One of my biggest struggles as an Autistic Person is regulating my energy to meet the environment. Of course, some of this regulation is a problem due to other people’s expectations (for example, controlling my emotions to show the “appropriate” amount of emotion). Whatever that means.
When I’m excited and full of emotional energy (joyful energy or stressed anxious energy), people often tell me my reactions are “too big” and dramatic or that I’m “too much” because, in the eyes of others, I show more excitement than they feel is appropriate.
My authentic emotional expression of big feelings has been used against me multiple times. This is a risk, and a real danger to many Autistic People, if we lose control in front of someone who doesn’t understand Autism or wants to harm us.
A momentary loss of control, something all humans have from time to time, can lead Autistic (and other NeuroDivergent People) to places where our rights and autonomy may be stripped, either temporarily or long term.
Losing control, meltdowns, a big explosion of emotional energy that builds up like a shaken Coke bottle until you can no longer contain it. I have meltdowns (less of them now that I am Autistic and know what they are). I don’t fear my meltdowns, and I’m not as ashamed of them as I used to be (when I didn’t understand what they were or why I had them). However, I worry about how people react when I experience one.
A meltdown can be unpleasant (but manageable) if I am alone in a room or with a safe person who is compassionate and understands what’s happening. In perfect, supportive conditions, meltdowns are something I can survive and ride out. Still, a meltdown can be made worse by the wrong person and hostile environments (especially if I feel trapped or unsafe).
I need compassion when I have a meltdown because my flight, fight, freeze response has been triggered, meaning I feel as if I’m in danger. Adrenaline is pumping through me, and all my problems have suddenly become overwhelming. I’m stuck. I’m scared. If you push me, I may get angry and fight, but if you love and hold space for me, the meltdown might be over much quicker.
When I have a meltdown, a lot of energy flows through me. I cannot relax until that energy is expended or slowly dissipates (possibly to pop back out later). During a meltdown, my brain is susceptible to additional stimulation by things and situations that wouldn’t bother me otherwise, resulting in prolongment and strengthening of the meltdown).
I need to bring my energy down, but other people are often stressors, increasing my anxious energy or draining me when I need power (exponentially if I’m already in a heightened state).
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