and that I can trust that. I need to be hand fed or I will just starve. I had a shutdown after my ex husband remarried and I became anorexic. My Mom tried to feed me soup but I couldn't hold it down and I just cried silently all day and night and laid in bed. If I won't let you touch me then I need to snuggle a blanket or a stuffed animal. With a meltdown I want nothing or no one touching me but with a shutdown I want to be held for days and I will cry when my intimate gets up to pee or eat. Shutdowns take longer to recover from. I want to stay isolated and turn off as many senses as I can until it feels like I am rocking in a womblike state in the dark while feeling my intimate all around me like a mother. I feel like I am spinning in my head. I want the lights off but not completely dark so I don't get scared. I revert to childhood and want my Mommy or my intimate. I leave my body and go to a deep place in my head. I don't want to be rubbed because it draws me out of that deep place and this can last for days.


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