Dear Eve: Meltdowns

Dear Eve,

Thank you for reading my first letter. It means a lot that someone, however fictitious you are, is reading these. So, my fictitious friend, here is my second letter.

I have meltdowns a lot. When I have a meltdown, it’s because everything gets too much for me. These show in various ways, depending on who I’m with. If I’m with my family, I generally have more active signs. I’ll start talking loads at first, basically saying why something’s not how it’s supposed to be, and eventually I’ll cry if it isn’t resolved immediately.

My meltdowns with other people aren’t so obvious, however. People won’t really notice that I’m having a meltdown. I go subdued and quiet, and I kind of try to think about nothing at all because if I think about something, I’m worried my meltdown will become visible. On occasion, I do have more visible signs, but I try to postpone them for as long as possible. I’ll go on my phone a lot if I’m feeling really worried and I will probably text my mum. My mum usually answers quickly and she always distracts me with updates on the pets. I find talking about my pets calms me down instantly.

I’m terrified that someone will notice I’m having a meltdown and think that I’m being ridiculous or that I’m a bad person. I heard a story of someone buying all the apple pies in McDonalds because they heard a kid ‘being bratty about wanting one and having a tantrum’. It made me think: this person judged this kid without even knowing the kid. Perhaps the kid, like me, was autistic or had another problem? How do you know? You don’t. So I always worry that people will think terribly of me because I look so ordinary. I don’t want to be thought of like that.

I wonder if you’ve ever had meltdowns, Eve. A lot of people have them; it’s just that they’re more common in autistic people. My mum has them herself quite often but she isn’t autistic. She is dyspraxic however, so isn’t exactly ‘neurotypical’.

It’s nice discussing these things with you because I know you’ll never reply with advice on how to fix my problems. The truth is, Eve, I can’t fix my problems. I will live with them for my entire life. I can figure out ways of dealing with them, but that isn’t fixing them. I don’t like it when people, especially people without autism, tell me ways I can improve myself. They don’t know how tough it is for me and how terrible that advice makes me feel, Eve. I feel constantly like everyone is trying to see me as a person with potential, someone who can become something. That pressure to be what they want me to be sits inside me always. My IQ means nothing. It’s not about how clever you are, it’s about how suited you are to the world, and I’m a cat in a dog food factory. Basically, the world is wrong for me. I try to fit in but I never will.

I’ve accepted that I won’t fit in, but some people still try to see me as someone who needs to fit in with society. I need to work hard to get somewhere (where am I going? I don’t know), I need to not have meltdowns, and I need to respond when people talk to me. I like how you don’t expect these things of me, Eve.

People think these things are simple, but there are a million reasons why, for me, they’re not simple. I could go over the list but I don’t think you would finish this letter, Eve. So I’m just going to say one thing: this isn’t me. I’m not steady, I’m not calm, I’m not social. None of that is me. I sometimes feel like no one really knows me but I guess you’ll know me, Eve. These letters will help you know me. Thank you, again, for reading.

Love,

Lia

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