What I've Finally Realized About My Son's Meltdowns


Some things are just tough to write about.

I want to write about them. I know I should.

But with some topics, I have trouble saying what I want to say.

So, bear with me on this one. I’m not sure how it will go. But I think it needs to be said:

Aggressive and violent meltdowns are awful (and that might be the biggest understatement I’ve written).

They are awful.

They are exhausting.

They are emotionally painful, for my son and for our entire family.

They are so scary, for my son and for our entire family.

They create chaos and destruction that takes days to recover from.

People get hurt. Sometimes physically hurt. Always hurt on the inside.

When my son’s meltdowns first escalated, I was beside myself. I was certain it was because I had spoiled him and now he was upping the ante to get what he wanted. Not only that, but everyone else thought that too.

So, we cracked down. We took things away. We grounded. We yelled. We freaked out and melted down right along side him.

And they just got worse.

They intensified and got more and more out of control.

photo-17

Before I go any further, I want to share a small but absolutely true list of the damage that was physically done in our home during this time frame (leading up to and immediately following diagnosis). I am posting this list because when we were living with daily meltdowns, I thought we were the only ones. I thought my son was the only one this bad. I would’ve cried tears of relief if another momma shared the literal mess her life had become at the hands of her child.

So I am sharing mine today:

  • Numerous holes in walls that needed to be patched and painted again and again.
  • A handheld video game device – thrown with force out of the back window of the car, as we drove down the road and he kicked and screamed. (I’m still so grateful that no one on the other side of the street was injured. It simply fell, was flattened by a few cars, and we were out $179.00.)
  • TV – gone, tipped over and smashed
  • iPad – destroyed, piece by piece.
  • Every single thing in his room – thrown about in a cyclone of hurt and rage and frustration, landing in a sad broken pile (see picture above).
  • Every poster, award and special thing hung on the wall, torn down.
  • Car windshield  – smashed, with a broom, in our garage.
  • Car window – smashed, with his feet, as I drove down the road.
  • His own body – purposefully battered and bruised.
  • My body – purposely battered and bruised.
  • His little brother – sometimes bruised, always completely terrified.

photo-16

Meltdowns are awful.

I hate them.

I hate that they take over his mind and body, and we all spin.

I hate that he feels such fear in the middle of them and such pain once they have passed.

I hate that once one begins, we can try to diffuse it, but sometimes, it just has to run its course.

I hate them.

They don’t happen as often, not by far. At one point, we had this level of meltdown at least every day and often two or three times a day. Now, it’s only every couple of months.

The progress is huge. We have all learned to breathe again and relax and find joy in the simple ability to function throughout the day.

And so now, when they come, we are almost surprised. It’s like a strange reminder, “Oh you’re still here? I thought you left.”

Yesterday, my son had a meltdown. His room was destroyed. He was incapable of logical, functional thought for a good two hours. My heart pounded, his brother grabbed his little dog and hid, and my son cried, “Momm-eeeeeeee, Momm-eeeee, Momm-eeeee,” as he rocked back and forth, over and over again. The anguish and lack of control was so clear.

All the same emotions come flooding back, and in the moment, I felt a familiar helplessness that breaks my momma heart into pieces.

And, then it was over.

A year later there is a big difference in how we react. We have learned so much, and have had a year’s worth of therapies and meds and books and websites and speaking with other families. We are more practiced, more experienced and more capable.

And, we know that we likely won’t have another one today, and tomorrow, and the next day. We can breathe. We can recover. We can clean up the mess and move on.

That’s the biggest change. When his meltdowns first escalated and became aggressive, we had no idea if they would ever lessen. In fact, we lived each day in anticipation and fear of the next meltdown.

No longer.

If you are a family dealing with this every day, I am so sorry. My heart hurts remembering how suffocating that feels. It can be so isolating – not leaving the house day after day because you never know if it’s going to be safe enough to drive somewhere. Or dropping your child off at school and then picking them up with a sense of panic, as you anticipate what will happen once you get home.

I wish someone had told me all of this. I wish someone would’ve said, “I totally understand. My son has destroyed things too. I’ve been physically harmed by one of the little people I love most in the world. I would gladly die for him, but it feels like there is nothing I can do to fix this.”

So I am saying it to you now.

You are not alone.

Meltdowns are like a dirty little secret that moms and dads and even doctors don’t really talk about. But that doesn’t mean they don’t happen.

You are not alone.

This post originally appeared on Not the Former Things.

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