My Personal Shutdown/Meltdown/Burnout Scale – “Why do I bang my head?”


I’m a ‘high-functioning’ Autistic person (just some more bad science). It’s better personally for me to say I’m high masking, high anxiety, high depression, high coke can pressure tolerance.

I’ve done this a lot in my life. I’ve hidden it from everyone. There are more subtle ways of doing this. I’ve been consistently trained not to think that my way of thinking is correct. I have high gaslighting low brain trust trauma response. I have cPTSD. I have low theory of my own mind because I’ve been taught not to trust it.

Now I finally am trusting it.

Meltdowns/Shutdown as sensory/trauma/order interruption/emotional overload as a coke can response

Meltdowns/Shutdowns for me personally are in response to these things. Often in combination. I’ve been taught I’m a burden my whole life to the point that I often am unstable in response to certain combinations of these things. I have a pressure limit.

I’ve been trying to think of it in terms of blow off valves. My responses to it are always these responses I’ll list below. Reaction depends on how much I am close to my limit and how bad the trauma association is to that thing.

LVL1 – Shutdown – Depression/Low Verbal Response – Frustration Tolerance Not Exceeded

This is probably my most common response. I’d say this happens about 75% of the time I’ve been building pressure over the course of a day – I am still under the limit of frustration tolerance. When I get home, I can safely release. Usually this just means I am super quiet, will hang out in my room, and be depressed. I don’t really want to do anything.

This isn’t that effective at recovery… I kind of gaslight myself about what made my day crappy. I just kinda tune out of my own brain, and the world around me, but not in a dissociative way. I just go flat.

LVL2 – Shutdown – Depression/Rumination/Silence – Temporary Catatonia(?) – Frustration Tolerance Mildly Exceeded

Here I’d say this happens about maybe 10% of the time. This is where I’ve had a particularly rough day. But I’ve only exceeded my pressure limit slightly.

This one sucks. This one can look like dissociation. I will often just stare vacantly at a wall or through someone while processing everything inside my head. I’ll be locked in on some negative thought cycle. This isn’t full blown dissociation – you can get my attention but it’s much harder. I’ll only phase back into the real world briefly, but I know I can escape from here.

LVL3 – Meltdown – Rage/Sadness – Writing Response – Moderate Frustration Tolerance Exceeded

This happens maybe 10% of the time now I know I can do it. This is an improvement on the 0%.

This occurs when I exceed my limit by a significant amount, but still have the spoons to maintain course. I can unleash my bottled up everything into text.

I’ll be in physical pain trying to control this, I’ll fall back into the shutdown response after. It’s really hard doing this, and it relies on having the capacity to actually believe that I can do this at the time.

LVL4 – Meltdown – Self-Harm Interrupt Response – Major Frustration Tolerance Exceeded

This one sucks. This one absolutely sucks. I’ll be in the void – my affectionate name for Autistic burnout zone.

I can only release in two ways here:

  1. Pain – I cause myself some physical pain usually cutting myself in non-obvious places. This gives me an anchor to my body, and gives me an external focus in my mind to feel something to get me out. I’ll fall back into catatonia state sometimes if I do this.
  2. Brain Interrupt aka Head-Bashing – I’ll do this if the mental anguish I can’t even channel. I’ll be extremely suicidal at this point. Usually the burden narrative has been triggered in my brain, and I want to die. The only way for me to stop this is a hard reset. I hit my head on something hard to dull and confuse my brain. I give myself concussion.

This sucks. But this is my life. If I don’t dump the mental anguish, I risk the worst effect ever.

LVL 5 – Cumulative Trauma/Burden/Depression/Anxiety/Sensory Overwhelm Response – Autistic Burnout

If I exceed my pressure tolerance by too much. I am trapped in Shutdown – Meltdown for an unknown period of time. I have blown a hole in my battery and charge is leaking out. The amount of time I spend here will dictate how long it takes me to get back. There’s no way of knowing what this will be. When I get back to ‘normality’ – I’ll have permanently lowered battery capacity. I will have leaked out too much.

This is hell on earth. This is the worst nightmare each day. On top of just being stuck between LVL 2-4. I’ll be in sensory overload the whole time. I’ll be shutting down the second I wake up.

It took me 36 years to get here. But I’ve noticed that I’m melting down more frequently now. Shutdowns are nearly constant.

I know every time I get a meltdown I get closer to the abyss.

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.


Published by roryreckons

I am an ADHD/Autism Coach as well as ADHD/Autism/OCD/CPTSD advocate and independent ADHD/Autism researcher. I am an ADHD/Autism Coach who trained through the ADD Coaching Academy. I write mainly about ADHD/Autism/OCD/Mental health issues, but will also discuss morality, abolition, and current affairs occasionally.

One thought on “My Personal Shutdown/Meltdown/Burnout Scale – “Why do I bang my head?”

  1. Mental health is a big issue and can deteriorate with the pandemic rocking the world. I know what’s like to be lonely
    and feeling like a freak. Being a Migrant in Australia has taught so many life lessons on handling life challenges.
    One way of overcoming depression is to discover your Strength and Acknowledge your weakness.
    The moment you discover your strength, learn to maximise it to it’s fullest potential. Go out of your way to contribute
    to the success of others in order to become significant and enjoy sense and feelings of worth.

    This is what i do, to help other Migrants and individuals struggling with depression, rejection and suicidal thoughts.
    You can find out more about me by clicking on my name to watch my Youtube Human Interactive Video!


Leave a Reply to Egbe Osaghae Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: