Meltdown at the Store

I almost had a meltdown/panic attack/break down sobbing in public. Two different times over three days. I wasn’t doing anything new or different; just running errands. Things I had proven I could do many times before. No particular different circumstances at the stores or the vet were especially overwhelming. So why the hell was I reacting so strongly?

I have a wonderful life. We homeschool which means no morning rush out the door. We take our time and start our school routine when everyone is ready. We have occasional field trips, playdates, and activities, but more days than not we stay home in our Happy Little Autism Bubble. We wear pjs or soft clothes and (TMI) no bra! I wear my t-shirts inside-out for maximum comfort. But the week before I almost melted down in public I did not keep my usual routine. A fellow mother had a serious health emergency and no one else to help. I stepped in, watched kids, cooked extra meals, did extra laundry, and drove to her house almost every day. Sometimes with my own 3 kids, sometimes without. I organized others to bring meals and confronted my friend’s church for letting her down. I did things I didn’t know I was capable of, and probably did a better job taking care of her family than my own for ten days until her church could take over. Then as soon as that was handed off we discovered an injury on our dog. Which meant that instead of finally spending a day at home resting we had to make a trip to the vet. Long story short, I found myself in the store feeling like I was going to explode.

The store probably wasn’t any more crowded than it usually is, but it felt like it was. Everywhere people were making noise, buzzing and beeping and making loud, startling announcements with no warning. Checking out I felt like I was having a panic attack, and the seams and tags and my bra made me feel like it would be better to stip naked in public than to feel it for another second. (No, I didn’t actually strip at the check-out stand at Wal-mart.) I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. So that pressure like an unfinished yawn or a sneeze that won’t trigger kept with me, building pressure in my chest. My sinuses felt like a migraine was coming, but on my face rather than my forehead. I practically fled home, probably speeding. I was shaking as I tired to make it out of the car and into the sanctuary of my home.

Why? Why was I having such a hard time doing something I had done with no problem before? Because every other time I had I was coming from a place of rest. This time my reserves were on empty. This lowered my sensory buffer, my ability to resist, and I was hit with it full force. This is what happens to the kids sometimes. Kids who do not have the years of experience practicing self control that I have. Never again (I hope) will I say to one of my kids, “you’ve done this plenty of times before, this shouldn’t be a problem, why are you acting like that?!” Because I get it now. I’ve felt it. And I hope you learn from my experience, too. Because man did that suck.

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