My very first full meltdown in five years happened yesterday. It was after a very long and distressing day. I felt caught inside an insidious web of deceit and manipulation, spun out by one very clever pathological liar, and at the same time pressed against the burning furnace by having to mop up someone else’s mess.
So, here it is. An expression of my own need to vocalise, as well as a reflection of how the autistic mind can become tangled inside a web of deceit that may be simple to the neurotypical mind. It is not a complaint or rant against another person, even if that person is so very very wrong. It is also not meant to derogate people with mental disorders. Quite the opposite. But at the same time, we must never use our struggles as excuses for harming others. If you have a child or friend who is autistic, this might give you an insight into our approach to goodness, kindness, our fallibility, vulnerability and quite alarming lack of neurotypical Theory of Mind, yet hopefully, you may witness some of our strength and perseverance too.
Well, you would’ve read in a previous post that around Christmas 2013, I took in someone I thought was in dire need. A woman crying in the streets with a little sweet dog in tow. Not a friend. Just someone I met while walking our dogs. It was supposed to be for just two and a half weeks. What harm could a little kindness do? Little did I know.
Two and a half weeks turned into three months of escalating horror and filth. Just listening to her cursing at every little thing throughout the day, as if expletives were her natural language and nothing more (maybe?) and witnessing frightening mood swings, was terrifying enough to the senses. The physical filth and decay that she enshrouded the entire house in added a thick, stench-riddled depressive cloud over my entire home. My kitchen degenerated into a fly-infested, grimy nightmare, no matter how hard I cleaned, the ever advancing tendrils of more and more filth would reach out to engulf my desperate efforts. The bathroom began to reek of urine, no matter how hard I scrubbed, the smell of ammonia became deeply embedded into the fabric of the already old and worn out surrounds, weaving its way into even the brand new shower curtain I’d put up in celebration of the Bulldozer’s departure. As it turned out, Bulldozer was a comparatively milder nightmare. The toilet degenerated completely and all the hard work that I had put into the backyard just fell apart and gave way to utter degeneration. The weeds took over, uncut, unkempt, there was dog poop everywhere, amplifying the thick atmosphere of rot. When we were living there, she blamed it all on my Lucy – as a friend remarked, how difficult is it to differentiate between her tiny doggy’s poop and my Lucy’s big doggy poop? What was so sad and pathetic was that she grandly declared she is a very clean person and she “loves to clean house.” I nearly cried from exasperation when she said this to me. Apparently, she said the same thing to my friend who was babysitting Lucy in my absence, too. Heartbreaking denial. It is the biggest barrier to healing and restoration, to deny one’s own truth.
After I moved out, things got even worse. I wish I had taken a photograph of the carnage when I returned to retrieve some of my things, it would be hard to believe if you didn’t see it for yourself. But I was overwrought, overburdened and overstressed by the enormity of the assault – I just didn’t think to snap any more photographs by then. The stench that enshrouded the house was clawing and crawling through my hair by then.
At the beginning, she contributed voluntarily a few hundred here and there and bought fresh meats for the dogs (which I often had to quietly throw away because the fresh became rancid and she still didn’t know the difference). I accepted these as goodwill gestures. The money hardly covered half the rent and not any of the utilities, but I had no intention of charging rent anyway. Two and a half weeks of a good deed was my only thought. I didn’t think at the time it would become a lengthy debacle. Later, she stopped contributing, while her behaviour became worse and worse. I went home for two weeks, and my friend who came to stay and look after Lucy was shocked, horrified and terrified by this person. But we tried to empathise and sympathise. I don’t want to hold anyone’s mental disorders against them. We all struggle one way or other too. Yet, it is a very thin fine line…
I gave her notice to vacate, because I myself was vacating. Reasonable enough? My email to her on 9 March 2014:
I know you are in a bad situation and I’ve really done my best to help you since Christmas, but I myself am finding things really tough going and I hope you will return the favour by bearing with me and helping me out with this last week’s schedule.
Here’s a run down on what’s happening this coming week:
If you have not received confirmation of signing new lease … you will have to move out by Thursday 13th because I have to clear everything, and bring in the cleaners.
