Coming out of (recovering from) an Asperger’s / autistic shutdown

My mantra that “I can only speak for myself” applies even more strongly than usual to this post.  After all, everyone on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum experiences and describes shutdowns differently in the first place, and we also each have our individual ways of recovering from them.

First and foremost, recovering from a shutdown takes time.  It’s going to process and dissipate on its own timetable.  This is a simple fact of life, and unfortunately, we’re never entirely immune.  I encourage us all to have patience with ourselves and generously give ourselves the time we need to recover.  Often, we also need solitude in order to do this.  Usually, we also need an environment that is free of sensory stimuli, triggers, and anything else that can fatigue or irritate our systems further.  Above all, we must be kind and compassionate toward ourselves.

For some, recovering from a shutdown may be expedited, although this isn’t true for all of us.  And even for those of us for whom it holds true at times, it may not be true every time.

For me, recovering from a shutdown can sometimes depend largely on what may have caused or contributed to it.  For example, I’ve had stressful encounters with a few select members of my clientele.  During those times, I’ve been able to prevent a shutdown altogether by engaging in a limited-but-sufficient rant about the situation with my coworkers, especially since they’re supportive.  For me, talking with these supportive people definitely helps (at least, most of the time). 

Another example involves my previous post, in which my partner and I had had an argument last night.  This time, the shutdown occurred due to spending too much time in limbo after what should have been a fairly short “cool-off” break.  (I had merely wanted to take a brief intermission to cool down; I wasn’t trying to evade the situation; in fact, I was anxious to resume the conversation so that we could work things out.)  Being able to resolve the issue with him was the only antidote.  Had we been able to do that sooner, my shutdown recovery might have gone faster, or perhaps not been necessary at all, because I might not have even gone into shutdown mode.

Sometimes, shutdowns happen to me that would not be resolved by talking or discussing it with anyone.  These situations are less clear, and pulling out of them might take me some trial and error…or simply, adequate time.  Different remedies work for different situations.  Sometimes, listening to music might help, whereas at other times, writing might do the trick, and still other times, maybe talking with a friend, my mom, or a counselor might be the ticket.  Painting, walking around in nature, or perhaps taking a short road trip to a remote area not too far away might speed up the recovery.  Or reading.  Or playing my keyboard.  Or exercise, meditation, creative visualization, or communing with the universe or God or another deity.  And of course, sometimes not.

There are plenty of times when nothing at all will help.

Everyone will have their own ways of coping with this issue that work for them.  Sometimes, a “stim” activity (repetitive motion/movement, or repetitive sound, or a calming motion-image such as a waterfall), or an activity related to a “special interest” provides an excellent solution.  Or petting the cat or dog or some other type of fur-kid.

If the shutdown was brought on by grief, there are often antidotes for that, too.  Personally, I’ve had acupuncture treatments during which specific points for grief were the focus, and I can’t explain it, but that stuff–done correctly–works well for me (and many other people who have had this experience!).

Whether it’s an activity, a change of scenery, a trusted friend, a fur-kid, another type of outlet, or even specific breathing or energy technique, it’s important to try various possible interventions on for size, just in case they can add more options to the coping mechanism toolbox.  It’s always good to explore and consider, even if it’s something that feels funny at first.  You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised! Little things that seem silly or trivial might become your most powerful allies.  Sometimes I even hug a tree or stare at a yantra (geometric and symmetrical abstract design) or repeat a single 1-or-2-syllable word over and over again, until it temporarily loses its meaning.

Regardless, it’s going to take time.  Often, the more severe the cause, or the more personal the “hit”, the longer it will likely take.  And that’s OK; that’s normal; it’s not a character flaw on your part!  It’s nothing you can–or even need to–try to change.  Trying to change it would likely be impossible, and thus a futile effort anyway.  It’s important to be as gentle to yourself as possible and give yourself the latitude and space you need.  Do your best to immerse yourself in an environment that is conducive to your needs and partake only in activities that your brain agrees with.

At the very least, try to spend time alone or surround yourself with a very select few supportive people who are close to you.  Try to remain “quarantined” in a friendly, compatible environment that is not assaulting to your senses, especially one that is free of triggers, for triggers only make the situation worse and slow down your recovery time.

It’s best to try to do what works best for you as quickly as possible, for shutdowns can settle in gradually.  In order to do that effectively, it’ll be crucial to try to identify what triggers your shutdowns, if you can.

