Patreon members and YouTube channel members had access to this video on June 23, 2022. The video’s public release will be Aug 31, 2022.
I’m an Autistic adult, and that means sometimes life, and the world around me, can be overwhelming. When I am overwhelmed, I may meltdown, or shut down.
A lot of people, who are not Autistic, might not understand what it’s like to shut down, as an Autistic Person, so I wanted to share that with you today.
People talk a lot about Autistic meltdowns, I think, because they are noticeable and can be more of an air quotes, “inconvenience on other people”.
For example, when I meltdown, it is a very loud, aggressive… way that I am interpreted by other people. That is the fight part of the fight, flight, flee.
When I was a young person, I used to have a lot more explosive, angry, meltdowns, but as an adult, diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, in addition to being Autistic, I have learned anger often comes from another emotion, like anxiety. Anger feels better than anxiety. You can actually get addicted to being angry, believe it or not, which is something interesting.
Being angry feels more powerful than being anxious. Some people who have anxiety can lash out as a way to protect themselves from something that they’re afraid of.
When I was a young person, or if I feel trapped, and like I can’t get away from a situation, or I’m stuck with something that is too much for me, I still might lash out, in a very stereotypical Autistic meltdown.
So: fight meltdown, flight eloping, fleeing, running, freeze shut down.
My two go-tos, now as an adult, are typically to flee. When I start to feel that overwhelming sensation, that volcano building pressure within me, I will run away and go be somewhere alone, because as a young person, and even as a not so young person, I’ve had meltdowns around other people before.
Often, having meltdowns around other people does not work out well for me; because once a meltdown starts, I’ve got to ride it out, and I’m stuck in it.
Other people, often through good intentions or intolerance, either or… will do the wrong thing. When that happens, it can keep the meltdown going, or make the meltdown worse.
The worse the meltdown is, the more likely I am going to do or say something that I will regret, or may be dangerous to my health, safety, or my relationships with people I care about.
So, when I start to feel that feeling, my instinct is to run and get away from everyone and everything that is making noise, is busy, or is a human, and just go be alone until I have ridden the emotional roller coaster that is my fight flight response being triggered.
If I can’t run away, it leaves me with very few options, and since I’m not someone who tends to fawn, I will either fight, have a meltdown… but now as an adult, more often, I will shut down, and implode on myself.
We don’t talk about shutdowns as often, I think, because they are often a bit more invisible than a meltdown would be, because it’s not so much of an inconvenience on other people.
I am sitting very, still sitting, very quiet, not speaking, probably staring at the floor, at something, or out a window, and I’m just going to freeze up for a while, and I won’t be bothering anybody. Depending on the situation, or the circumstance, an Autistic shutdown could potentially go completely unnoticed.
The other thing about shutdowns is, because they often, for me, will happen when I am in very intense, emotional situations, me just shutting down and going blank all of a sudden… something I have very little control over, is sometimes taken as intentionally “shutting down a conversation” or “stonewalling” or “refusing to engage”.
That’s because people who don’t shut down don’t understand what it’s like to suddenly become locked in on yourself like that.
Personally, as someone who’s experienced both meltdowns and shutdowns, I would say that the meltdown feels better to me.
The meltdown, you’re like shaking this Coke bottle, or this volcano is building pressure, and then finally the pressure is released, and you explode, and there’s a bit of a catharsis to it, in my personal experience. Like I feel relief, a bit better, after I’ve had a meltdown, but, with a shutdown, I don’t get that same release feeling.
With a shutdown I put all of that energy inward on myself. I implode and it doesn’t feel so good. And I feel like shutting down takes more of a mental toll on me than getting that out, getting those feelings out, and it doesn’t give me any release, and often I feel worse after a shutdown, than I do after a meltdown.
Even though there’s a release from a meltdown, I wanna say, I still have to recover from meltdowns. Like, it’s not like, “oh, I feel fantastic! I had a meltdown!
So don’t, don’t go triggering people’s meltdowns, thinking they’re gonna get released from it. That that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying with the meltdown, often there is some stressor in my life, and a lot of stressors and pressures or things that have been building up, and then the meltdown is just the final straw, when I can’t take it anymore and I get it all out.
Don’t use this as an excuse to go trigger people to have meltdowns, because even then it’s like, I am still gonna be recovering from that meltdown for the rest of the day.
Whereas the shutdown, I will likely be recovering from it longer, and then I might have another meltdown later, because I didn’t meltdown, and I just shut down instead, and kept all in.
Those are my thoughts about Autistic shutdowns. If you’re an Autistic Person, do you have more shutdowns or more meltdowns? Do you ever elope and run off?
Which is more common for you? And what is that experience like for you? What are your biggest triggers?
My biggest triggers are sensory things, intense emotional situations, and communication issues with other people, and the big number one, one: surprises and change of plans and schedules, that I don’t have control over.
Thanks so much for hanging out with me this week. If you’re still here, smash that thumbs up button, so I know you made it all the way to the end of the video, I stayed on track enough, and I didn’t lose you.
That’s hard for me to do, as a multiply NeuroDivergent, Autistic, ADHDer. My brain just goes in all these directions sometimes. I’ve been told I need to stick to the point, and that’s harder than… harder said than done.
Thank you everyone who comments, gives video suggestions, shares what your own experience of being Autistic or NeuroDivergent is like, especially if it’s different from my own. We are not the same. We’re all different, so it’s good to hear how we have differing experiences.
Thanks, as always, to the Patreon Supporters, Facebook Subscribers, YouTube Channel Members, Twitter Super Followers.
Is that everybody?
Thank you, to those of you who do that monetary subscription, to those of you who randomly send five bucks to me on PayPal every now and then like, wow! Thanks!!! You really don’t have to, but it does make this blog possible; things like mobile internet, and the technology I use to shoot these videos, transcriptioning software, web hosting.
All of this is made possible, thanks to the help and support of viewers like you. You make this blog what it is. Without you, I’m just an Autistic, ranting into the internet, in an RV.
Thank you all so much. I will see you next week. Bye.
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3 thoughts on “Autism and Shutting Down – My Experience with Shutdowns as an Autistic Adult”
Thank you for your post. Shutdowns occur for me also. They are horrible and I hate them.
I’m not autistic, and I learned so much from this post. Thanks for your dedication to expressing yourself with so much clarity.
I find I have planned my personal activities around being around as few people as possible, in early morning before ‘complications of others’ plans’ build up and I get caught up in their propeller wash. I was always taught not to blame others–but this is not blame. It’s navigating the world in a sane manner. Avoidance of BS is a good practice for me.