Here’s a description of a meltdown I had following a NYE party. A meltdown is a kind of angry panic attack that can happen as a result of over-stimulation and/or a stressful situation in a person who has Asperger’s Syndrome or Asperger’s traits. Although in some circumstances I am able to stop the meltdown as it develops, on this occurrence I was not able to stop it and I had a public meltdown.
I usually don’t do anything for New Years Eve because of the crowds, queuing and transport difficulties which always seem to come along with doing anything on this night. Due to these issues, I have generally found celebrating to be stressful and overwhelming and overall not worth the effort of going out. However, since I was invited to a party happening locally in somebody’s house, for a change I felt happy about doing something.
Potential problems began, however, when plans were changed and nobody informed me. The party was changed to someone else’s house much further away which was about one hour and a half away on public transport. Before I knew it, without being told properly about exactly where this party was and how we were going to get there or how long it was going to take, we abandoned the car on the way because of snow and were instead going to the party via the absolutely ridiculously crowded metrobus.
The metrobus experience with the crowds and the snow was already at the upper-limit of what I can handle. People were pushing everywhere and a very tall man pushed his body weight against me on the crowded bus. I warned him with my eyes 2 times to get him to give me some space but he didn’t. Then I shouted at him in a loud outburst to stop touching me. He moved away but the sensation of all the people being in my personal space crowding me out stayed with me for about an hour after we got off the bus.
After we arrived at the party I recovered and had a good time. It turned out to be a really great party.
Generally speaking, I absolutely hate to go to a party and crash at someone’s house on the sofa. If I do end up staying the night because I can’t get home from there in the middle of the night, I usually leave in the morning immediately when I wake up. I don’t like hanging around in the mess while everyone is sleeping, without any privacy around me and without the usual comforts like being able to take a shower and make some breakfast for myself. When crashing in the house of relative strangers (as this house was) I feel particularly uncomfortable.
On this occasion I woke up at 9 am on the sofa in the party house. I had no phone with me and nothing to do except resentfully listen to my boyfriend snore on the other sofa for three hours. I tried to wake him up once but failed. The panic and feeling of being trapped was building up. If my jacket had not been in a bedroom somewhere in the house where people were still sleeping, I would have done my usual thing and just left in the early morning, no questions asked and without saying anything to anyone. By the time people started getting up at 12 noon my social energy had completely tanked and the panic-rage was building up. I was able to say good morning to the other people but barely anything else. I tried to zone out of the situation by reading my pocket dictionary for the next hour and a half.
It didn’t seem like the hosts wanted us to hang around as we weren’t offered any drinks or breakfast. Despite this nobody seemed to be in an hurry to leave. When my boyfriend woke up he seemed to enjoy the general after-party lingering. I told him I wanted to leave ‘soon’ and he said we would. I said he should just tell me how to leave from there and I will go myself now and they can all stay there hanging out. He told me not to overreact people are still getting ready to leave. (I think my boyfriend has this idea in his head that if you go somewhere in a group of people you have to leave at exactly the same time with those same people.)
I realised after 30 minutes had passed that saying I wanted to leave had made absolutely no difference. I then gave my boyfriend a second warning. I said that I had a 15 minutes left of energy for staying there (the panic was close to outburst level by this stage). I said if nothing happened by then I would freak out and that would involve suddenly storming out of there. I repeated again for him to just tell me how to leave from there or call me a taxi and I would go myself. He told me we would go soon any minute.
The next 15 minutes passed very slowly in seething rage with me trying to distract myself from the feeling of being trapped. I could not distract myself with the pocket dictionary any more. During this time I was sitting on the sofa alone feeling angry that this situation happened again. With about 2 minutes to spare my boyfriend went to get his jacket. I quickly jumped up and blurted out to the people that I was going now. The way I spoke was infected with my anger-panic — when you speak this way to people they don’t like you much for it. They take it very personally and they think you hate them (when actually you hate the situation).
Then occured some passive-aggressive resistance from the people we went to the party with. I honestly didn’t care what they wanted to do with their day; if they want to smoke and linger around after the party, so be it, be my guest but don’t force me into doing that with you while I am having a panic attack. In fact, it would have been better for me if they could all have just stayed there together doing things in their own time. People don’t like it when you say you are going and it makes them feel they have to jump up and leave with you; unless you have social power in the group they will resist you. Then my boyfriend tells me to calm down we are all going in a minute.
However, we weren’t going in a minute because then the passive-aggressive resistance occurred. It took about 15 minutes for one of the people to ‘get ready’. I blurted out ‘We’re not going! We’re not going! Are we? Look nothing is happening. Still nothing is happening!’ The people are now looking offended. They don’t understand me — this angry, rude person.
What I don’t understand is why there is this expectation that we need to leave together. I really didn’t/still don’t give a fuck what they want to do. Why travel together — it’s going via public transport for fuck’s sake.
Finally we leave. Again long journey on public transport through the snow. This story continues forward from this point with us travelling together. My anger is still building; more than anything I want to get away from these fucking people. Then I am told to ‘smile’ by one of them. I glare. This fucking person said the same thing the last time I had a meltdown.
I am asked if something is wrong and I truthfully explain what happened from my point of view. I say they ignored that I wanted to leave. I said that when we do things as a group they all ignore my needs. I am told by the person who passive-aggressively resisted me that I am wrong and they all ‘love me’ (no you don’t; stop lying to yourself). Again I repeat to my boyfriend that the easy solution would have been to let me leave by myself! Let me leave when I am ready and just show me how or get a taxi for me!
I don’t understand the energy of this group. This is just me following people around and not being told what is happening and when. This is a group trapping me and preventing me from leaving. This is a group that passive-aggressively resists me. It looks friendly on the surface but it is controlling.
As soon as I can I get away from all of them. I shower and wrap myself in blankets.
Everything is silent and dark around me. Slowly I start to feel better.