The needs of our children don’t let up. No matter where we are at emotionally, physically or whatever. One of my girls needed a lift to her weekly small group she attends so I gathered up my energy and motivation and headed out the door even though I was tired and a bit fragile. It was an unexpected disruption to my inner plan for the evening and the rest of the day. Trigger point one had been breached – Change of routine in unexpected ways.
This was particularly pertinent, I had already dealt with a few of these little changes throughout the day and was beginning to sense a level of anxiety rising within me. One of my other daughters is helping out a family around the block who is on holiday by collecting their post. She was in her pajamas already, but figured she could just duck out of the car and grab the mail and jump back in the car.
Out the door and into the soaking wet rain, jump in the car. Of course I was just doing a quick ten minute little trip so didn’t worry about whether I had a jumper or even shoes, I threw on my rubber thongs (flip-flops for my American readers). Off we went, two Autistics and an Allistic. The traffic was all over the place considering the night and seemed determined to raise my levels of anxiety to disastrous. Cars in front stopping suddenly with stop lights not working, the rain on the windscreen playing havoc with visual processing and causing all kinds of difficult reflections. A police car two cars in front dropping a sudden u-turn and needing to brake very suddenly to avoid an accident.
My anxiety levels were rising pretty quickly. I had other things I would rather have been doing, but, I was doing what I should have been doing: what my kids needed me to do for them.
Another red light! Waiting. Off we go again. Up the hill. BANG! What the hell was that…
Flap flop. flap flop. Oh great. A blow out. No nice place to pull over, just a dirt edge, facing up hill, pouring with rain. Wearing jeans and a light shirt and thongs.
Stop take a deep breath. I really need to do this as I am feeling like I could easily just blow up right about now – Just like the tire did.
I duck out into the rain and check the tire. It couldn’t be much flatter. What to do?
Two daughters in the car needing to be somewhere else. One dad in the car wanting to be somewhere else. Traffic blasting past in the two busy lanes.
I have to deal with this, we ring the RACV (our local roadside assistance organisation), after some discussion and discovery that details need to be updated as they are attached to the other vehicle that is sitting happily in the garage at home. A 40 – 70 minute wait.
By this time I am on something of a knife’s edge. The 40-70 minutes became two hours. A tow truck turned up as the company deemed our position to be too hazardous for the roadside assistance person to assist. They made this call without actually telling me of course and suddenly everything had changed again.
I was really struggling to hold myself together. I was very angry that I was waiting and waiting, that there was minimal communication and left in a state of not knowing. These are things that I don’t cope with very well at all. I managed to hold it together reasonably well in the end and I am actually chalking it up to a successful avoidance of a meltdown. I am somewhat pleased with myself.
The success here was not planned and is somewhat surprising really.
Situations like this have often been catalysts for me to crash into raging meltdowns where I become totally irrational and loud and end up in a curled up ball of quivering bawling human.
So I am really happy to have managed this process as I did. Surprised but happy.
What was different here, I wonder, I can’t put my finger on it completely but my line of thinking at this stage is that I managed to have some tiny level of awareness that I was a bit triggered, that I was moving into a difficult state of circumstances. I believe that was the number one thing.
The number two thing, and perhaps the most important and pivotal was in making contact and connection with the people I know that could support and help me and were available. I was able to make some social media activity with some contacts and maintain connection throughout the process. I think this made a huge difference for me. I think this was in fact a huge thing in this situation. So much so I managed to kill the battery of my phone to completely flat. Thankfully I saw this coming and was able to make appropriate contact with home base to let them know the situation.
[Tweet “Zero meltdown in a difficult situation because I had awareness and support! #autism #PenfriendProject”]
The take away from all this I guess is that it is possible to head it off. Yes we can, sometimes at least, head off that meltdown or shutdown before it actually happens. First, and this is pretty critical, know what triggers you, learn the situations, feelings, thoughts, words that are likely to contribute to heading down that pathway. Second, and equally pivotal, is knowing who you can call on that will listen as you ramble and not dismiss you. Have a few people or groups you can do this with, just in case you can’t contact the first person you try.
It was not an evening of enchantment but it was an evening of triumph.
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