How A Meltdown Feels

It begins out of nowhere.

Nobody plans to have an event that will ruin their day. Nobody thinks about how to explode an humiliate themselves. You don’t do that because this is the thing you want never to happen. But if you’re prone it will and it can be triggered in as few as 30 seconds.

What is the trigger? It won’t be something logical to most. No, those the mind has a framework for. I didn’t have a meltdown when Lauren was killed. What will trigger a meltdown is a specific set of circumstances that come down to the following: someone or something commits a deed I find unfair and I can’t understand it. My synapses misfire and we are off.

It will often be so minor to everybody else. That’s the hell of it. They won’t understand and it will make things worse as you will go through this. Because you’re not only experiencing severe emotional pain during it but you can expect it afterwards. Usually I cry harder afterwards.

Oh and even you know it’s silly. That’s the worst part. The people judging you include yourself. And you will.

Once triggered, the word ride is the best way to view it. Oh, you’re in some control. You’re not sheer id unleashed, but you’re definitely venting. You have to face the storm, the ugliness, and ride it out.

And you will. In my case there will be screaming. No violence aside from slamming my first on a pillow perhaps. Just sheer screaming and letting it all out. If I am quiet and peaceful to the point I blend in, this is my photonegative released.

And I mean letting it all out. You may not think consciously about it but the pressure usually builds. The world is frustrating. We are unhappy people too often. So we are doomed to explode.

The screaming happens, causing side effects. There is sweat. Capillaries are bursting a bit. Face is red definitely. Vision blurs a bit, largely from squinting. Seeing red is real. Afterwards the throat will be raw.  After a severe meltdown I might have a hoarse voices for days. This has been captured in audio.

And what are you saying. It doesn’t matter. It is an anger driven idioglossia. The truth of the meltdown might be in there, the target. But that’s not the truth. The truth is something is wrong and it can’t or won’t be corrected. You need help. You need it corrected. You need to understand. And you don’t.

It’s not because you’re spoiled. It’s not because you’re rude. It’s not because of anything except frustration and confusion. Emotional overload.

Intense fires burn bright and hot but they also burn fast without fuel. Given the chance, the meltdown will end fast as the soul’s bile is expelled. The melter gains their bearings.

Fuel it and things get worse. There’s no getting around it. Nothing more can be said.

When it ends, it will be rough landing. Tears are coming. Exhaustion is coming. The only way to get out ok is to just be honest as possible. You broke. This was hard. If you have to breach your soul, explain yourself as definitively as you can.

This is not the end. You will go on. This will happen again. You. Will. Go. On.

Timelessness 

I write this entry sitting on the fifth floor of the Little Rock Main Library, staring out at the city. Once more, I have been left to wait while the person I live with has dropped me here while they tend to business. Once more I sit and wait happily. That many of the core details have changed–I’m here waiting to go to work–seems irrelevant. 

There is a grain of truth to the idea we don’t really change. I’ve written on this site before. It was my sanctum as a child. In my bout of depression last fall it was my sanity. It is now and always will be a safe place. Definitely in no danger of being rebuilt. The location remains almost astonishingly top of the line. 

Sitting here turns my mind to similar thoughts. How much have I changed? I openly admit my 30s have been a rough transition to the point I should talk to someone. I know I have changed greatly in some aspects of my life. After all I’m married and fully adult. But aren’t there areas I haven’t?

My taste has changed in some ways. I haven’t seen a straight Simpsons episode in years when I used to live on it. South Park is dead to me honestly. Family Guy is all but. I don’t read tie-ins 1/10 as much as I used to. I think I’ve read a Star Wars novel in the last year. Films are another matter there. 

But then, I ponder how much of that stems from those works changing. In all cases the soul is gone. Of course I’ve moved on. They haven’t. That drives much of evolution of taste after all. 

I pause to think of what stays. I can’t rewatch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or sadly even Ducktales with the same fervor as I’ve moved past them. Yet Peanuts, Looney Tunes, and Mickey Mouse are eternal. Garfield, aside from the great 90s toon, sits in the past but Calvin and Hobbes and FoxTrot books sit gladly on my shelf ever to return to. Oddities stay too. Paddington Bear showed shocking legs with Michael Bond’s hysterical books playing surprisingly well to an adult as well as Paul King’s wonderful film. I have no idea how Big Nate, which I had a lone book of, remains but it does. Star Wars, The X-Files, and Pixar have been too continuous in my life to ever put in the past. 

And then there’s me. I’m not the cyclist I once was but I remain an avid traveler. I hope I’m still possessed of my best traits from childhood. I still write at every spare moment including now. I still value friendship with that evolving into being a devoted husband. I live to watch/go to the movies though not as often as before due to life. 

Life changes. I value what doesn’t and what never should. So, I’ll stand up. As in my youth I’ll walk to Broadway and grab lunch. And all will be good. 

