Meltdowns occasionally have their lighter moments. My meltdowns have varied in intensity (but usually short lived like a passing storm) and usually triggered by a seemingly tiny little piece of fuel that kindles the spark.
One time my friend and I were looking for a building in an industrial area of town near a vlei (shallow lake) and could not find it because some changes had been made and the access road shown on the map brought us to a cul de sac alongside the vlei and no sign of our target. In frustration at the short sightedness of the road map publishers I hurled the map book from the car window into the road. ( I picked it up later when the worst shockwave had passed). My friend said later that the symbolic ejection of the offending map had greatly amused the occupants of a car travelling nearby.
My friend wasn’t amused once when I had another meltdown. We came out from a movie and looked for my car in the outside parking lot but could not find it. I looked in all the spots I seemed to remember without finding any sign of the blue Cressida until in frustration I kicked the bumper of a nearby car, taking some frustration out on the inoffensive vehicle since theirs was so easy to find and mine seemed to have crossed into another realm where the autobahn runs on forever and there are no exhaust fumes. Let me add at this point that every time I emerge from a movie, I am disorientated and can’t walk straight, let alone find a vehicle in a huge parking lot.
We found the faithful Cressida lower down in the parking area, where we left it. All the entrances / exits look the same so anyone can be confused when you’ve just spent time in the realm of fantasy and have to reconnect your wiring to the “real” world with its laws, logic and limitations. In my experience, almost all shopping malls look the same and have very little architectural merit, if any at all.
The meltdowns described above happened many years before my diagnosis, so hats off to my friend who was surely mystified by some of these events but stuck with me! Not everyone is as lucky.
Another very real type of disorientation happens when I drive down one of those mind-numbing circular car parks such as found in some large shopping malls. This fuels claustrophobic feelings big time because the driving lanes are so narrow and one feels you’re literally going in circles with no way out.
A similar feeling of disorientation occurred when we were driving up a winding road towards Sentinel Peak, a well known mountain landmark. I had to stop and ask my friend to drive when we reached a spot from which I couldn’t see the grass on wither side of the road as it dipped down on both sides, leaving me feel as if I as driving into the sky with no point of reference. I wouldn’t describe as it acrophobia but more a sense of fear from not being able to see beyond the narrow track.
Head for heights can be a funny thing. I seldom feel panicky when hiking in the mountains where there is solid rock to cling to and only once had a bad experience: on one of my earlier trips when we came to some rocks we had to descend fairly steeply. It was misty and I said “surely this isn’t the way we have to go?” It was not the rocks that I battled on however, but a narrow grass verge below that where the path was virtually non existent. I slipped and started slithering off the path but another guy yanked me up by my bright orange cagoule and to the safety of the path. I don’t know how far my momentum would have taken me but I guess it’s better not to have found out!
I’ve more than held my own in most mountaineering situations and has in fact been very beneficial to my state of mind to reach so many remarkable places.
I hate looking down from the edge of a high building though, or from a high bridge, because in order to see the churning river far below you have to bend down. I often wonder how many cell phones, cameras and other stuff people have dropped and helplessly watched whirling toward the distant river and rocks!
Although not causing a meltdown, I have a super-rush of adrenalin whenever I jump on a trampoline and this causes uncontrollable laughing to the extent that my friend got quite worried about me! We were house-sitting at a home with such a trampoline. It seems to have a cocaine-like effect on my chemistry: a real rush caused by having no control, similar to riding on a roller coaster. Perhaps if you’re feeling down, you should invest in a trampoline! The neighbours may think you’re high on something other than springs, and consider calling assistance…
When I can’t find someone, paranoia sometimes threatens to overwhelm me. I have to fight these feelings before my brain tries to de-rationalize it all by whispering far-fetched fantasies. I also have a way of overreacting if I get no response to an SMS or phone call, and fears of abandonment by loved ones try to conquer my logic.
Misplacing items also results in the occasional meltdown as I have to drop everything to look for the truant item, only to find it later on in an unexpected place. The “usual suspects” give way to fantasies about poltergeists or displacement into another realm where missing socks find their true love and cell phones need no recharging.
I’m handling my meltdowns better now. The last noteworthy one was at the beginning of December last year when I was visiting my friend in the city and there was load shedding on my last day there. I grabbed a handful of calming pills (not recommended!) and swallowed them. The resultant “dwaal” (state of confusion) caused me to have very little memory of the trip to the Greyhound or indeed half the trip back to the coast. I lost a number of things including my glasses and a blanket, because during my meltdown I thought the more pills I can down, the calmer it will make me!
So calm in fact, that I bordered on that happy semi-comatose state caused by certain illicit powders, so please don’t try this at home!
On my recent holiday to another coastal town, I went for a run across the lagoon using the no-longer-used railway bridge which crosses the lagoon in a series of three bridges with islands between where the fishermen like to hang out. The railway sleepers are laid on the left with no railing on that side, and nothing below the sleepers but water. On the right hand side is a narrow framework of metal, slightly apart from the railway line and under a metre in width with a rather flimsy railing that extends about 30 cm beyond the edge. I nearly turned back after fifty metres or so on the second and longest bridge, which is several hundred metres long but I grit my teeth and forced myself to continue. After all, if the structure can hold a train, surely it will support my measly weight? Conquering one’s fears give one a sense of achievement that no-one can take away.
After all, fishermen use this bridge every day.