I shall need the $400 for the fridge and washing machine by Monday 11pm at the very latest. A direct bank transfer if you can get to a branch itself will be immediate. …
I feel very sad to say this, because I know you love Panda very much, but it may be better for her if you put her up for adoption, with someone more able to care for her? It is terrible to be in financial difficulties, I absolutely sympathise, and I am extremely concerned for Panda, and you.
Apparently it was not at all reasonable to her. She replied with a tirade:
As I told you via message a couple of days ago I have been extremely depressed and unable to really do anything. You, oddly, have not had any understanding or empathy of this.
I have been thru an enormous amount the past three months…
The agreement on Panda was that we would both look after her. This agreement continued when Panda broke her leg, you confirmed you would continue to assist.
However, instead, you took off and have not bothered about Panda at all. You have not done anything to assist, left it all to me, not cared about her one bit with the exception of a few questions on how she is.
How incredibly disappointing.
Now you have the gall to say that she’d be better off with someone else?!
Who do you think would take her now Dawn? No one else wants her, I’ve already told you this.
How hypocritical for you now to even tell me that I should give her up. At least I am looking after her and her welfare. I am the one raising funds for her, I am the one making the hard decisions, I am the one dealing with the vet and all her care. You’ve done absolutely nothing.
Having to handle Panda’s care all on my own, all the stress of it, has made me extremely depressed and stressed – something you have not bothered about or taken into consideration at all. In other words you have not given me a break or cared less at how affected I’ve been.
Please sell the washing machine and fridge.
We will be out by Thursday 13th. Thank for that.
I replied, pointing out to her that she is not the only person going through difficulty, she had completely failed to see my stress filled situation, which was the only reason I was even asking for the money! Also, Panda was her sole responsibility, not mine. I had informed her at the very beginning when she moved in two days after Christmas, that I was moving out in a few months’ time, round about March. Then she cajoled, persuaded and insisted that I contact the rehoming group so she could adopt Panda. Pushed incessantly I caved in, against my own better judgment, something I live to regret. I wish I did not do that. Panda has now lost a leg as a result of my utter folly and lack of good judgment of human beings. The very first time she took Panda out without me, she tied Panda to a chair and was not attending properly to her, when the dog took off in a fit of fear and the heavy wooden chair destroyed her leg. She knew Panda had serious fear issues, I was working so hard on this, I even asked her if she felt confident enough to take Panda out on her own, and suggested she left the dog with me at home. But she said she knew what to do (being ever so experienced with Greyhounds) and waddled off to the cafe around the corner. Well, the extremely nervous and skittish dog was then tied to a chair and left unattended, on the very first outing she had with her new owner (I was not there, and her accounts of this to different people have varied confusingly, but I am recounting what an eyewitness told me).
I repeat myself too much here, but it is the truth that I will forever regret allowing her to adopt Panda. I don’t care so much for myself, us humans cause enough trouble by our own folly, but Panda was an innocent in this shockingly grisly Wagnerian drama, and I was the channel that linked her to this woman, causing her to lose her leg and go through so much suffering. Humans. We have a debt to pay to our animals indeed.
I cautioned her from the outset that I will not always be around to help her, but so long as I was, I would help. And I fulfilled my promise to the letter. She told me she was very experienced with dogs and especially greyhounds etc, and I stupidly believed her. I also told her I had no money for a second dog. Who would not understand that? No money = no money! What did she expect me to do apart from help raise funds? The poor dog has been in hospital (or somewhere, I am not sure where, because she has been evasive with her information each time I ask about Panda) since the accident on January 22. My friends were far more generous than her friends on the Fundrazr site that she set up. One of my friends even contributed AU$300 to a dog she had never met, owned by a person she does not know. All these details she conveniently forgot in her rant against me, of course. Panda being away in a place I had no access to, how much more help could I have offered this woman? It distresses me so much.
Her rant drove me to tears, but I understand where those thoughts come from, it is a very dark, sad and horrible place inside a seriously unbalanced mind indeed, for one to hurl such accusations at the world at large. I have never complained about having to take responsibility for my Lucy. I am grateful to friends when they help, but I would not expect anyone else to take on this burden. It is to me an honour and joy, how can I ever expect anyone to absolve me from this? She is mine. To love, hold and care for till death do us part. Any true dog lover should know this, shouldn’t they? Further confusion in my Aspie mind, to say the least.
