One of the issues that most autistic people have is the need to establish patterns and routines. In a world which can be disordered and unpredictable, I find that a rigid plan helps me to deal with the world at large. No, I don’t mean this in a megalomaniac style; I have no desire to control others. It’s a simple case, that I plan things, I have to visualise things or plot them. I have done so for as long as I can recall.
This might come across to some people as incredibly organised and in control, the reality is often far from it. Even worse, I cannot always control the plans and routine, for life gets in the way. This results in throwing me completely and can be the cause of meltdowns or shutdowns: at the very least, it causes major anxiety flair ups.
What is a meltdown? Basically, if you think of the brain as being like a computer operating system, when too operations are running at the same time, the result is that nothing works, it goes into a suspensory mode and you get that beach ball or egg-timer telling you that too much is happening and that normal service may be resumed or that you need to shut everything down. We might lash out, shout, stamp and generally act in an unacceptable or unbecoming manner, but at that point, we have simply too much going on and our brain and system is completely overloaded. The person having the meltdown is not in control, there actions are not planned or intended. In short, they are awful and exhausting.
Shutdowns are simply a protective device whereby the person stops interacting and retreats to a metaphorical safe place; thereby limiting the overloading stimulus.
I know that plans don’t always work out as I wish, but this doesn’t limit the effect on me. I’m also aware that I am not the only one who has this. In amongst my cycling friends, I know several who will feel the same frustrations. I suffered from such at the weekend due to racing and running a flat rear tyre within a couple of hundred metres off the start line (despite a reasonable start off the grid for me). Don’t misunderstand me, I had no illusions of obtaining grand results, but I did picture finishing the race. This type of mechanical happens to everyone who races, it’s rubbish and it’s frustrating for anyone. For me, it through my mood for two days and left me feeling like I had no control, which of course, sometimes we don’t, we can simply seek to limit problems.
My meltdown left me unwilling to touch the bike for several days and for a brief moment, I very nearly said ‘stuff it’. Support from my partner and a mate helped to pull me through this and I am training again and have sorted the tyre and will return to normal.
However, for me and many others, it is that simple a trigger to lose control and it’s an awful place to be in. We might lash out, shout, stamp and generally act in an unacceptable or unbecoming manner, but at that point, we have simply too much going on and our brain and system is completely overloaded.
Anyway, onwards and upwards…