For me, my main shutdown triggers include:

  • Grief (losing a loved one OR missing someone who is alive but not geographically close); this also includes pre-grieving, which is when you know that the loss or geographical separation of someone is coming up in the future
  • Conflict, arguments (at home, at work, by phone/email, or on social media)
  • Personal attacks, harsh criticism
  • Too much peopling, especially with those not personally close to me, or too much in a short period of time
  • Rejection, especially personal (unfriending, unfollowing, getting fired, breaking up, etc)
  • Bullying or belittling (including trolling, hate mail)
  • Severe stress, anxiety, fear
  • Depression
  • Misunderstandings
  • Accusations, especially false/inaccurate ones
  • Complaints, especially those against me, especially if unjustified
  • Toxic people
  • Drama and BS
  • Energy sucker-type people (emotional or energetic “vampires” – they do exist, in my experience!)
  • Huge sensory overload, such as a really loud concert (even if it was planned for and I enjoyed it!)
  • Anytime I feel like I messed up significantly
  • Knowing I offended someone cool or hurt someone
  • Hostility from others
  • Concerts or other loud, overstimulating events (even if they were planned and prepared for and I enjoyed it!  The negative emotional aspect isn’t there, of course, but sensory overload often is, and it needs its refractory period of recovery time, too)
  • Other overstimulating/overwhelming places, such as the mall or heavy/rude traffic (I swear, near the Full Moon and sometimes even near the New Moon, there’s often an “electricity” in the air that makes people more hostile, aggressive, and irrational)
  • …You get the idea

Again, sometimes there’s nothing at all that can bring one out of a shutdown; other times, there is.  The common denominator I’ve noticed throughout all of my shutdowns is sufficient time and a compatible environment.  Occasionally I can’t even identify what might have caused or contributed to my shutdowns, although most of the time, I can.  Sometimes it’s the result of more than one trigger; I’ve found that the stronger the triggers, and the more of them are involved, the more severely they’ll affect me, and the longer the amount of time I’ll need to pull out and make a full recovery.

It happens to the best of us, it happens to the rest of us, and if it happens to you, too, then you’ve definitely got plenty of company!  As eternal as it may seem, I promise that it’s not. ❤

Note: I’m always here for anyone who needs it.  I can be reached on Twitter @TheSilentWave, or on my Facebook page The Silent Wave, both of which have private direct/private message functions.  No message is ever ignored (although sometimes I might think I’ve responded when actually, I haven’t; in that case, just message me again). 🙂

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7 Comments

  1. Love this, especially the bits about the full and new Moons. I think us on the spectrum are more sensitive to subtle astrological energies.
    I recently finished a PhD in quantum magnetism and am now becoming an astrologer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Omg yes! Thank you so much for your comment :). I think you’re spot-on! I’m into astrology as well, and many years ago had considered becoming an astrologer. Congrats on your PhD! That’s so awesome!! High-fives to you, kindred spirit ❤

      Like

  2. Really helpful! May I ask you if in case of misunderstanding what can i do? I wait time and then try to make all things clear as for me(i can speak only for me too) or to be silent. I was rejected too in a hard way. But i think it was a great misunderstanding and i would like to clear it all… what do you suggest? Might it be worse or could help to stay better me and the other person? Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! 😊 You raise a really good question–and again, you’re not alone. I’ve asked myself this question many, many times over the years in which I’ve been in relationships 😊

      Like you, I’ve also been frequently misunderstood. I’ve found that when the other person isn’t sure how I meant something (or is starting to get angry because they’re thinking I’m being mean in some way), they ask simply, “what do you mean?” That gives me a chance to clarify myself and explain further or to rephrase what I said in a different way. Most neurotypical (non-autistic) partners are not generally going to know that they should do this, though. I had to coach my partner; I advised him that anytime he’s wondering what I meant, or getting irritated or hurt by something I said, to stop, take a deep breath and ask me what I actually meant.

      When the misunderstanding is long past, it’s tougher to go back and smooth things over, but it can be done in some cases. A phone call, an email, etc, can open the conversation. If it were me, I might start by saying, “I wanted to share something with you that might demystify some things. I was diagnosed with autism this year, and so that might explain why I (acted a certain way, said things a certain way, etc).”

      Whether it’s worth it to stay with someone or whether or not a person should remain in one’s life is a completely subjective question, but I follow a few personal guidelines:
      – They’re not abusive
      – They’re not adulterous
      – They’re not addicted to drugs or alcohol
      – They don’t abandon me

      I also insist on the following:
      – They respect me
      – They’re willing to work at the relationship; they’re committed to me and committed to working out our problems
      – I don’t have to change myself just to be with them; they like/love me for me.

      If all of those are satisfied, everything else I would want or need in a relationship will also be satisfied; all of my needs will be met. 😊

      But that’s just me; your needs may be different. Every partner is different. Every relationship combination is different. Your situation is unique to you and that person. I’ve found it very useful to trust my gut instinct above all 😊

      I hope this helps! Please let me know if this is what you had in mind, or if I misinterpreted your question; if I did, I’m happy to try again ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much! Your answer is really precious, you open me to hope. I would like to clarify a situation but I am afraid to be mistaken again and to get a new reject. But i think if i don’t try i can’t stay in peace. Now i want to wait and be quiet then i’ll try to do my best. I respect the other person. It could seem i didn’t respect but it was a great misunderstanding. That’s so sad. I feel i want to work for this friendship but not alone, not if the other doesn’t have the same will. Friendship is made of trust and love for truth. Good night my dearie ♥♥♥

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is all very good information to share with family, friends and even coworkers and bosses. I know I’ve had multiple incidents and work-related performance issues due to shutdown. It is unfortunately part of life.

    I think education is the key here. Teaching others how to work with us to prevent shutdown and meltdowns but as they are inevitable sometimes also how to deal with us while we are experiencing them. That would go a long way.

    Liked by 1 person

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