If only I had left it at that, sold the items and cut ties with this person. But no, I persevered along the conciliatory path. A big mistake, but hindsight is never foresight, and Aspies lack a lot of Theory-of-Mind-sight!
I have to admit that it was a huge effort to forgive and pursue the matter with calm and conciliation. But I hate animosity, and will go to great lengths to be on cordial terms with people. The world has too much hatred as it is, why add to it if I could help it? Another monumental mistake on my part in this case.
She didn’t leave. She signed a new lease with the landlord. I let her use the fridge and washing machine, even though I had to turn away so many people who wanted to buy them off me and pay me cash immediately, it seemed too cruel and small hearted at the time to sell them and leave her bereft. She kept reiterating she wanted them and will pay. Then the drama restarted all over again. She failed to pay the monies owed to the landlord. When I asked her about it, she insisted she had made the bank transfer last week, 6 weeks of advance rent in all, and she had documentary proof, so the landlord was just being a “bully.” However, in the time I was living there, the landlord was very fair to me, and it didn’t seem logical that any landlord would want to evict a tenant who had paid 6 weeks rent in advance, does it? Anyhow, the landlord sent her an eviction notice. All this has absolutely nothing to do with me. But the landlord then leaned heavily on me to help him mop up his own mess. He told me his real estate agent advised him that I was liable to pay the week’s rent, see that the woman left the house, and to clean up and hand over the premises to him. However, according to the advisor I spoke to at Fair Trading, I was right in thinking that this new contract was absolutely not my business at all. The advisor also informed me that the landlord had no right to challenge or withhold the return of my rental bond, which he was doing unless and until I managed to kick this errant person out of the house and clean up the place. In fact, I was advised that I could lodge my own bond return form without the landlord’s signature, and it was up to him to prove to Fair Trading that I had behaved in a way that rendered me unworthy of reimbursement, which will be almost impossible to do since the house was already occupied by the new tenant. I had vacated on schedule and I was not owing the landlord any monies. In fact, it was my legal right to just disconnect myself from the whole ridiculous situation and have nothing to do with either of them. I did inform the landlord of this in a subsequent email, but being the too nice person that I am (makes me sick to admit this really, but it’s what gets me into serious trouble!) I nevertheless told him I will do what I can.
So, I returned yesterday to clean up the house. I hired someone to help me. It was supposed to be at most a 3 hour job, at my own expense. However, it turned into a horrifying 5 hours, because she did not vacate until after 3 hours and we had already done all the cleaning we possibly could, with her and her things still strewn all over the house. Despite her fervent and grandiose promises the day before to give me cash in the morning as soon as I arrived at the house, when I asked her, she refused to pay me the money. She made one excuse after another, and after awhile, it became nauseating, but by then, I was locked inside an autistic mental freeze, and my body was breaking down into fever, exhaustion and throbbing searing pain. I went into zombie-auto-mode. At one stage, she declared she was going to the ATM to get the cash for me, and she exited the house. I waited for an age, and the removalist, who was taking things into his van, came back and told me he saw her sitting at the corner cafe reading the papers and chatting away with everyone there. No ATM. No money. Of course. I was such a fool. In the end, the final image sequence of her removalists taking away my fridge and washing machine, while I stood watching helplessly in the street, with the neighbour on my left and the removalist on my right, both telling me how wrong it is and that I should stop her and not let her take away my things without paying – the entire horrifying scene and soundscape is now indelibly etched into my sensory consciousness. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t do anything. It was as if I was outside myself, watching a scene from a bad movie.
After she left, she sent me texts that her friend is on her way with the money. She also said previously that she will be back to settle everything. It all just didn’t make sense anymore, but my mind was blown by then. I was so tired. Of course, she flitted off never to return. We waited for another two more hours. I paid the removalist $45 an hour to wait with me, because I needed him to take my work things to my studio and send us home. It was he who advised me to leave, that it was clear she wasn’t intending to pay me. I felt as if someone had been playing very unkind mind games with me.
