Anatomy of a Meltdown, Part 3

A Chartres-styly labyrinthAfter the meltdown, after the sensory binge, after putting the pieces together (read Part 1 and Part 2), my daughter and I checked out Livermore’s labyrinth, hidden in a courtyard behind the Presbyterian Church. It was lovely, ringed in candles. A stone fountain burbled nearby. The space exuded calm, which was exactly what Katie and I needed. I felt hollowed out by the evening’s events.

Sharon insisted that I walk the labyrinth while she and the others cleaned up. “It’s simple,” she said. “Three Rs: release going in, receive at the center, and request going out. Just follow the path. You can’t get lost.”

Katie was happily chasing two other girls and blowing out candles, so I figured I might as well give it a try. After all, it was my year to experiment with new things. So I entered the labyrinth and started walking.

It was hard to quiet the chatter in my head. As I wound around, I worried about getting lost. I obsessed about whether it was okay to step on the lines and how fast (or slow) to walk. I worried about Katie. Then I remembered that I was supposed to be releasing. So I concentrated on that. Many of the things that needed releasing were fear-based, and I obsessed about that. Would I ever be done with fear? I reminded myself to stick to my task, and eventually everything else fell away. It was just me, my thoughts, and my footsteps on the path.

When I reached the center, I looked up through the trees at the moon sailing in a liquid sky. Stars twinkled and a breeze caressed my face. I gave thanks for the many blessings in my life—Katie, my pets, my family, my friends, my health—and I heard a voice in my head. “Yes,” it said. “The road has been twisted, but you are on the right path. You’re almost home.”

I listened a bit longer, but all I heard was a repeat of the original message. I had a strong sense that everything was going to be okay, and my body hummed with conviction. I checked in with Katie and began the walk out.

This time I didn’t obsess about getting lost. I simply walked. I requested everything I thought I might need for the journey ahead: courage, patience, a calm, clutter-free home, new friends, a perfect personal assistant, financial security, excellent health,  effortless self-care, all the help I needed, adventure, joy, laughter, and ease. I might have asked for a boyfriend and a mini cooper convertible as well, but those were the icing on the cake. I reached the labyrinth’s exit and the voice said, “Build the community that you want for Katie and trust that others will come. You have everything you need.”

By now I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I was overwhelmed. I wanted to go home, put Katie to bed, and curl up with my journal. Katie and I helped carry the last of Sharon’s things out to her car and we said goodbye. I was backing out of the parking space when the voice returned. “You need to create a school that provides all the things Katie needs but isn’t getting.”

As soon as I heard it, I knew the voice was correct. A school was in my future. But a part of me whined, I don’t know anything about schools and I’m already juggling too many things. The voice laughed. “You don’t need to build the school now. I just wanted you to know what’s in the future.”

Later, when I told Barb about my experience, she nodded and agreed that a school would be wonderful. She’d had a similar thought. Sharon looked surprised that I’d received so much guidance. She said that rarely happened the first time and I must be very receptive. I don’t know about that, but I do know that after Katie’s meltdown, I felt extremely vulnerable and open. Perhaps this is why I was so receptive? I’d rather not live through another meltdown to test this theory, but I’m grateful that Katie and I are learning, slowly but surely, how to live with autism in an often less-than-accomodating world.

Until next time,
Cynthia Patton

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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