Meltdowns and Burnouts

Following on from a comment by OrinocoFlo, referring to my take on burnouts being an interesting take, I thought I would write this.

Of course, I thought everybody saw meltdowns and burnouts the same way as me so although Orinoco saw my take as interesting, I saw their comment as highly interesting as well as it indicated that not everybody shares my view of them.

I see meltdowns and burnouts as a god send, a precious jewel of a message with clear, precise, direct and immediate instructions of what I need to do now in my life, the instructions are so direct and immediate, I could and often do spend some time simply wallowing in the genius of it all, the magnificence of them and how they definitely had to come from someone with more intelligence than me in this area because I can barely know when to stop eating let alone know when to stop trying and to take a rest.

Yesterday is a good example. I went out for something to eat and got carried away. I ate so much that I still feel full now and I’ve agreed to go to my parents house for dinner today! I experienced a lot of discomfort last night after eating so much but it seems I don’t ever learn this lesson. My son used to say to me when I was full and STILL eating ~ this is where a normal person stops eating! But then we both laugh because we both know I’m not normal and he realises by now that trying to coach me and train me to be normal just doesn’t work. And it’s the same with most things in my life, I just don’t know when to stop or sometimes I don’t even know when to start.

So meltdowns to me are a glorious sign or message to say, hey BlueRay, stop, just stop what your doing. It’s so clever that it doesn’t even give me that as an option, I literally have to stop whatever it is I’m doing and take stock. Not only that, a meltdown kind of scrambles my brain, it’s a bit like an epileptic fit, so it kind of prevents me from continuing along the same thought patterns or whatever that I was going through, prior to the meltdown and during or after recovery, I get an opportunity to see things a little differently than I was before the meltdown and it always puts me in a better position than what I was in before. So meltdowns are a gift and now I stim and self soothe in public, I’ve got even more freedom to roam because now I know that if I have a meltdown when I’m out, I can deal with it. I don’t care who’s looking at me while I stim and calm down but generally I find people to be more helpful than not if you tell them what’s happening, if you can, if not, I carry the autism card for when I can’t speak. They’re my little gift (meltdowns and big gifts are burnouts) my little source of protection that I take with me wherever I go. Meltdowns are my friends even if it feels like I’m gonna die at the time! I’ve never really been opposed to death anyway so that’s not an issue.

Burnouts are even more glorious. They give me the space and time away from the world that I so desperately need. At least I did before I got my diagnosis because now I can live in a way that I don’t need burnouts so much. I can organise my life, now I understand it, so I don’t need them. Meltdowns are cool. They don’t pose too much of an interruption to my life, just enough to let me know I’m doing too much, or at least I’m doing more than I’m able to comfortably do.

Burnouts have the added benefit of giving me some lovely space to take time out from my life completely. Normally I’m spending most of my time meditating, praying, doing yoga, reading the bible and other great works or helping others. So it’s a nice opportunity for me to do something that doesn’t involve conscious effort. So I watch endless amounts of old, pre code if I can find them, black and white movies. I watch the family ones or love stories which all have lovely happy endings, there’s no violence or being out to get people, they don’t last for too long, I don’t have to try to remember who each character is and they always give me a good feeling, while I’m watching them, after and even before, just the thought of watching one fills me with joy. The values portrayed in these films are closer to mine than modern films are, which I rarely watch or enjoy, so I often learn a lot from these films as well. They’re easy for me to understand even if I don’t fully understand everything that happens in the film.

I get to experience the generosity and kindness of others, I get to spend oodles of time alone, I get the opportunity to reassess my life and look at what I’m doing that isn’t working for me. I feel so blessed that I live in a country that enables me to ride my burnouts out with a roof over my head. I don’t want to live in burnout all my life but it’s a gift to be at the mercy of other peoples love and generosity. It’s humbling and heartwarming and demonstrates the importance of receiving as well as giving.

The burnouts force my mind to slow down in tune with my body. This takes a while but over time it happens. My mind wants to do this that and the other and my body says no. So I’m so damned exhausted that I have to listen to my body and remain still and in time my mind also slows down. Then I can begin to really rest and from that, I’ll find news ways of living my life that is not too overwhelming for me.

