A Full-Blown Meltdown

I had a meltdown yesterday. All before 4:45am, many tears were shed and cruel things were yelled by me about myself. I think my frustration was magnified because my plans to do a really nice thing and surprise Ben were foiled; plus, I was overly tired and still weak and hungry from the colonoscopy the previous afternoon.

The evening after the colonoscopy, I was so exhausted that I fell asleep early. As a result, I was wide awake by 1:45am. I stayed in bed until just before 3, and then went downstairs. Instead of hopping right into my meditation, I surveyed the rooms down there for something I could organize or clean up, since it was still so early and I felt eager to do something productive after two days of being rather incapacitated. After wandering around unable to find much that piqued my interest, I opened the refrigerator for a drink and noticed how gross and dirty it looked inside on the shelves. This realization alone was somewhat monumental and something I was proud about because it’s not intuitive for me to notice a mess. It’s like I operate without a radar to detect filth and disarray in my own home, although I’m the first to notice it elsewhere. Weird.

Anyway, I decided that cleaning the refrigerator, something I’m embarrassed to admit we haven’t done in the 18 months since living here, seemed like a perfect morning project and a nice surprise I could do for Ben as a gesture of appreciation for the help and support he offered during my colonoscopy prep and procedure.

It was grosser work than I imagined looking at the shelves caked with dried smears of sauces and caked-on vegetable spills. I started with the crispers. I took them out and washed them well. Then I moved to the large glass shelf atop them. This one was particularly gross from lots of old soup spills and drippings. I scrubbed it thoroughly but then noticed the border of the plastic tract on which it sat was also grungy. As I wedged my scrub brush into the groove to try and loosen the crud, I noticed the entire glass shelf could be removed from the frame. It would have been easier to have cleaned it at the sink initially instead of bending over the whole time. Alas, I took it out and carefully set it aside so that I could scrub the exposed tract without risking the glass breaking. When I was happy with the debris-free surface of the crisper shelf, I carefully set the glass back into position. However, it wasn’t sitting well, and just as this story is foreshadowing, the entire 24×16 inch shelf shattered into at least one thousand pieces; I’m not exaggerating.

Like a car windshield, this shelf is constructed of tempered glass, which is designed to shatter into zillions of tiny, less sharp pieces. I didn’t even drop the shelf, but upon scouring the Internet for replacement panes, I found many consumers have run into a similar disastrous break after the shelf is heated from a good cleaning and then is put back into the cold refrigerator. The temperature differential weakens the glass and can cause it to shatter in an explosive way. The pressure along the edges of the heated glass as I tried to seat it back into the cold frame must have set of material failure. Glass beads poured down like rain and spilled into an amoebic puddle all over the entire kitchen. Pieces scattered like frightened animals scurrying away to safety. The total area of glass seemed to multiply into endless heaps like the spaghetti in Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona. The mess was like an uncontainable watershed of tiny glass bits.

I burst into tears. I was equally upset by the huge mess I had no made and the fact that all my hard work and good intentions were now for naught. It had taken over an hour to clean those surfaces and now they were not only completely broken and all over the kitchen floor, but would need to be replaced by purchasing a new shelf. I wasted the hour cleaning something electively and now had created at least two extra hours of emergency cleaning.

I started yelling about how stupid I am and how I’m a useless POS. I cried and carried on. I was disproportionally angry and hateful towards myself. It was a full-blown meltdown, which can be a common problem for autistic people, although I’ve been doing a better job lately controlling my emotions and staving off outbursts and emotional unravelings. Unfortunately, I think the over-taxation from all the stressful medical procedures earlier in the week and my low blood sugar and exhaustion (from recovering from fasting and not sleeping) in the morning when it happened put me in a vulnerable, risky place where such an understandably frustrating stimulus could totally thrust me over the edge of emotional control. I even predicted the likelihood of a meltdown on Tuesday morning going into the procedure; at least this must indicate I’m starting to know myself better and pick up on patterns and detect warning signs at earlier stages (though it doesn’t seem to translate to practically helping me avoid such a humiliating, childish outburst!).

Adding insult to injury, the clean-up proved to be even harder than one would imagine seeing the size and extent of the mess. The pieces were not easy to sweep into the dustpan, the regular vacuum couldn’t handle the capacity of the job, and the shop vac we happen to be borrowing is pushing air out instead of sucking air in. The more I tried to pick up the pieces, the louder and more scattered the noise and rubble seemed to go. When Ben woke up, he tried to mollify my anger and self-hatred and calm my frayed emotional fabric. The saint that he is, he volunteered to help me clean so I could eat and try and diffuse my stress and disappointment. I was just overcome with sadness and grief that my hard work was all ruined and I had created such a nightmarish disaster. I felt like a total screw up and that thought alone made me shatter into tears, my own fragile self-esteem so quickly and irrevocably destroyed like the tempered glass pane. The dissolved compassion towards myself that I’ve been trying so hard to build was enough to break my sensitive heart.

Even after the eye of the storm that was my meltdown had passed, I whimpered and slipped into sniffs and harsh, self-degrading criticisms for the next thirty minutes whenever I recalled the events. I was ashamed by my meltdown episode and saddened at my true feelings towards myself that poured out in my tirade. It makes me feel like I hate myself more than I pretend to and that when the more upbeat facade I try to sport is removed, the deep pain and self-loathing I harbor is exposed. It’s deeply upsetting.

In the end, the mess all got cleaned up and I’ve ordered a replacement shelf from a local shop for $12. I splurged for plexiglass to hopefully prevent a similar catastrophe in the future. I’m thankful I wasn’t hurt and even more thankful that Ben didn’t join forces with my inner self-hater and yell at me and chide me for my mistake as well. In contrast, he tried to let the pressure out of my angry valve and share soothing words of love and forgiveness. That takes a mature spouse to not join on the bandwagon and scream at me too, especially since I needed to employ his help cleaning the new mess. He’s a better man than I deserve; I’ve been trying to be more deserving of his love. I guess this whole debacle has set me back a bit again.

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