Okay, so I’m pretty laid back most of the time, and I’m rarely given a huge amount of responsibility to handle on my own. But sometimes daily tasks just pile up. This is my attempt to explain to several NTs in my life what it feels like to be a person with Asperger’s Disorder who has overdone themselves and then suffer a “crash and burn” type meltdown.
Sometimes, I just decide that I want to be a adult. I want to grow up and do responsible things like going to school everyday instead of just one day a week, and going shopping, cleaning the house, being super mature and not playing video games or surfing the internet 24/7. I don’t know why I do this. It always ends badly for me.
Normally, I have a small capacity for responsibility. Let’s call this the “safe zone“. This is the area where I feel comfortable with myself. Things in this area include breathing and eating (basically existing), recreation (such as basic video games and reading, nothing too stressful), ect.. I’m not doing much save the very things that are necessary for survival. There is no social activity involves, and I tend to overlook things like brushing my teeth and keeping my room clean.
When I am in the “safe zone”, less than the amount of energy I get from sleeping a nine hour night is being used, which allows me to think clearly, be somewhat creative, and most importantly, to feel comfortable and not like I’m running a 600 mile marathon.
The “Extension Zone” is when I step beyond those boundaries. It’s not necessarily a bad place, but it’s not entirely ideal. I’m getting out of the house to go shopping, going to school, getting homework done, and participating actively in a small amount of social conversation.
This is where most NTs tune out – at this point, I’m expending more energy then I’m taking in. You see, because I must use extra amounts of effort to figure people out, and to deal with problems that arise, this gets translated into energy. Small conversations, especially if they are deep and fast moving, can drain me completely and leave me listless. If I were to hover in this area for a long time, I would eventually feel extremely, extremely tired. But I usually don’t stay here very long.
The next area is the “Danger Zone“. I’m going above and beyond the call of duty. I’m tired most of the time. I’m anxious and feeling some stress. I may have trouble controlling my emotions and this is the time where I’m most likely to snap at people who try to talk to me. In this area I can’t stand people touching me (even if they mean to comfort). Despite this I usually push myself further, determined not to have a meltdown. I start to stay up all night doing things because I feel that I’m not doing enough or that there isn’t enough time for sleep, like I’m in a race. This is a mistake.
The unnamed spot on the table is the denial part. I can feel myself heading towards a meltdown but I stress myself and push myself even more because I don’t want to break down crying like a child. I’m usually dead exhausted at this point and may have a killer headache and nausea.
The Meltdown starts shortly after that. Emotions come upon me like sudden storms and I don’t realize that they are there quick enough to stop them. I burst out crying in public. I feel catastrophic emotion over tiny things, such as someone saying that I’m being lazy. I’m tired all the time, I rarely leave my bed or the couch, I feel cold, and I can hardly handle comforting myself with my computer never mind talking to people. If someone touches me, they die. Good thing nobody wants to because I’ve pissed them off and they are staying away. The other people (the ones that know me and really matter) give me my space and don’t touch me because they know I don’t want it right then.
This is also the guilty and sad part – I feel guilty for not being able to be responsible and not be a burden on the people around me, and I feel sad for myself because I’m trying as hard as I can and it’s not working. Usually by now I’m sleeping during the day and staying up all night to avoid facing any people. My diet degrades into nothing but toasted bagels or individual sized frozen pizza. I can’t think – my brain is mired in a fog. I want to do nothing but sleep and eat and play video games to comfort myself.
For the NTs here – that’s what it’s like to have a really long term meltdown without the dramatics of the actual moment where everything turns into a shit-hole. And also, this is how this meltdown works for me. Other Aspies probably have other things that they can handle at certain points.
The good thing is, the more time that you spend in each part of the table, the more comfortable that you get in it and the more that you can do. It may feel awful having a meltdown, but that’s from taking on too much. I have not exactly mastered the ability to stay in one stage for a long time, but it gets easier. It really does.