help an autistic adult in meltdown

Last week I wrote this post about my autistic meltdowns. I write in hopes that it may help an autistic adult in meltdown . However it’s terrifying to share these incredibly personal parts of myself. After I’d pressed publish I felt exposed and self conscious. There’s a part of me that feels I shouldn’t be writing about autism. I’ve only recently been diagnosed and my autism is relatively ‘mild’.

The diagnosis is new and I’m still processing it. I’m worrying about what people who know me think of the diagnosis. Am I being believed or am I being ridiculed? Blogging is probably heightening that feeling, as it’s all here for anyone to read.

Ultimately though I got this diagnosis by being honest about my experiences and difficulties. My immediate family and close friends are 100% behind me  and that’s all that matters. Writing about it here is therapeutic for me, and potentially helpful for others, so I shall continue to do so.

My meltdowns;

Being given a diagnosis of autism takes time to process, and I experience a range of emotions about it every day. Some days I’m relieved to have finally figured my difficulties out, and given them a name. I’m confident to stand up and be counted as an autistic woman.

Other days I’m edgy, anxious, wobbly and scared. Looking to the future and wondering how I’ll cope. As a result of this I’ve been experiencing more meltdowns, and near meltdowns, which are proving difficult for my family, friends and I to manage.

How to help an autistic adult in meltdown;

Meltdowns are horrendous. They are exhausting, embarrassing and disruptive. I have two challenges ahead in learning to manage them. The first is learning how to avoid them. The second is learning how to manage them when they happen.

I know that the reaction of those around me has an impact on whether they escalate, how disruptive they are and how I feel about myself afterwards. So I’m writing this post in hopes that these tips might be useful.

The key thing for me to point out at this point is that once the meltdown is happening I am pretty powerless. I will not think to look at my list of strategies, and use them to help myself. Once the meltdown is happening I am not being logical, I am in flight or fight. So if you ever find yourself with an autistic adult who is having a meltdown here are some things that I would find helpful.

Strategies and suggestions;

Let them rant, cry, do whatever form the meltdown takes. I know it seems counterintuitive to avoid trying to problem solve. However, the meltdown is a sign of  overstimulation. They cannot process anymore information. There was a final straw in before this meltdown but it’s not key.

Processing words will add to the overstimulation, and make them more anxious. They likely won’t react well, and then after the meltdown they will have to deal with the shame of having not handled your input well. Instead stay calm and say little.

If they seem able to cope you could gently remind them of one of the coping strategies that can calm them down.  It might be a good idea to make a list of potential calming strategies together ahead of time. Again use as few words as possible, and stay very calm.

I would like to be reminded that perhaps some time alone would be a good idea, a walk or sitting in my bedroom with the curtains drawn. I have several activities that might help if I get to them soon enough, like colouring in or playing games on my tablet.

In the worst case scenario I have sedatives available to take, but when it gets this bad I never remember to take them and it would be helpful for someone to remind me.

A meltdown is not personal, they may say things they don’t mean or feel;

Try to remember this is not personal, it’s not about you at all. Often I say things which I really do not feel, I’m finding fault with the whole world and unfortunately no-one is exempt. Everything is wrong inside and I’m having difficulty expressing that in a constructive way. If you keep this in mind then perhaps it will be easier to stay calm and see this for what it is. A reaction to overwhelmed an overstimulated brain.

I’m hoping that this will be helpful, personally to those around me and for other autistic adults and those that love and support them.