Autism & Meltdowns – What are Autistic Meltdowns Like?

Patreon members and YouTube channel members had access to this video on August 20, 2021. The video’s public release is October 6, 2021.


Hey humans Lyric here, and this week, I’m going to talk about what it’s like to have meltdowns as an Autistic Person. I’ve talked about what meltdowns are in the past in a very teacher- teachery kind of way.

Is that? I’m making up new words. I do that a lot.

 This week, I wanted to talk a little bit more about the human experience of having a meltdown.

So if you are wondering at all what that’s like, from a firsthand perspective, please stay tuned as I’m going to share, what’s that- what’s -what’s that likes- what’s- words!

I’m going to- I’m going to share what that’s like for me, specifically, as an Autistic Person. And remember, you know, I am one Autistic Experience, but if you’d like to hear that, please do stay tuned.

You’re still here! I’m delighted that you’re still here.

Uh, so let’s talk.

I’ll put that down, because it’s noisy, though fun.

Let’s talk about meltdowns. I’m going to start with the disclaimer by saying that this is my experience of a meltdown. Other Autistic People might have different experiences of meltdowns if you have, and are willing to share, because this is very personal, and some people may not feel comfortable sharing this, and that’s fine, what your experience is like, as an Autistic Person having meltdowns in the comments below. I do invite you to share those as well, especially if your experience is different from my experience, because it is important that people, when they are watching these videos do realize that Autistic People have a variety of experiences, and that this one experience is not reflective of every Autistic Experience.

So now that disclaimers out of the way, let’s jump in.

For the purposes of this particular video, we’re going to assume people know what meltdowns are. I have done videos on meltdowns in the past. If you search the blog or the channel for the keyword meltdowns, you will easily find those videos and resources.

I’m just going to talk about what a meltdown is like from my perspective, as someone who unfortunately has them. First thing I’m going to say about meltdowns might be the most obvious is that they frikin’ suck. They suck and nobody wants to have a meltdown. They are not intentional. They are not something we choose to have. They are not something that is within our control.

They are something that is very out of our control. Uh, as someone who also has seizures, I will compare a meltdown to a seizure and say it is, in many ways, a very similar neurological phenomenon, and I’ll elaborate more on that and admit it as well too.

Let’s walk through the stages of a meltdown.

The meltdown has a trigger.

Personally, I have never had a meltdown that hasn’t been triggered by something, and usually it’s not triggered by just one thing. It’s often triggered by a long chain of events, and something will just be the final straw, the final breaking point and I just can’t handle anymore and I melt down or, or shut down an implode of myself as another thing that can happen. Uh, but we’re talking about meltdowns today.

There are certain situations, and things that can make meltdowns more likely I have learned, for example, such as if I am not well rested, stressed, or have extra stress or stressful situations going on in my life that particular day or that week or that month, or it’s been a shitty year, excuse my language.

There could also be a sudden trigger, which one of the biggest, most frequent sudden triggers, uh, could be some kind of an emotional situation, where I become emotionally overwhelmed.

As an Autistic Person, one of the big things, for me personally, that causes me to feel emotionally overwhelmed is change.

That especially changed that I don’t feel I have control over surprises are not something I enjoy or look forward to. I dread not knowing what’s coming next, and having someone come in and change my plan for me last minute is, especially if I feel I have no control over this and how I am not permitted to say no to this change, it is like the thing that will give me a meltdown sometimes even on my best day, when I think everything is great and I have done everything right, to make sure I am feeling my best and not going to have a meltdown, and then someone will come and do a change, that I feel I can’t say no to, and that, that will break me, and I will have a meltdown.

I’ve mentioned meltdowns come in stages. I find that the meltdown, although sometimes can come really quick and feel like it came out of nowhere, especially like if somebody suddenly drops a big, scary change in my lap – that can be a pretty instant meltdown, but a lot of the time there’s a gradual build up, and almost like this warning phase.

Or if you also have seizures, epilepsy is a common killer of Autistic People, because there is a lot of Autistic People who also have seizures.

So to compare the experience with having seizures, and with having meltdowns, because I said there’s similar nerdological, neural-nerd-illogical- neurological events earlier.

The seizures I experienced often do have aura, luckily, so there’s some feelings and things that I can catch, and realize that I feel like I’m going to have a seizure.

With the meltdown, very similarly, there are certain things, that are going to probably be different from person to person, that I can catch that let me know I am pretty close to having a meltdown, and in this phase one, this remediation phase, this phase where it is possible to maybe course correct – that is when I try to catch myself.

Because, it’s like the edge of the cliff and once you’ve gone too far, there’s a point of no return, the meltdown is imminent, and it will happen and then you have to ride it out.

So a lot of my work since learning, I’m Autistic, trying to better deal with and understand my meltdowns is figuring out where that cliff is, that point of no return before I fall off the cliff. To make this visual for you, visual thinkers.

Once I’ve gone past that point of no return, I am stuck and I just have to ride it out, until I get to the end of the mountain.

Meltdowns for me sometimes can mean a lot of shaking and crying.

Um, I may curl up in a ball in a chair or a couch or in a corner or in the bed somewhere. I will generally throw myself in a place where I can be alone.