When I got home, I was in so much pain and suffering high fever, that I fainted. Literally. Fortunately, I was in bed with Lucy when that happened. It was Lucy who woke me up with her sweet little sniffs near my face. I then realised I hadn’t eaten all day, apart from the weird breakfast of french toast, cabbage and bacon in the early morning. I also failed to remember to drink much. I got up and cooked something to fill my tummy with. I had a sudden yearning for something soupy from home. There was nothing around to recreate that, but I settled for Prawn Noodle Soup. I used rice vermicelli and pork instead of prawn. Eating something warm and soupy helped a lot.
After eating, I got back into bed. I tried to rest, I could feel my whole body going into a state of collapse, but the scene of the fridge and washing machine being taken away while I stood helpless and speechless kept replaying in my brain. Yes, Aspies are given to endless re-processing in the mind, and it can lead to meltdown or mental breakdown. It was again that “goldfish in a bowl” nightmare sensation. I had a complete meltdown. The first one in more than five years. I will not regale you with the specifics, but suffice to say any meltdown can be quite frightening to witness and experience. Again, it was Lucy who stopped me. She was sleeping in the far corner of the bed, a few feet away from me, but she woke up, startled, stared at me, neck erect, ears pricked high and eyes wide with terror. I saw her expression and my meltdown melted down, forgive the stupid pun but that was exactly what it was. I dissolved into logical sensibility once more.
The palpable sensory motion was a dissolution. Like fine powder dissolving in liquid. A downward movement. Hence the description. Not an uplifting movement, but a stabilising one, like falling gently on solid ground. My heart could not take it, that look of fear in Lucy’s eyes, how could I cause her to fear? I am responsible for her wellbeing, that included the mental, emotional and physical. I must not do to her what my own carers did to me. Instill fear. No. Trust and love only. No matter what state I was in. I must not hurt her in any way whatsoever, even if it was just to let her witness me in a meltdown state. Yes, I did stop mid-meltdown. It was an effort still, but cathartic nonetheless. She is precious. She is everything that is good. I cannot sully this no matter how hard things may be for me, I must not destroy her purity of spirit. Nobody but Lucy has ever been able to help me get out of a meltdown so quickly!
All is behind me now. Aspies take ages to process and re-process. This is just our natural innate neurological function. It makes us great researchers, artists and scientists etc, but also very vulnerable to reliving anxiety and unable to extricate our minds from memories of horrific situations. I will learn to focus more on the positives of this trait and try to steer away from the negative, but no, don’t tell an Aspie to “snap out of it” because we can’t just do that. That said, I highly recommend a service dog. If you are able to care for someone deeply at all, a dog is better than a human, because a dog can teach you things no human can. And in a non-verbal non-nagging non-moralistic way too. I am so blessed to have good friends, they are always there for me, and I am extremely blessed to have an Angel with me. Lucy is my Angel. Thank you, Lucy. You truly are a Princess!
So many people, helpless after being abused and cheated, ask for Karma to befall the abuser. For me, I do not ask for vengeful Karma against my abusers. All I ask for is Karmic Clemency, that somehow, the good that I may have done, whether foolish or wise, will be returned to me in another way, and help to alleviate my own suffering. What good is it to wish harm to one’s abusers? There is no joy in anyone’s suffering, and it doesn’t make one’s plight any better. I wish for joy and blessing. Nothing more. If Karma is listening, that is my request. (And maybe sponsorship for my next art work? 😀 )
I have severed ties with this person, but she continues to harass me with hysterical emails. It is unpleasant to say the least, and my friends are worried that she is now going around besmirching my good name, but that is not my biggest worry at all. Our lives are temporal, and humanity has created a very bad record thus far. In any case, I just received an email from the landlord, who stands as another witness to this person’s actions. Most reassuring to have things in black and white, so that my Aspie mind will not become entangled in bafflement and disoriented by any more rabid assaults.
My big sadness is the plight of the poor innocent dog. Panda. I fear for the dog. But there is nothing more I can do. If someone, somewhere, can find a way to help that dog, please do. It was hell while it lasted, but at the end of the accounting day, I merely lost a lot of sleep and money, suffered a few autoimmune flare ups, had my trust betrayed and lost some material things. This is nothing in my mind compared to Panda’s loss – she lost her leg and is now in the legal charge of this human. I honestly do not wish this person harm or Karmic revenge, because if bad things should happen to her, then it would be horrible for Panda, who is in her care. And so, I wish her well, so that she may take good care of the innocent dog. My prayers are with Panda. Please forgive me, Panda.