The Meltdown: When the World Becomes a Blur of Colors and Deafening Screams

The Meltdown: When the World Becomes a Blur of Colors and Deafening Screams
The clock ticks. It’s too hot. Everything is too warm. Sweat clings to your skin like a parasite, drenching your clothes and sticking your hair to your forehead. Your breath comes in short, sharp pants, chest heaving violently. Tears gather in your eyes and fall at an uncontrollable rate, streaming down your face without your permission. Small whines slip past the knot in your throat and escape through your mouth, filling the silence that coats the room, growing louder and louder until they turn into cries of distress. Arms wrap around legs, back curled, face pressed into your knees as you sob. The world around you is nothing more than a blur of colors, blinding lights and deafening sounds. The small empty room is the only comfort you have.

The door opens, and your sobs turn into screams, the sound distant and detached. Your pleas for them to leave you alone are ignored, and as their hands come down on your shoulders, a burning sensation tears through your skin.  You scream louder, batting the hands away desperately but they keep coming back. Over and over, skin makes contact with skin, oversensitive flesh sets on fire, coursing through your shaking body, and all you can think is that you want to be left alone. The harmless batting turns into violent kicks, instincts taking control as you try to fight away the hands that hurt you. They tell you that you need to calm down, that you are being silly, there is nothing wrong. They tell you that you are being immature, that you need to stop acting so childish, insisting that they aren’t hurting you despite your pained cries and the knives being driven through your flesh. You shake your head violently, unable to understand why you can’t control your actions, struggling to gain control of yourself again, uncertain of what exactly is making you act this way. There’s too much happening at one time for you to process, everything is too confusing. Your head pounds painfully as everything overwhelms you, leaving you helpless to the onslaught. All you can do is sob and kick even more, face heating up at the humiliation at being seen like this, but there’s nothing you can do to stop.

My 15-year-old daughter Rebekah wrote in great detail how she feels during a meltdown
My 15-year-old daughter Rebekah wrote in great detail how she feels during a meltdown. It is very insightful as well as heartbreaking. Maybe if your child has no verbal skills but displays some of these behaviors it will help you understand why.

The sound of the clock ticking is drowned out by your screams. Your legs thrash uncontrollably, coming into contact with walls and doors as you desperately try to expel the building energy inside you.  There’s a bubble growing in your chest, consuming you, making it hard to breathe as your heart hammers against your chest. When they talk to you again, all you can do is scream louder and thrash some more. They grab you by the arms and try to drag you out of the room, and you wriggle and squirm in a desperate attempt to escape, lashing out with your legs. It doesn’t take long for them to give up, and they drop you, letting you collapse and curl up into a sobbing mess on the floor. Your legs kick out again and again, adrenaline surging through your body, making every hair stand on end as everything finally begins to catch up with you. Your face is wet with tears, and your throat is raw, but you can’t stop screaming, begging them to go away and leave you alone. They don’t. They never do. They just stand and watch.

Your eyes begin to feel heavy, your body weighed down to the floor. The tears still fall, but they begin to slow, and your screams quieten. They try to touch you again, but your skin starts burning again and your feet lash out weakly. They immediately back away, letting you curl up even further as you cry. Tear tracks stain your red face, the almost endless energy from before suddenly gone. Your eyes slide shut into a half-lidded gaze, small sobs still slipping past your lips as exhaustion replaces the adrenaline that was previously flooding through your body. You can no longer tell how long you lie there, and the last few minutes slowly blur into each other as an incoherent jumble of sounds and colors. You won’t be able to remember this later. You never do.

Your crying has finally stopped, and once again they approach you. The hand on your shoulder no longer burns, but it’s still too hot and you shift away slightly with a small whine of discomfort. Your throat burns, eyes too heavy to keep open. You don’t bother to try. You let them slide shut, your heart no longer pounding against your chest, your breaths finally evening out and deepening. The bubble in your chest is gone, and all you want to do is sleep. They try to talk to you, but you don’t have the energy to understand what they say, so you just ignore them like they ignored you. The world slows down to a more normal rate and everything no longer overwhelms you. The gentle ticking of the clock now soothes you, lulling you into a half-conscious state so that you can recharge. You’re still too warm, the heat pricking your skin and causing you discomfort, but it no longer hurts. You swallow thickly in an attempt to cool your raw throat, eyelids settling comfortably where they are.

Everything is calmer now, no longer too loud and too bright. You can’t move just yet, so instead you listen to the sound of the clock. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Rebekah Price is a 15-year-old that loves creative writing and drama. When she’s not at school she likes to read or write stories. She also plays cornet and hates maths!

This article was featured in Issue 47 – Motherhood – An Unconditional Love

5 Responses to The Meltdown: When the World Becomes a Blur of Colors and Deafening Screams

  1. I am the mother of children with autism, two are adults now. I always knew that when my child had or now has a meltdown that they cried as if they were in intense pain. I didn’t know how painful sensory overload can be to them. Thank you for this article it gives me more insight to my kids. I raised my kids in the days when there was no info on autism amid I had to teach myself to help. Thank God for me research and information to help parents and their kids today. God bless you all and please keep up the research and providing information. Information really is power.

  2. My granddaughter has autism and struggles daily to fit into an unfriendly and judgmental world. Is there a network out there for her to connect with.

  3. My daughter is almost 3 years old, and I would have never known how much she feels with this overload. This article was so intense that I almost started to cry thinking that is what my baby girl is going through. I am great full for this article. Brought a better perspective for me.

  4. My grandson is 4 years old. I really did not understand what is happening to him when he is overloaded. Just brought me to tears. Thinking that he is actually in pain. He has such a sweet smile. This article has really helped me understand exactly what he is feeling.

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