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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Emotional Meltdowns Part Two

    The topic of publicly having an emotional meltdown brings in some experiences that happened strictly because I was a missionary kid (M.K.), though others with Asperger's traits may react the same way to experiences that seem terrible to them.

    While I was ages 6-9 (and again while I was 16), I was enrolled in a Christian school in Pennsylvania, and my father was raising financial support from Christian churches so that our family would have the funds to return to Japan and continue teaching the Bible to Japanese people. Raising support involved a lot of travel to churches all up and down the east coast of the United States. During the summers, my mom and I went along with my dad. We had many adventures, and made a lot of new friends, whom we promptly said good-bye to in a week or less, moving on to another church for the next Sunday meeting.

    Looking back, it surprises me that this incident occurred only twice! I went to Sunday school at a church we were visiting, and between Sunday school and church, I got lost in the shuffle and couldn't find my parents. The first time this happened, the pastor himself found me - a little girl with tears running down her cheeks - and he seated me up on the platform of the church and gave me the job of holding his Bible. When my parents appeared, do you think I jumped up and ran to them? Oh, no. I was doing my job till the pastor came back and claimed his Bible from my lap!

    The second time I misplaced my parents at an unfamiliar church, I improved on my social abilities and specifically asked the teacher where I should go when Sunday school was over. She answered distractedly, "Follow Andrea." Andrea had not an inkling that I was sticking to her like glue. She joined her parents and her brother, and - gasp - they all strolled out of the church building and down the sidewalk! I didn't know what was going on, but I didn't think this was the way to wherever my parents were.

    As I explained in an earlier post, my feelings again did an Override to my logic. Logic told me it would be a good idea to speak up and get help, but I couldn't imagine what would be the best thing to say. These people were not even aware that I was trailing behind them, and we were getting farther from the church building every minute!

    So I began to cry - very quietly, so I wouldn't disturb these people. I didn't want to inconvenience them. After all, I was doing my best to follow the instructions to "follow Andrea" - just like the time I held the pastor's Bible because those were my instructions. I was an A student because I was so good at following instructions, and I was good at following instructions because I was an Aspie. Often described as "rule-bound behavior," this Asperger's trait usually worked in my favor - but not that day!

    Eventually, the family turned and saw me and took me to find my parents, who were not even looking for me, but happily teaching a children's church class.

    I guess if I had to give my parents advice about what would have helped me during those times, I would say: Please take some time to talk with me about my feelings, giving names to those feelings - upset, worried, nervous, confused. And please teach me how to approach people when they are ignoring me and I need their help. It's not so hard to get help when you have someone's attention, but when they are oblivious to your need, that's when the Aspie is more likely to panic than to keep cool.