 If I feel a meltdown coming, especially when I know it is now at eminent, and approaching, and unavoidable, I have this urge to run and get away and be alone.

I don’t know if that comes from shame, or self preservation, because often other people don’t know how to help, and will say and do the wrong thing.

So in my experience, it’s just been, personally, better to be on my own and have my meltdown and get it over with, ride it out, and go into the last phase, which is the recovery phase of the meltdown.

In what I say is the final phase of my meltdown, the recovery phase, I feel, again, much like recovering from a seizure, very exhausted, very heavy, probably have the urge to take a nap.

Not do anything, or deal with anyone. I can feel very worn down after a meltdown. It’s mentally exhausting and taxing, and that exhaustion can depend on the intensity of the meltdown. If it was a particularly bad meltdown, I might have a longer recovery time that it can take hour or days. I’ve had meltdowns so bad that it’s taken a week to recover from having a meltdown. Uh, so the recovery phase, it can stretch on, to what you’re trying to recuperate yourself from having this neurological event.

My experience of meltdowns has actually changed and evolved, since I was a young person.

When I was little, I would more frequently melt down and lash out.

And my teens, my meltdowns were much angrier and more, aggressive, and in my late teens, I even had a meltdown, when someone attacked me, and got violent during a meltdown.

That point that someone attacked me first, and then I got violent when I melted down, and then was very out of control, is a point I want to focus on, because the meltdowns for me happen, and I’ve always tended to happen when I have this fight flight freeze response triggered, where I feel so scared and overwhelmed.

And so feeling that I was in danger by physical assault, uh, when normally I would go into freeze and run -run. As I mentioned earlier, when there was no choice, but to fight, apparently I am capable of fighting as well. Which is concerning, and not something that has happened in many years.

I actually shut down a lot more now than melting down. I think shutting down has become more of a learned behavior, that has increased in my adult life, because shutting down is safer.

Because it is less of an inconvenience on other people, and does not draw the attention of people around you, because melting down around people, or in a public space can be problematic for many reasons.

Melting down around other people could lead you to saying and doing things that you might regret later, that you wouldn’t necessarily normal mea- normally mean, if you were in your typical Headspace, because being in a meltdown completely incapacitates me, to where I am not in my typical head space at all.

A lot of times, I can’t even make words in a meltdown.

Not words that makes sense.

So… sorry, meltdowns or intends to talk about like, my heart is racing right now. Let me breathe for a minute.

That got intense really quickly. I knew it would.

It was a lot. It was supposed to be 10 minutes and I ended up doing 15 minutes. I couldn’t keep it to 10 minutes.

I hope it was all very helpful to you. I’m thankful for each and every one of you sticking around for a whole 15 minutes with me to ramble on meltdowns.

Thanks for that.

Uh, also thanks to the Patreon subscribers and supporters, as always, for helping me to create this quality content, for paying for things like the transcriptioning software, that allows me to make this accessible, especially on YouTube.

And it’s most accessible at my blog, NeuroDivergent Rebel dot com – uh, because some platforms remove my closed captioning, but I have a lot more control on my website.

So I invite you to view the content there.

Uh, and thanks to everyone for your support, whether it’s commenting, sharing your perspectives, ideas, and video suggestions, I am so grateful for each and every one of you for being here.

I will talk to you all next week.

Later humans.


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4 thoughts on “Autism & Meltdowns – What are Autistic Meltdowns Like?

  1. Hey Lyric,

    Thank you for the video & all your work!

    I have experienced multiple times something similar to what you’re describing. I’m wondering if those could be something else, like related to anxiety or trauma. They do seem a lot like autistic meltdowns, and are triggered by emotionally overwhelming situations/multiple things piling up and some seemingly small thing triggering it.

    The thing is, the two doctors I’ve mentioned to that I suspect I might have autism, have immediately said they don’t believe me. Could they know that for sure if they’ve seen me once or twice, is autism always that obvious? I mean, I might seem quite normal at first glance, but that is not the whole truth.

    I really don’t know if the medical professionals are right or not about that, and I really can’t explain what those meltdownd are. They’re not panic attacs. But they’re involuntary, include a lot of intense anxiety, sometimes shaking and usually crying.

  2. Heya! I accept you invitation to write about my meltdowns! Thank you for sharing yours! I dont display or feel any early warning signs, so I’ve had to work on identifying triggers, and practicing mitigation strategies. I have come to learn by feeling where in my body I feel feelings, and put myself to bed (and stay there, making no commitments, avoiding social media, avoiding potentially triggering situations (groups of people), tell my partner and our kids I’m sick etc) for a day or two if I catch myself in time. If I dont catch myself in time, my meltdowns become horrible; I cant think straight, I make poor choices, I become angry and yell at people more, I cry heaps, and end up in bed for a week recovering, sufferings fatigue, weird apatite, weird sleep patterns, writing heaps to bring myself back down. Then I have to apologise to everyone I’ve upset. Meltdowns suck!

  3. I just discovered your page! Thank you for telling your story. So much a lot of us can relate to.

    I offended a friend by basically melting down (conversing very loudly like a mariner, not AT friend but at the universe… using “literary license” is a way to blow off steam for me) when they crossed my boundaries, messed with my system, and spilled gasoline… which I CANNOT stand.

    Your posts give good insights, thanks!

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