“Everybody hates me”
“I’d be better off dead”
“Everyone would be happier if I didn’t exist”
“I’ll just kill myself and then everybody can be happy when I’m gone”
“Why do you hate me”
“Everything I do is wrong, why can’t I just be right”
Horrible to hear from someone you love. Horrible to say to people you love.
These are the words family and friends might hear before and/or during a meltdown/shutdown of an Autistic/PDA person. There’s no doubt that these words hurt, there’s no doubt that these words aren’t nice. They are worrying words. But are they meant? This is the question someone asked on a facebook group today. One I quickly responded to.
Sadly, yes. They are meant.
Not as a way of hurting anyone though, often these words come from a place of deep pain, a lack of self-confidence, a place where the person feels unsure and stressed. Their intention isn’t malice, rather they are trying to reach out, attempting to make sense of how they feel and are wanting help. Sometimes they just want to vent, but lack the skills to do so in a socially appropriate way. When a person says these things they are venting their hurt or frustration, maybe they want to be left alone or want to feel better about everything, but they lack the skills to ask properly so they use what skills they do have to get what they need. This means they come across as selfish or mean when they are actually trying to make sense of the situation or wanting help managing themselves.
In the moment, the person does actually believe what they are saying. To them it feels like they are bad or wrong or a waste of space. They actually feel like no one cares about them or that everyone would be better off without them around. They feel like they are simply in the way of everyone else’s happiness. It’s like a big black cloud of unpleasantness has descended upon them. It’s not something they can control and it’s incredibly difficult to escape from. In that moment logic has left the building. There’s only emotion left and that emotion is one of intense negativity.
In that moment I know realistically that everyone doesn’t really hate me, but my brain isn’t working properly, the logic side of it has been taken over by an unruly negative emotional side. All I can see and feel is every bad thing that has ever happened to me. It comes crashing down on me and it’s really hard to remove myself from this negative thinking. Sometimes my mouth can be saying “you hate me” and inside my head a little voice will be saying ‘why are you saying that, you know it’s not true’, but my mouth takes no notice, it carries on sprouting non-truths and hurting those I care about. At that point all the positive parts of me have switched off, my mind no longer cares, it just wants whatever caused the situation to stop. At that point I cant connect to other people and how they feel, it hurts too much to try. It’s like trying to escape from quicksand. This is when I need to be left alone the most, to ride out this storm until the emotional side has exhausted itself and the rational part of my head can finally take over. For days afterwards I will also be extra sensitive, even the smallest thing can send me back to that quicksand. I need time to recover.
It’s times like this that I feel most like my brain is so disconnected from my body. It’s like being inside a machine with all these buttons and dials which you use to control the robot. Except the buttons and dials change every few seconds and the window which shows me the outside world is constantly shrinking and enlarging, misting over and clearing, moving around erratically so I can’t quite concentrate on one thing for long enough to make sense of my surroundings. And every so often the machine will stop working altogether or will go out of control, going on a rampage which I have little to no control over.