I was reading an article called “Shutdown: A Specific Type of Meltdown” written by Gavin Bollard this morning. Shutdown is a pretty hard thing to put into words, but he did a pretty good job of it.

Technically, there aren’t too many differences between meltdowns and shutdowns. Both are extreme reactions to everyday stimuli. … While a meltdown could be described as rage against a situation, a [shutdown] tends to be more of a retreat.

Shutdown and meltdown have always had the same meaning in my mind, the only difference being one of intensity. Gavin describes them as two separate things. I can kind of see the difference when described like that. When I was younger, I used to have both meltdowns and shutdowns. I don’t think I have meltdowns anymore. I could be wrong about that. I still have shutdowns.

There are things that affect the frequency of having shutdowns. Medicine has a pretty huge effect. If the meds are working okay, it happens much less often. Stress always makes it much more likely to happen. If my head gets loud enough, there is close to a 100% chance that I will shutdown.

For me, a shutdown is very scary. My distance from the world and everyone in it is greatly increased. Often I can not speak at all. I can hear, but the delay is longer than usual. It hurts in a way I can not describe. Almost equal parts pain and numbness. I’m not even sure that makes sense, but it is accurate. Emergency medicine can stop it, but it makes me very groggy, even into the next day. I hate that.

Gavin wrote of having “what if” and “if only” types of thoughts when shutdown. I do not have these thoughts or any others. Sometimes it is because the screaming is too loud. Sometimes because I have no ability to put words together into thoughts. I think I would like to coin the term “wordled” to describe that particular situation. Or maybe that is copyright infringement.

It is interesting to read how other people experience these types of things. When they happen to me ‘out in the wild’, I find myself in a position where I need to escape as quickly as possible, but can not communicate that need to anyone. It makes for some awkward situations and sometimes leaves people wondering what is wrong with me or thinking I am an unfriendly freak.

Unlike meltdowns, where it’s best to leave the aspie alone but in a safe place, it’s generally ok to talk in a soothing voice during a shutdown.

I agree with Gavin about the “cure”, but I wish there was a better one. For me, shutdown is often a matter of overstimulation. There is a filter that people seem to have that separates sights and sounds and colors and words and smells and textures and motions and other supposedly inconsequential stimuli. Mine does not work right. It makes the world a whole different place. Sometimes that is a good thing. But not today.

2 thoughts on “Shutdown”

  1. I don’t agree with his interpretation of “Meltdown” versus “Shutdown”. Although, I agree that they are different things in reaction to outside pressures.

    When I first heard the term and definition of “meltdown” as simply “feeling such interior pressure that one feels like they are melting on the inside”, I thought it was the perfect description of the feeling I had.

    My interpretation of meltdown, along with many other people I know, is that things become so overwhelming, the internal pressure so great, that I literally have a feeling of melting or “liquifying” on the inside. When my “brave front” cannot withstand the bombardment of the NT world. That everything that was once solid inside me is starting to melt like cheese, slide down and puddling in a gooey mess inside my pelvis. Leaving those areas once filled, empty and aching.

    I do not feel rage of any kind. And it does not occur as an “extreme reaction to everyday situations”. It rarely occurs, but always as a reaction to intense adversity from several sources at once and I have no way to escape and breathe. Outwardly, I cry and if strongly prodded, blurt out the stream of issues in a sort of rambling style.

    As for “Shutdown”, I have an definition of what that is, but I have not experienced it myself. Unfortunately, I cannot shut all the crap out. Hence, the meltdown. I wish I had the ability to shut everything down inside. I think it would give me a rest when I really need it.

    And I too, agree with Gavin regarding the cure. At least for the meltdown. I just need to breathe and rest.

    • Breathing and resting work for me too. Interesting how different people experience similar things in different ways. When things are overwhelming, it feels more to me like they are boiling than melting. Like my head will explode if it doesn’t stop. I like your use of the phrase “bombardment of the NT world”. It is a great description.


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