Inside an Autistic ADHD-er’s Meltdown
Inside an Autistic ADHD-er’s Meltdown
Two men enter our home with a brand new huge sectional. Not unexpected. It was well planned. We were expecting our furniture to be delivered today.
Living a masked life had taught me to hide my anxiety well. Receiving my diagnosis though, freed the inner me. I just didn’t want to camouflage anymore and while that helps me unburden myself, it puts a lot of stress on my relationships.
Coming back to the point, they enter with the sectional, start making small talk with us and I can feel the dysregulation within every inch of my body. The sofa seems too big. The placement of the sofa is not sitting well in my mind. It looks completely different. Different than what my brain is accustomed to. I am not comfortable with the sudden arrival of two strangers despite having been prepared for their arrival. Their small talk is causing additional stress. They are doing nothing wrong, disrespectful or hurtful. They are simply doing their job that we requested them to do and still I have an influx of emotions with all the things that my brain is noticing that are hardly noticeable for anyone else.
My husband and sons are excited and ask me for my opinion on the new sectional. I try telling them the problems I am having. They keep telling me it looks good.
My brain registers their response as, “they are not even listening” or in other simple words, I feel unheard. At that point, the red panda (my meltdown) emerges. My eyes well up with tears, they tell me I am screaming / shouting, I don’t understand what they are saying because in my mind, I am not screaming and I am not shouting. I am simply wanting to be heard. I storm out of the living room, crying. Not understanding how to communicate or how to make myself understood. The next 30 minutes, I am just mute.
The hardest part in this ordeal is that usually I am perceived as me being a very difficult person. Before my diagnosis, it was perceived the same way by me. However, I now extend myself a little grace and acknowledge the needs of my brain.
I have never talked about this. I have never spoken so openly. But here’s a start.
Everyday tasks – as simple as a typical morning routine of self-care and house chores overwhelm my brain. So much so that I need to take frequent breaks just to complete a single task. You see, while it may seem simple to many, to my brain – it is extremely overwhelming. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know where and when to stop. 34 years of me fighting myself and blaming myself for not being able to do the “easy” things has reduced my stamina quite drastically.
My ADHD self and my autistic self sometimes work as a team but sometimes they also work against each other. It gets challenging at times to decode what will help me regulate myself at times. For example, sometimes my autistic self wants things to be unchanged, welcomes things that I am accustomed to and hates sudden change of plans while my ADHD self wants novelty to stay motivated to do anything at all. I struggle with motivation. Immensely. And no. Contrary to the common belief, it’s not because I am not trying.
Trust me, I try.
Trust me, I am not lazy.
Trust me, I am aware of the challenges I have, I am well-aware of my shortcomings. In fact I am my biggest critic of all times
Trust me, I don’t need reminders of what I struggle with. I give myself plenty of reminders.
Trust me, I have worked endlessly on myself for the past couple years to understand if the accusations of me being lazy are true.
Trust me, I have tested myself more than anyone knows.
I remember someone very near and dear to my heart pointing out how a weight loss plan won’t help if I am not consistent. I remember thinking to myself, well they have clearly noticed a pattern of my inconsistencies in everyday or selfcare tasks. I remember thinking to myself, yes – they are right. And I also remember thinking to myself, I will be consistent, THIS time.
Consistency and motivation are co-related. When I struggle with motivation for the very basic things required for “living”, I naturally struggle with consistency. So much so that I sometimes like to joke, I am my greatest hurdle.
And then, let’s just forget the executive functioning for a while. Let’s come to socializing and relationships. Growing up, everyone close to me thought that I am a social butterfly. I was known as the extrovert in the family. Little did anyone know, all my efforts of being an extrovert were actually an attempt to hide my social shortcomings. I remember inviting a group of classmates to a party once and no one showed up. I remember some very close and near ones making fun of the fact that no one showed up.
I don’t know whether it’s due to my neurodivergence or if it’s just me but emotions like rejection, embarrassment and shame are usually magnified in my brain. So let’s say if in a given circumstance someone would feel 25% of the emotion, I would probably feel a 125% of it. May be it’s my RSD (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria) but in order to avoid these emotions I started making “friends” only so with the wrong group and suffered immensely due to that.
I realize now that I never was an extrovert.
I never was a social butterfly. I was more of a “stick to myself” kind of person. I was more of a, “no small talk” person. However, in pretending to be what I was not, I suffered. I was used. I was betrayed. I was hurt. I remember trying to be a part of small talk and sometimes saying things that may be deemed inappropriate. When told off for that, I questioned why because my brain couldn’t differentiate between the small talk others were making and the small talk I was trying to make.
Long story short, while I love humans – the social expectations exhaust me and make me anxious which is probably the reason why I sit in the car in the parking lot for quite some time in an attempt to ground myself before going somewhere. Now combine the anxiety of social expectations with sensory sensitivities and it becomes a whole other level of ordeal. While my brain is constantly battling the questions, “are you saying the right thing?” “do you have the right expression on your face?” “did you offend someone?” “what is he/she thinking” etc. etc. , it also has noise.
What noise, you may ask?
Well, there are the obvious everyday noises around us like the cars revving, kids playing etc. which, might I add, despite my auditory processing challenges, I hear the noise more than others (whether I can process it or not, is a story for another day) but keeping that aside- there is another noise that sensory sensitivity generates for me.
My brain gets overwhelmed by how the texture of my clothes is making me feel, it gets overwhelmed by the pressure of the texture that I can feel on my skin, and sometimes even by the movement of every strand of my hair. To many this would not make sense but to some, it will. Some will understand what I mean when I say, “my brain gets overwhelmed” and all this overwhelm results in a constant noise in my brain – not an actual sound but a fuzzy pressure. I wish I was better with words. Might I add, that this noise that I am talking about is apart from my other sensory sensitivities such as a loud noise usually makes me skip a heartbeat etc.
I don’t know why, but I want to keep writing today. There is so much more I have to say but I am running out of spoons and I don’t want to run out of spoons. So, I will stop. For now, I will just breathe in, and breathe out and maybe come back some other day to write.
About the Author
Hi! I am Samar and I am a neurodivergent. Finding out about my neurodivergence through a formal evaluation was life changing for me. My childhood was inherently spent knowing and believing within my heart that I was different. My diagnosis served as a validation for me. I could finally put my guard down. Or could I? I founded Kind Theory to cultivate acceptance, inclusion and celebration of neurodiversity. My hope is to do it globally – but hey! It’s a start.
I have worked in the fields of education, information analysis and operations management. I have a Masters Degree in Business Administration and a certification in Big Data Analytics. I find the human brain extremely fascinating and therefore have a keen interest in learning more about how the psychology of the human brain works. I started an ALM in Psychology but had to pause due to personal reasons. My hope and dream is to someday be able to earn a Masters in Psychology and eventually a doctorate. A girl can dream, right?
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep.And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before i sleep – Robert Frost
One thought on “Inside an Autistic ADHD-er’s Meltdown”
I relate on so many levels. I, too am Autistic and have ADHD, and RSD, and am finding more things regularly. I’m a very late in life diagnosed neurodivergent person.
You’re not wrong in your statement that we are sometimes our biggest hurdles; certainly I am often my own as well.
I used to think I was good at adapting to change, but in hindsight and being realistic…no, I don’t.
Thanks for sharing this; it helps me understand myself even more to hear how similar my experiences are with other neurodivergent people.