In this essay, I will relate the aftermath of a particularly severe autistic meltdown, how it affected my emotional and mental health, and then how my body physically reflected my mental and emotional state. To wit, my body presented for the immediately following few days as though I was coming out the other side of a 24 hour stomach flu, rather than having the emotional “flu”.
It’s creepy how much I enjoyed writing that first paragraph, thesis statement and all-ha ha. Once an academic, always an academic, I guess. I know this because I do not use contractions, generally speaking. Anyway, whatever. Hi! How are ya? It’s been a while.
So What’s This About The “Emotional” Flu? You Mean A Meltdown?
Oh yeah. I mean a meltdown of the first order. And Jesus, this one was a doozy. But what triggered it, you ask? Well, a couple of things. First of all, we’d just binged the first four seasons of Stranger Things in like, ten days, and that show RIPPED MY HEART OUT, SHOWED it to me, put it back, RIPPED IT OUT AGAIN, and I STILL was like THANK YOU SIR MAY I HAVE ANOTHER. Frankly that show RUINED me. It ripped ALL of our hearts out. Trust me if you’ve never watched this show, DON’T. Not even once. But if you do, don’t blame me when you’re a sobbing mess on the floor. That has to be one of THE MOST compelling shows I’ve ever seen.
And I WAS (am) emotionally invested. I now see why they call it “bingeing a show” because I felt like I’d gone on a ten day drug run. DAMN YOU NETFLIX.
I mean, I DREAMED about this show while we were watching it. I was more concerned about these fictional characters than I was about MYSELF. And you wanna talk about hyper-focus? It was like the kind of focus the DEA uses when trying to see into my kitchen window from their vantage point in their HELICOPTER because they’re mad ’cause I’m flagrant.
Yes, I did just quote Biggie, and no, I can’t take credit for the helicopter bit. I had a friend who-you know what, never mind. Another story for another time. So anyway, where was I?
Meltdown Imminent in 3…2…
Oh yeah. So fresh off our Stranger Things run when I’m ALREADY an emotional wreck, comes THREE MASS SHOOTINGS IN TWO DAYS in California. WHERE I LIVE. Like, I didn’t have a mass shooting at a BALLROOM on Lunar New Year on my 2023 Bingo card, but here we are. And innocent people were senselessly slaughtered because some dumbass 72 year old miserable prick of an incel couldn’t get laid.
And if there’s more to it, we’ll never know about it because the scumbag killed himself. Not like it makes a difference anyway, LIVES WERE TAKEN. Knowing WHY won’t bring them back, you know? And that just didn’t sit well with me. Like this fucking piece of shit couldn’t get attention at a ballroom dance hall, so he opened fire on the place. Jesus Christ, and they wonder why women are scared to rebuff a man’s advances.
Did You Know? Doom Scrolling Is Bad For Your Mental AND Physical Health.
So couple THAT with some extra-doomy doom scrolling on Twitter and the next thing I know I’m in a white hot rage wanting to slit the throat of every man who thinks he’s going to scream FUCK YOU DEMOCRATS in a public place, screaming my HEAD off in an empty house. I was literally ready to go out and commit mass murder, but do it the Dexter way and only pick off the bad people. It was either going to be that or hurt myself. That’s how raw and fucked up I felt. Like I felt VIOLENT and it was scary.
And, to be quite frank with you all, I felt unsafe. To the point my husband didn’t want me to be alone with my thoughts and rushed home from work. God bless him for that and God bless his work for being so flexible when I needed my husband to come home and hold back my hair while I puked up my feelings everywhere.
Does A Meltdown Feel Like The Emotional Flu?
In my opinion? Yes, yes it does. In fact, that’s EXACTLY what a meltdown feels like to me, and when it’s over, I feel like I’ve puked my guts up for 12 hours straight – if you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know what I mean. But instead of puking up food, I’m uncontrollably projectile vomiting my emotions all over the walls, ceiling, my mom, husband, and animals. And it is just as unpretty as real puke. My meltdowns involve screaming-a LOT of it. And not just screaming. Piercing, two-tone, time-and-space ripping banshee screams that make the energy in the house shaky and SUPER unpleasant. And that’s putting it mildly.
As for my body, it reacted very much like it did the last time I had food poisoning or I got walloped by COVID a couple of years ago. The next morning I got up, had a cup of coffee, and promptly got myself back into bed. Around lunchtime, I picked around in the fridge but I wasn’t hungry at all, which is VERY unlike me and par for the course when I’m recovering from being ill – I have zero appetite during the day, but it sure came roaring back around dinner time!
