From a purely self-centeric perspective, I fucking hate meltdowns. Did I say I hate meltdowns, because I fucking hate meltdowns. I have had all the screaming I can take today.
My God, it’s been one meltdown after another today, and I’m trying to put into words what that does to me as a parent.
I understand meltdowns, and I know that they are outside of a person’s control. My kids are no exception to that rule. They don’t have meltdowns because it’s fun for them to experience one. They have them because their bodies reach a point where there’s no choice but to purge.
Meltdowns aren’t fun for anyone, especially the person having them.
With all that said, I think it’s so important that we not discount what a parent or caregiver experiences during a meltdown.
In my experience with meltdowns, best case scenario, I’m looking at a lot of screaming, stomping, and door slamming… Worst case scenario, I’m looking at violent rages, that can lead to unintentional physical harm to the person having the meltdown, or those around them.
Those are the polar extremes. There’s a million other things that can happen somewhere in between those poles.
I know that both my wife and I have been injured during meltdowns over the years. It’s mostly that we ended up collateral damage. We’ve been very lucky in this regard, because it’s only happened a handful of times over the fourteen years we’ve been acquainted with meltdowns.
What does happen all the time is an increased level of stress, as a result experiencing a meltdown with my kids.
It’s stressful for a number of reasons, but two really impact me personally.
The first is the stress I feel because my child having the meltdown, is very much in distress. I want to fix it. I want to take away their pain, and I can’t. That’s hugely upsetting for me, because I have that irrational belief that a father should always be able to help their kids.
Sometimes all I can do is weather the storm and be there when it’s over.
The other really stressful part for me is the blood curdling screams. Meltdowns can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. That time is often filled with the kind of screaming that I can’t get out of my head. Tuning it out is nearly impossible, at least for me.
I know that the screaming isn’t necessarily directed at me, but those shrill, high pitched sound waves assault me anyways. Before Autism, I didn’t know that sound could take some much out of a person, but I certainly do now.
Over time, meltdowns can really take a toll on a parent. It’s one of those things that is so hard to get the world at large to understand. It’s also one of the reasons that I avoid anything that has been known to trigger a meltdown in the past. I avoid those things like the fucking plague.