Burning out

There are moments I honestly get frustrated with this blog. I’ve designed it to be very topical and not very open to in the moment. But, well, there are moments I have to admit I’m not in a topical mood. This is one. So rather than trying to capture an aspect of my general life, let me step back and study this moment.

2015 hasn’t been the endless round of fights I experienced in 2014. I’m amazed I made it through that year. Nearly five months in, it’s been almost quiet. There was a bout of winter weather and the move. Amanda and I were both sick. Few other beats here and there. I may expound on one soon.

The thing is, 2015 may be light in the major blows compared to 2014 or even 2013 so far, but it’s been sustained. There were moments in 2014 to this point I’d been able to relax and breathe. But really 2015 hasn’t had that. Starting at the beginning of the year it was a hunt for the house then a desperate scramble to move. That was followed by the writing and the illness.

And now, I’ve realized I’m tapped out. It’s a funny place to be and I feel like writing on it because ironically my drive to write on anything else is dead. That’s not quite accurate, I’ve written a few pages on the second draft. I’m not going to go into too much work on it yet because I’m burnt out and want to protect it.

My book has been a big challenge, I concede. The real challenge I’ve faced is a simple one: I wrote this material less than a year ago. I’ve told it and I’m struggling to find the energy to retell it. I might very well take a few shortcuts here and there to get through to because I do care. I want the book to be good. But it’s really hard to bring myself to want to restart telling the darkest stories of my life. Admitting this is hard.

I’ve had a hard time mustering up a lot of energy for a lot of things though. My days off have been a lot of aimless drifting. I almost want to blame the weather for that though. A thick haze without actual rain is more depressing to me than a pounding rain. A pounding rain is alive. The muck has been deadening. I have profound seasonal affective disorder and this does it.

But back to my days off, I’ve realized I have drifted. I’ve used excuses of errands but really this has been me not wanting to expel my energy right. I’ve been restless but instead of using it, my script aside I’ve done nothing of merit in this time. I’ve spent too much time just wandering. I’ve wasted a lot of time and built up a lot of energy. Bad call.

I’m bound and determined to get past all of this though. One thing I’m doing is admitting there’s an awfulness in my heart right now. I’m not feeling right and that’s ok. I’m also getting rid of people in my life who have been toxic while leaning into people like Amanda who heal those wounds. Amanda is the great balm on my soul.

One day I will be replenished. For today I wear a skin I need to shed.

Chasing the Whale: Thoughts on Mission Unworthy

One thing I worked hard on in this time was a script I never finished. I mean never. 14 years later I’ve never so much as written a third act. And I’ve tried as you can see here and here The title was Unworthy and focused on a guy in love with his best friend. It’s a pitiful project but I clung to it. Two trips to Russellville infused that script along with other details. Ultimately, I’ve realized that when it was easier for me to get married than to finish it, best to let it die.

From my entry on my sophomore year

Writers don’t really ever quit a project. Stephen King is legendary for this, having started works, filing them away, coming back to them years later. That’s probably why King is our most prolific great writer, he’s got a file cabinet of half finished works waiting to be finished.

In the quote above, I discussed where I stood on the never finished project I referred to as Unworthy. That was six months ago. Six months ago, I decided I would never finish a draft of it. I made my peace with it. In a sense, burying it was a capstone on that entire era of screenwriting.

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Whenever I address the subject of prejudice I’ve experienced in the 18 years following my diagnosis with Asperger Syndrome, I tend to get a lot of skepticism. After all, I’m a verbose, erudite intellectual. Who questions my capabilities? I’m respected by my coworkers and friends. Despite that, I concede sadly that I do indeed face a great degree of prejudice when I note my status as a high functioning autistic. Immediately one of two things happens from the ignorant: either they start to look for the signs of the disorder in me or they respond by noting I’m apparently not that autistic. It’s all too common of an experience for me.

I bring this up as a preface to my thoughts on the comments made by political commentator Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on autism. In a speech on vaccines, he remarked: “They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone, This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.” Kennedy was then forced to apologize after invoking the Holocaust, saying “I want to apologize to all whom I offended by my use of the word holocaust to describe the autism epidemic, I employed the term during an impromptu speech as I struggled to find an expression to convey the catastrophic tragedy of autism which has now destroyed the lives of over 20 million children and shattered their families.”

Kennedy is a rabid anti-vaccine advocate. He’s funded films and edited books on the matter. It shouldn’t be unexpected that he views people like myself with such disdain. Anti-vaccine advocates have at their core a fundamental bias against autism. Kennedy in particular has credibility in the public eye due to his work and his name. He reflects the views of millions of Americans sadly. So in addressing his words, I really intend to address the millions. His words require this response so that maybe one person will wake up.