I ate a giant meatball sandwich AND chips AND a slice of pizza and it was GLORIOUS. And at that point, I knew I was semi-on the mend, all the while noticing how interesting it was that this time my body was reacting like I’d been physically sick. It felt familiar, so I’m assuming this has happened before, but I never really noticed it until this last time.
Emotional Flu Part Two – The Post Meltdown Shame Spiral
Still, the following day Matthew worked from home and looked after me while I rested and recovered. At this point, physcially I was okay-I took a shower and did some laundry-but I was REELING from the post-meltdown shame-spiral that happens after every single one of my meltdowns. And if you’re not autistic, let me break down the shame-spiral for you. Ever drank too much and woke up hungover to shit and feeling generally ashamed and anxious even though you didn’t do anything weird or wrong? That’s the post-meltdown shame spiral in a nutshell.
Luckily at this point, I’m pretty much back to 100%. So let’s recap. My meltdown happened on Tuesday the January 24th in the year of our Lord 2023. As I write this, it’s January 27th, 2023, and like I said, I’m finally feeling better, both physically AND mentally. And I found it extremely interesting that my body reacted to my emotional illness much like it had when I’ve been physically ill. Ergo, the “emotional flu.” Which brings me to one last point I want to address.
Why Are We Sorry For Having An Emotional Or Mental Illness?
I have a LOT of autistic friends on Twitter and one thing I notice is we are ALL sorry AF for having a meltdown after it’s over. Trust me when I tell you the Post-Meltdown Shame-Spiral is REAL. But WHY do we feel so guilty and bad for our meltdowns? I remember when my mom had TERRIBLE food poisoning one time, and HER apologizing to ME for being so sick. And I was FLOORED. I told her, Ma, PLEASE don’t apologize for being sick. I love you and I’m here to take care of you. It’s not a crime to have food poisoning. And you know what?
IT’S NOT A CRIME TO HAVE MELTDOWNS, EITHER. Now if someone could kindly remind me of that the next time I HAVE a meltdown, that’d be great.
Having The Emotional Flu Sucks, But It’s Nothing To Be Ashamed Of.
In conclusion, I’ve realized that I – we – humanity as a whole, need to take care of ourselves when we are ill, be it physical, mental or emotional. Because ANY <clap> KIND <clap> of <clap> illness is going to FUCK YOU UP, regardless of where in the body it originates from. Emotional illness WILL manifest physically, so I need to take care of myself so I don’t feel like shit for three days after a meltdown. Now, I know some meltdowns are inevitable, but I ALSO believe that SOME (due to outside sources) can be avoidable. I also need to remember that having the emotional flu as opposed to the physical flu isn’t a fucking crime. But in speaking to THAT, I CAN say it would be a good idea to monitor how I’m (emotionally) feeling a little better so I don’t find myself completely blindsided by a meltdown next time.
Admittedly, I’m not really good at that, but hey, we’re all learning, right? Because, see, I’ve learned to keep myself generally from catching cold OR the flu OR COVID – eat well, hydrate, keep my core warm, mask up in public spaces, etc. But it’s not so easy, I’ve figured out after this last go-round, to keep myself from catching the emotional flu. Bad news is EVERYWHERE, and this dumpster fire of a world is FULL-TO-THE-BRIM of negativity and people who take pleasure AND PRIDE in being assholes of the first order just to make life miserable for all of us.
That said, I’ve made a game plan to look after my emotional and mental health better. If I have to dose up on THC at 2 PM on a Friday afternoon, I’m gonna do it. If I have to stay the fuck off Twitter because there isn’t a DROP of good news to be had? I’m going to do that. If I have to NOT watch the news on television because my local news station is now the ALL-BAD-NEWS-ALL-THE-TIME channel, then fine.
I mean, I don’t like it, but constantly exposing myself to what’s going on out there is NOT going well for me as this last meltdown has indicated. That’s a start, and I’m just gonna have to figure the rest out as I go along. Because to be frank with you all, meltdowns suck rancid donkey ass and I really would like to take a break from them for awhile. Like I said, that’s the plan anyhow.
I’m STILL gonna watch Stranger Things, though. That’s a non-negotiable.
At any rate, I hope you all are hanging in and not letting this shithole of a world get to you like it did to me the other day. So with that, I bid you adieu until next time. In the words of the venerable Jerry Springer, “take care of yourselves, and each other.”
Thanks for reading,