I actually wrote this post out, in its word-for-word entirety, many months ago. The situation described here happens occasionally, but it hasn’t happened in a while. I’m OK right now 🙂
I don’t know why I sat on this post for so long. It’s not that I’m embarrassed by it; it happened; it was–and is–a part of my life. Maybe it was a simple case of “it was a passing thing, it has indeed passed, and it’s no longer relevant”.
But the truth is, even though I’m approaching 40, it is relevant. And it will continue to remain so for the rest of my life. Unlike children who grow out of voluntary “temper tantrum” behaviors engineered to induce parents and caregivers into giving in to the child’s wishes, the Asperger’s/autism spectrum meltdown is an entirely different concept that, aside from surface appearances, shares nothing in common with a garden-variety tantrum.
What made me decide to post it today? I can’t pin down my motives precisely; all I can say is that an Inner Voice of some type suggested I do so. So, maybe someone needs to see it, and the timing is Now. And just maybe, hopefully, it will reach its destination and provide some kind of help. 🙂
I’m issuing a Content Advisory on this one: family dysfunction; overbearing, authoritarian, and inconsiderate parenting.
I tried to clean today with my partner. He’s been very gracious and helpful, willing to help.
But today…it’s tough to describe. I’m not sure if it was just bad timing, a situation in which I overestimated my resilience or energy levels or patience threshold.
I’ve written before about how our apartment is messy. For the record, I do not like living this way. I do want to have a clean and organized/orderly place to live and rest. The mess creates a buzzing chaos in my brain.
But we’re busy people, home just long enough to sleep and make a mess, but not home enough to clean much. I do want to change that.
So, every so often, I clean some. It’s not much, but it’s what I can handle. Recently, I’ve recognized that I need help.
I need this help because if I’m honest with myself, I know deep down that I won’t do it on my own. I despise cleaning. Having to make decisions about whether or not to keep something, where to put it, how to organize it with other items, having to train my brain to remember that it’s now in this new place, etc…all of this is extremely taxing.
And then there are the memories. Memories of my father coming down on me, singling me out, barking at me to clean, not letting me do anything else until it was done, and throwing my things away while I was gone. Everything was a rough, tough, gruff, “pitch it” mentality. Weekends weren’t times to look forward to. They were not nostalgic times filled with Saturday morning cartoons. They were all about “chores”. Spoken in a tone that accused me of doing something wrong before I had done anything at all.
Unable to get into it and gain momentum or make any progress, it was a slow process that took all weekend. For hours I would drag my feet, unable to get into the spirit or focus or concentrate, unable to stay on task. Getting sidetracked by anything that I could escape into: the cat, a book, another activity. I would be fine as long as I stayed in my room and didn’t hear the signature footsteps coming up the stairs or down the hall. But I hadn’t gotten anywhere; the mess remained.
And I had to do it again and again. Yelling and tears were imminent; I could expect confrontation, and it became a regular part of the weekend. I knew this wasn’t normal; other kids didn’t seem as nervous, and since the TV networks aired cartoons (I got to find out about them by looking through the TV Guide), I knew that the TV stations wouldn’t air cartoons unless most kids watched them. So, the resentment grew, alongside the anxiety, frustration, boredom, and stress.
When this goes on and on every weekend for about 15 years (age 3-18, after which I moved out), the nervous system begins to anticipate the event and launch a response. At almost 39 years old, weekends themselves aren’t as traumatic. But cleaning still is.
It’s like replaying a traumatic accident in slow motion, the kind you can’t bear to watch, but can’t escape from. An autopilot button gets pushed and I’m seemingly doomed to relive that stress. I get impatient, for I just want it to be over; I just want to be done with it. I get irritable…especially when my partner doesn’t do it right.
Just by embarking on a cleaning project, my tolerance starts to slide downhill. When I have gone through a stack of DVDs, sorted them into separate piles (give-away and keep on shelf), and hand them to him to disperse to the appropriate places, and he fails to carry out that simple task and mixes them all up instead, this saps me further. Queue more irritability….a lot more.
It doesn’t help that he’s legally blind and lacking any parental guidance. Nothing was really expected from him when he was a kid, so he applies the same customs to his own household now. To give you an idea of how lackadaisical he was, I had to scold him for not having dish soap when we first became an item. I had to teach him to save his bank statements, because he just threw them away. Our backgrounds couldn’t be more different, and it caused friction.
Even today, the kitchen is a mess. I’m the one who has to close the DVD player after he has taken out the movie we just watched, even though he was right there. My counselor explained it well one time: those little things are like having a pebble in your shoe; it won’t kill you and when you first feel it, it’s not a big deal. You figure you can manage. But eventually it becomes more and more of an issue and you get exasperated, and you just have to deal with it, once and for all.
This week alone, five full recycling bags sat under the kitchen table. The stove can go for weeks without being wiped down (I already wash the frying pan after dishing up my dinner and then I usually fall asleep on the couch right after dinner, doing my dishes in the morning). I used to clean more but it was never appreciated, nor was any effort made to keep it that way, so somewhere along the line, I think I said, screw it, and stopped giving such an effort.
So where does that leave me now? Alone outside (venting my notes on my phone), away from the apartment, away from my partner, and done with cleaning for the day. Distancing myself, giving myself space, in serious meltdown prevention mode.
Trying to think of solutions, but failing, at least for now. Trying not to cry. Trying to recover. Trying to feel normal again, and if not normal, then at least more myself.
“What does a meltdown feel like?” ~ July 4, 2016
“So maybe I don’t have my shizz together: an Aspie / autistic mini-meltdown” ~ November 24, 2016
“Stop hijacking our terms; meltdowns and tantrums are not the same” ~ June 13, 2016
“Meltdowns and showdowns: How to prevent a meltdown?” ~ July 7, 2016
“My personal triggers, and my meltdown prevention strategies” ~ July 8, 2016
“Navigating the potential pitfalls of relationships for people ‘with’ Asperger’s / autism” ~ November 12, 2016
“Sometimes driving makes me cry” ~ December 3, 2016
“What your Asperger’s / autistic partner probably wants you to know ~ Part II” ~ November 20, 2016
“Asperger’s / autism and shame” – September 30, 2016