This last week has been hard. By hard I mean stressful. Which is why I haven’t really posted anything (1,000 apologies). Justin doesn’t have a job right now (my choice) to get some therapy and help sort of rediscover himself with his new diagnosis. He’s getting bored during the day despite his hobbies and helping me keep the house clean (this is amazing by the way–get yourself a house husband–it’s awesome). So he gets feeling a little down, and then in a true Aspie sense, he can’t handle his emotions, and everything goes to shit, and he melts down.
Children with autism have meltdowns a lot. It’s been described as feeling like a volcano, screaming, yelling, punching, throwing, having a hissy fit. Children can’t help it, and neither can adults. And yes, adults with autism can have melt downs. It’s happened a few times with Justin during our relationship, and almost caused us to split. I’ve posted about these before, but I want to recap for those who are reading us for the first time (thanks!!!).
I found this article helpful when we first started learning about Justin’s autism.
The first time he had a meltdown, it was the first summer we had together. It was hot, was whining about not having a job, and complaining about it. He threw a hissy fit and got all pissed. I grabbed my dog and booked it out of there. “I don’t need this,” I thought, tears in my eyes as Waffles and I high tailed it home. Within a minute of leaving, he was messaging me to tell me he was sorry and he felt stupid.
The second meltdown was one that almost caused me to leave. We were following his parents somewhere and we got lost. His parents were pretty carefree about it, but Justin was losing his shit. He got pissed and started punching the steering wheel, freaking out. I was legitimately scared, and remembered thinking we were done when we got home (I didn’t want to tell him then of course). But he was quick to apologize, and after I told him he actually scared me, he has stopped.
This week was rough, as you read. We’ve been broke and worried about it, and he had to deal with family that knows how to push him. He had a melt down on his family member and yelled at her (all things considered with her…we all wish we could do that to her, FYI). He called me upset and crying, feeling stupid and embarrassed. I never know what to say when this happens except “I’m sorry,” and “It’s okay, things will be okay.” I don’t think it helps at all (but he does).
His mom was told we were borrowing money, and was upset we didn’t ask her. We didn’t want to borrow from her because we didn’t want to put her in a bad financial situation, so we didn’t. He got PISSED when she called because she’d been told by someone else that we were asking to borrow money. This absolutely confused me. Why did he care if she was told? Yeah, we’re broke, who cares if people know? But he was upset and acted out. He went outside, really upset, punching something. When he came back in he was still upset, but I said babe, why do you care? And he didn’t really know why. It wasn’t the actual fact that someone told his mom that. It was just the money thing that got him all freaked out.
The bottom line is–meltdowns are scary. He doesn’t know how to express his frustration and it comes in the form of absolutely freaking out. It looks like a rage burst, but it isn’t. He has never ever done anything violent towards me (or anyone). He doesn’t cause damage. He just…freaks out. It’s okay to feel scared by them, I’ve learned, and it’s okay to not be able to fix them when they happen. It’s usually followed with feeling exhausted, embarrassed, and sad.
I have learned how to cope better with Justin’s meltdowns (I used to cry because I wasn’t sure why he was reacting so much). Now I tend to stay away while he starts, not touch him, and let it run its course. They generally don’t last very long. His mood usually changes back to normal, and I just forget about the meltdown. I can tell when he’s starting to feel overwhelmed, and I can help take him out of the situation.
From a wife’s perspective, it’s hard to see him experiencing these. I want to fix everything and make sure he’s 100% happy, 100% of the time. But seriously–does this happen with anyone, ever? No. I have to watch him go through these, and it’s okay. The fact is, he knows I’m there for him before, during and after the meltdowns, and that will never change.