Now I have my diagnosis, I can make great strides in organising my life in a way that will truly suit me and not just help me to fit in, which I realise now was a big part of my burnouts.

I love shut downs the best, especially when I go mute. It’s so glorious not to have to talk, but this has only happened on a few occasions.

So yeah, I love meltdowns, shutdowns and burnouts. I could never come up with something as genius as that and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t follow through on it because my mind is so active and I have so much love for the world and it’s people that I want to go out there are share the love, exchange love, give love, receive love and just generally spread the word of love.

I have a new direction this time. I am now devoted to improving the lives of autistic people in whatever way I can do that best. I don’t know how I’ll do that, I’ve got some ideas but I never rely on my ideas, they’re usually far too complicated. I simply pray and rely on the super intelligent spirit that gives me my meltdowns to also give me direction as to how best can I do my job today. My job is to serve whoever is in front of me at any given time but I think I’m going to have more of a focussed position from now on, in the field of autism.

But who knows? Not me? I’m not in charge. I leave that for somebody far wiser, more knowing and way more intelligent than me. When I pray, no matter how long it takes, my prayers are always answered. People, including me, none of us are that reliable so I don’t rely on me or other people for direction, I leave that to the intelligent life force that runs through all of us and all of life.

Maybe I will simply live in a forest or on the banks of the river Ganges, who knows. I just know that if I ask how best I can be of service to the world and her people, I will be guided in the direction I need to go and any needs I have will be met. And meltdowns and burnouts are simply signs to tell me I’m going in the wrong direction.

How do others see their meltdowns and burnouts or what is their relationship like with them? Do you have a good relationship with your meltdowns and burnouts or not so good of a relationship with them? 

  • I suppose I consider them as a kind of confrontation with my limits.  So, a point at which things shutdown and reset.  A temporary thing... or a more long-lasting one.  I've never been keen on the term 'meltdown' (in autism care, we refer to 'incidents', because 'meltdown' has acquired negative connotations - kind of a neurotypical perspective on behaviour, similar to saying that someone is 'going nuts'.)  I used to think of them as 'short-circuits', but even that's not quite accurate.  I might be just too fussy about terminology!  As for 'burnouts' (or 'breakdowns'), they are something else.  I once had a suicidal breakdown and was off work for a couple of years.  I've spoken about it as a horrible time, mainly made so by having to deal with assessments, appeals, tribunals, and the horrors of the DWP and mental health services.  But actually, it was a transitional time.  I wrote my first novel - about a man recovering from a breakdown - during this period.  It got me writing again, after many years when I couldn't write a word.  So... it served a good purpose for me.

    I sense another one coming.  I'm not sure when.  But it's like the tide retreating after an earthquake at sea.  At the moment, it's still retreating and is way beyond the horizon.  But that means the wave is building up.  And at some stage, it'll come thundering in on me.  I have little warning signs I'm picking up on.  Loss of patience, longer and longer periods of feeling down, more reliance on self-medication.  It's checks and balances, all of the time.  I'm reasonably in control, and I function well.  But something is still coming.

    I'd encourage you in going into autism care.  I can't say I completely love my job - too many annoyances, mainly from other staff, and too much tightening-up needed with procedures.  I'm doing what I can to improve those things, but it's a battle sometimes.  But working with the people - that's great.  Once I enter their world, I come alive.  It gets almost to the stage where my absorption means that I have to take stock and step back a bit, for fear of neglecting professional codes of conduct.  So I'll engage with someone, and perhaps indulge them in their behaviour, when actually I'm supposed to be coming up with strategies to 'develop' (i.e. improve) their behaviour.  One of the lads will spend all day at his computer and not want to do anything else.  So, we use strategies to try to divert him onto other activities - which he's also good at, but doesn't seem to enjoy as much.  And I'm thinking 'Well, if I was at home on my computer, and someone said to me 'come on, we're going out now', or 'we're going to do some artwork now', I'd do it - but reluctantly.  I want to stay at my computer!

    I think, being autistic myself, helps me.  It can also help the other staff, because I can communicate things that they still might struggle to understand.

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