Sensory Meltdowns- The Tidal Waves of Sensory Processing Disorder


It’s been a rough couple of weeks. I have reached the end of my sensory rope too often and when that happened the meltdowns soon follow. Sometimes they’re small, popping up in a glazed look in the eyes or a fuzzy brain. Other times meltdowns or more like a tidal wave- and all I can do is just let it wash over me.

Last night was Halloween. I went to various stores gathering up gear for a costume beforehand. Then I got dressed up in said costume (I went as a Jedi), and left for a Halloween party with my boyfriend. By the time I got to the party, the tights I had chosen to wear were bugging me, the cloak I was wearing  started pulling at my throat, and the smells from the cooking food and the other guests began to slowly drain me. Meanwhile, the room was filling with people, all dressed up in various costumes, talking fast and loud, and all concentrated into one small area.

As one would expect, I was brought very quickly to the breaking point. I soon found my eyes had glazed over, my brain had ceased recognizing my limbs and reacting to funny comments- I was in shutdown mode. My boyfriend noticed this and brought me to a quiet place, but sadly it was too late. By the time we reached the basement, I was in full meltdown mode. My limbs shook as my brain panicked at the sensory stimulation and sought the fastest way to find good stimulation (which usually comes through deep pressure). I had my Koosh ball, my boyfriends comforting frame, and a better environment, but it was no use- the damage was done and all I could do was let the meltdown wash over me.

It is so frustrating to feel your body going out of control as it flees from it’s surroundings and seeks out sensory stimulation to regulate ones brain functions. It’s like a spooked herd of cattle. They need to run, but aren’t sure where to go with that emotion. We all know the outcome of spooked cattle- a stampede and anything in their path is trampled as they seek peace or water.

What’s also frustrating is that while I was experiencing the shaking, the panic, and various other symptoms, a part of my brain was still the normal Annetta people usually see, only it was trapped inside. All that part of my brain could do was watch and wait while my body went out of control.

Eventually the meltdown died down a bit, leaving me pretty wiped out for the rest of the evening, but pretty much back to normal.

The tidal wave was over- or so I thought.

Then came the next morning. I awoke, tired and unaware that I was already an hour late- thanks to a faulty alarm. My boyfriend was waiting on my front stoop and I was still in my PJ’s.

That was when I realized the storm wasn’t over yet- the tidal wave was back! I spent the rest of the morning crying and fighting back tears. Anything and everything seemed to cause tears to fill my eyes. I felt like a bottle of pop that had been shook too often and all I could do was let the fuzz bubble out.

woman-1006100_1920 I felt horrible, angry, frustrated that my body was crying so often! I felt bad for my boyfriend who could only offer a comforting hug or rub my back and wait for the tidal wave to pass.

It’s the feeling of lack of control that is most horrible with meltdowns. They happen so often and I have very little ability to stop them once they start- they just have to blow themselves out. I am fully aware that I am acting totally opposite of what a normal 20 something should behave- but at that point, I am completely unable to stop the monster inside me from raising it’s nasty head.

So for those who have seen me in meltdown mode remember:

  • It’s not you, it’s my Sensory Processing Disorder- PLEASE don’t take what I do personally. It is NOT your fault that I have had a meltdown. And if I meltdown in anger, be assured that I am not angry at you- I am more angry at my body than anyone else.
  • Just allow the tidal wave to pass- don’t try to ignore it or expect it to go away instantly. It will take time.
  • And give me grace- I hate meltdowns even more than you do and I really am doing everything I can to stop them.

And for those who have meltdowns remember:

  • This too will pass- it may seem overwhelming now and embarrassing now, but it will soon pass and life will go on.
  • Give yourself grace- your body is unwell and it is trying to bring peace and order back to your senses, so cut it some slack.
  • Allow yourself time to recover and then get back at life- don’t let this meltdown keep you from life. Give your body time to recharge and then back to what you were doing. This time around you’ll have a little bit of experience under your belt as an extra bonus. 😉

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