Airport Meltdown

My poor husband!

10 things employerImagine the scene, if you will, where a woman in her 40s (me) is bawling her eyes out at the closed gate in an airport, having just missed their flight to their honeymoon.  Good job he’s a caring and patient man!

Well that’s just what happened a couple of weeks ago.  On reflection, I understand why it happened, and I can forgive myself for any embarrassment I caused to my hubby because it wasn’t intentional, and I had lost complete control of my emotions.  I reverted back to a 4 year old version of me who was tired, hot, frustrated, in pain (I’ve got a sore heel and shoulder and we had walked a long way) and now I was red hot angry.

This airport meltdown was either going to come out as tears or something a lot more violent.

Violence is not tolerated (and nor should it be).  I only wish they had a punch bag installed at every gate for each person to express themselves when they miss a flight.  Much less embarrassing.

Thanks to my other half, I was able to get it out via bawling like a toddler (without being shut down by being told to stop crying or to cheer up), and then took a few deep breaths, dried my eyes and took stock of the situation.  It only took me about 4 mins to let it all out, but I’m really glad I did.  I needed to ‘reboot’.

Right then, where to stay tonight, how do we get there and can we get another flight tomorrow?

I think that without giving in to the meltdown, it would have been like a bubbling volcano inside me; I would have been emotional, snappy to my hubby, and aggressive and rude to others.

There’s definitely something scary about admitting you’ve had a giant public meltdown to strangers on the internet.  I don’t know if I’ll be judged or pitied, or supported and reassured.  I know that it turned out to be a good thing, to let it all out like that, but I could tell that people around us were uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say or do.  They might have thought I was been childish or there was some wrong with my mental health.  Or maybe they thought I was a spoiled brat and was having a temper tantrum.  I’ll never know what was going on inside their heads.

What would you do if you saw my airport meltdown?

It’s a difficult question to answer until you’re actually there.  I think if I had been on my own I would have received more attention, but everyone could see I had my man watching over me. I wasn’t alone and suffering.

I’m sure I’ll have more meltdowns in my life – fortunately they rarely get to that level of regression, and I’ll just manage them like I do daily with coping mechanisms, but actually, I really do think the best response to my situation was to cry like that.

Afterwards I was able to explain to some extent what happened and why that was the right thing to do to my hubby. He was kind and supportive and practical. Just what I needed.

Perhaps if you see someone having a big cry like that you’ll be kind, sensitive and compassionate (perhaps you always would have been).  Being an Aspie rarely means having a lack of emotion, its more like there’s too much and its really hard to express it to those on and not on the spectrum.  So the emotions come out at odd angles and in strange ways and often explosively.

Airport meltdowns are anticipated by airports at last! is a website that was set up in 2010 to help those travelling with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with all areas of the travelling, from the packing to the airport to the holiday itself.  In particular this page helps with airport worries. I wish I’d seen it before I’d flown.  I have travelled a lot in my life, but it’s always been very stressful and full of anxiety and now I realise that it could have been a lot easier.

When we were in Shannon airport in Ireland on our way home I also noticed they had a special service for those with ASD, so we can visit the airport beforehand (in person or virtually) and get to know the airport and what will happen on the day we fly. What a fab and forward thinking idea.

I hope other adults reading this will feel less odd if they have experienced public meltdowns like this, knowing they are not alone.  Also for partners of those having the meltdowns – I hope you have gained a small insight into what might be happening.

Remember, if you have met a person with ASD, you have met a person with ASD. We’re all different and will respond differently in similar situations. It’s just different wiring in the noggin.

Actually for me, I have accepted that it’s quite normal and healthy for me to express myself in this way in the given situation.

I look forward (!) to my next airport meltdown.

Well, maybe not…..

Because communication isn’t optional.

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