Friday, March 8, 2013

Even Mommies Meltdown

I had a sensory meltdown the other day.

Never mind that I was particularly agitated by everything that day. Probably because I woke up to a bleach bombardment of my allergies (miserable but necessary). Never mind that despite me alerting everyone in the family that I wanted to leave much earlier than usual for gymnastics in order to grab a bite to eat on the way, we still barely made it there on time. Without food! But being hungry didn't cause it. These just contributed to the buildup.

What sent me into a sensory mommy meltdown sounds stupid. Sounds pretty minor and quite frankly from an outsiders point of view can seem pretty ridiculous. I probably just look whiny.

It was the driver's seat, when I went to sit on it to drive to gymnastics. All the settings had been changed. My settings. My comfortable, took me weeks to finally get just right, settings.

This was not the kind of adjustment Victor makes when he drives the van. He and I have an agreement. He moves the seat back and lowers the steering wheel. That's it. It is an easy readjustment back to my comfy, normal settings.

No this was the work of my brilliantly curious, but totally off in his own world, beloved son, whose job it had been to clean said vehicle.

When I attempted to get in, I could not, as the seat was way to far forward and too high. So I scolded him for messing with the controls as I moved it down and back, and firmly reminded him not do it again. He apologized and promised not to.

Then I sat down. And that's when I felt it. I haven't felt that way, that intensely, in a long time. Everything was completely wrong! My whole body had an instant reaction.

The back was too far forward, the seat was messed up in at least five different ways. My impulse was to spring right out of the seat and not sit back down until it was FIXED! I don't have the words to truly describe the totally unsettling, internal wrongness that I felt. It seems kind of ridiculous even as I write, and yet, it felt so bad! It truly is a fight or flight response, an intense adrenaline rush. The bad kind. I never used to know why I would seem to "suddenly" have these moments.

This was the first time it all made sense. I understood that my sensory tolerance had finally been exceeded and my body and brain just couldn't handle any more. I can really understand how a kid who experiences that would totally loose all control. I can empathize. I felt like completely breaking down. I wanted to go curl up in a quiet, dark place and cry.

Of course, since we are already almost late, escape was not an option. I made the seat drivable, but far from comfortable. And, regrettably I did have a little outburst at Zak. Fighting back tears (which sounds ridiculous, because it's only a seat, I know! but whatever, it's true), I snapped out snippets that included things like "not even remotely part of the job," "no idea how long it takes to get some things just right," and, "don't ever touch it again! Ever!!"

The whole rest of the less than ten minute drive, I was so on edge, and couldn't tune out any sound the kids made. Zak chewing on a squeaky straw. Grace talking all the way from the far back at just the exact tone that seems to cut through everything to pierce strait into my ears. I kept reminding myself to breath deeply the whole way. And I did, I kept it together because I'm an adult and I have learned how to reason with myself, and have some coping strategies. I can assure myself that if I just keep breathing, soon we will reach a place where I can get a break. Kids don't have those kinds of skills. It takes a long time for them to acquire them, years.

On arrival, the kids bolt into the building (cuz class is starting), and I walk nice and slow, just breathing in the cool air and taking my time. Then I was wonderfully relieved to find a spot along the wall at one of the picnic tables. I sat down, and just pressed my back into the wall. I pressed and pressed until I managed to push out most of the, I don't even know the word. BLAH, but much ickier, bigger and more invasive.

Then I started to feel much better. I started to visit with the other moms. And smile. And even laugh. When Zak came out for a drink of water and tried to give me a big wet kiss, I deflected, but happily, humorously, it didn't make me mad.

I was far from relaxed for the rest of the evening though. I was sensitive. I was punchy. Victor and I had a couple of squabbles, probably because I wasn't in a very reasonable state of mind.

At the end of the evening, I ended up finally falling asleep, but not before finally spilling out all the tears I'd been holding in for hours.

These kind of meltdowns can be really hard for kids and the adults who take care of them. To get a better understanding of what causes this reaction see this article on tactile dysfunction.

Wishing everyone a fun and peaceful weekend!

1 comment:

  1. hi judy. oh man, meltdowns are no fun no matter what the cause! impressed you were able to hold it together long enough to find a safe quiet place to shed those tears. hope you have a peaceful weekend too!

    also, i don't know how to do replies to comments on my personal blog. i did reply to you, but you probably won't be able to see it unless you go back and check. sorry! maybe my technically-minded hubby can help me figure it out! ;)

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