It has been a while since I have had a neurodivergent meltdown in a public setting, as I am rather good at masking and controlling my behaviour/emotions.
Like many neurodiverse people, I detest and do my best to avoid the hairdressers, opticians, doctors and dentists of this world. Today, it was unavoidable as I had my second dentist appointment in as many days. The appointment was scheduled to last approx. 15mins, but unfortunately due to unforeseen complications, it lasted for approx. 2hrs.
The things which I believe triggered my overwhelm today are;
a new different dentist & assistant
the time allocated had altered
the purpose of the visit had changed
the bitter taste of a particular chemical which in my mind tasted like the colour green and not a pleasant green grass green more of a bitter strong lime green
the prolonged physical contact and pulling/scrapping on my teeth
the continuous water spraying into my mouth, face and neck with intermittent cold bursts of air
the noise of the machinery – zizzi drills like contraptions
the nervousness of the staff as things were not going to their plan
The bits of debris in my mouth
having to stay still
The list goes on………….
I attempted to breathe evenly, I closed my eyes, I held tightly onto my cardigan, and I tried to rationalise that I wasn't always going to feel this way. It worked for a while, but overwhelm can be overwhelming! My reaction was internalised at first, as I considered angrily telling the staff to stop and then quickly running away.
After the unforeseen dental procedure had finished, I jumped up, started to the door and was asked by the shocked staff if I was alright. To my surprise and theirs I responded by bursting into tears and leaving rather abruptly.
I have been reflecting on my overwhelm and I have been feeling ashamed, embarrassed and just plain crappy as I couldn't control my emotions/behaviour.
I have now explained to the dentist what triggered me and what I need from them in the future. This doesn't necessarily mean that I will not suffer another overwhelm, but it is important to express one's needs and negotiate there accommodation.
I am writing this vulnerable blog post in the hope that it will reassure others who are neurodivergent, who have anxiety or who have suffered trauma that it's okay to feel overwhelmed, that it's okay if you melt down on occasion and it's okay to express your needs.
Masking can be helpful to enable us to manoeuvre through this world, but sometimes even the best mask can slip - even if you are a Psychotherapist.