First, I need to address the elephant in the room of his holocaust comment. It was inexcusable. The Holocaust was a very specific event which should be addressed lightly if at all. Comparing it to another genocide? Fair. Comparing it to Stalin’s purges? Fair. Anything else, it should never be invoked. Systematic genocide is a very specific thing. So yes, the media furor over his remarks was perfectly fair.

But I must turn to his comments. As Kennedy stakes his career and his livelihood on the link between vaccines and autism, I have no expectation of ever changing his or any of their minds. There is no link whatsoever. The science is in on that. I believe the cause of autism is most likely genetic. I see it in my father who saw it in his. Other factors may exist and merit study. Autism is not linked to vaccines though. The reason for increased cases isn’t an epidemic. It’s far greater skill in diagnosing the disorder.

I must pause on his image of a child having a fever and their life is destroyed. Inadvertently, Kennedy did a fine job of summing up the effects of measles and polio which do in fact work that way. Those diseases killed millions of children and crippled countless others. In that light, I stress: vaccinate. I was vaccinated and my life is better for it.

The image of an autistic person having their brain “gone” has to invoke a violent rage in me. I’m active on Twitter in the autism community. I know a great number of diagnosed cases who are as gifted with words as myself and many who are better. We have profound, active inner lives. We do not struggle one bit in that regard. Are our minds like neurotypical minds? Of course not, but they’re different, not worse.

Kennedy refers to the idea of shattered families in his apology. This is unmistakably the rhetoric of the hate filled yet ironically mistaken by the public as an advocacy group Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks frequently raises money by invoking the image of families struggling to deal with the burden of an autistic child. I won’t lie, autism is going to stress a family. In childhood it isn’t easy. But you know what? A lot of things about childhood are stressful. That’s how it is, Kennedy and his peers, probably without knowing malice, use this image to vent their frustration at us. “Things would be easier if you were normal.” Ignoring that teenage rebellion is a trope born of reality. In point of fact, I actually had dinner with my mother, father, aunt and her family, my grandfather, and most importantly my wife on Tuesday night. My relationship with them is fantastic! Love them all and get along great with them. Had a great time.

All of his words outraged me, but one specific image required I speak up. My life has not been destroyed by autism. It has been defined by it, yes, but I was autistic at birth. There was nothing t destroy. Furthermore, I look at my life and I can’t see how I should feel victimized by my disorder. I’ve had rough patches yes but everybody does. I graduated high school with a strong GPA. I went to college on a full scholarship and graduated with honors. I’ve turned my lifelong love of newspapers into a career. I have a great number of friends. I am close to my family. I am happily married. My life is good. I have no regrets.

Mr. Kennedy speaks of the false image of autism that society has, the Rain Man unable to function in the “real world.” It’s not inaccurate to some of us, but it ignores the multitudes of us who are perfectly happy. Even those the world fears are really doing quite well in their lives even if they aren’t what society expects.

Autism is a challenge. I mean I wouldn’t be on this blog if it wasn’t. But it’s the pulse of our lives. We are who we are and that’s great. Our lives are not destroyed. Our families are not shattered.

Our minds are not gone.

Odds and Ends 04/05/15

So, it’s been a wild month if you can’t tell from my last entry. I hardly see things slowing down. So consider this entry just a bit of housecleaning.

  • Hopefully this link will work and you can read this story on Autism Acceptance (NOT AWARENESS!) written by my former coworker Rachel Parker Dickinson and containing an interview with me. I was honored to speak on the subject with her and she did a phenomenal job. This interview ran in the Conway paper, which is amazing in light of my experiences there. I’m proud to have spoken to my hometown.
  • Much less serious but a subject I’m incredibly proud of, my podcast partner Albert Wiltfong and I created an April Fool’s Day podcast for the ages. We discussed the (nonexistent) movie Penguigeddon and the (fictional) studio behind it. While this looked like a joke, it really was the end result of years of research into b-movies. We’re going out again next year with more efforts from Galatea Films and what came next.
  • With Autism Acceptance Month on, I’m sure most of you are expecting me to ramp things up. Nope. I’ll be honest, I’m going to be light here this month and with good reason. The short answer is I’m writing a script but I’ll have an essay to accompany it here.

Phoenix

This will be brief because the idea I want to convey isn’t a major one but a lovely thought.

Over the weekend two major moments caused me to think about the idea of rebirth. The first came in the form of closing out business at the house on Durwood Road. I have no particular affinity for the house, having lived there for roughly a year only. Amanda and I were unhappy and are finding our new house much better. Yet, still, as I walked away from it I nonetheless felt a twinge of sadness. There was a sense of what could have been. Sure we’d been in combat with the house for a year but it had its plusses. We had to walk on, especially since we were hardly on the nicest terms with the realtor. Still, a nice neighborhood that could’ve been home.

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