Me pictured on my last delivery day.
This is one of those vulnerable articles. It’s hoped that as I share about my/our weaknesses you too will be encouraged to own and accept your weaknesses, defeating any perfectionistic stride that tends to disrupt and even destroy relationships.
Meltdown: think nuclear plant meltdown where the nuclear core is severely overheated and catastrophic damage results.
We have a five-year-old, and very recently something happened that often happens at his age-and-stage. He had a meltdown. The process normally goes like this. Creative idea, build something, doesn’t work, frustration sets in, destroy the creation in anger. Not all the time, just occasionally. Dealing with pre-school children all the time, and having had another three children who are now adults, there’s nothing alarming in it. Besides, our five-year-old has witnessed us having meltdowns — and I can speak only for myself here.
There are all sorts of meltdowns, not just the angry ones, but also the teary ones, the anxious ones, the prideful ones, and the panicky ones.
I want to share with you the kind of meltdown I’m capable of; this would happen occasionally in 2016 when I was thrust into an occupational world that I did not want any part of, but had to engage in just to support my family.
I was very blessed to be offered work — two separate part-time positions — through friends, one of whom was my ex-wife, when pastoral ministry work went belly-up.
Meltdowns occurred because of both jobs, but the case in point here centred around my job working with my ex-wife. These meltdowns never had anything to do with her — we, her and her husband and I, had a very good working relationship, always trying to outdo one another in what we gave.
But it was the nature of the work that had me positioned like a fish out of water. I was packing chilled meals for home delivery, and so regularly my mind was doing backflips, that at times, my head was saying, ‘I cannot do this… it’s too hard… my brain is wired to work with people, one person at a time, not five or more tasks held in the mind at any one time, with noise, with pressure, with interruptions. (I need to say that since I burned out in 2005 my brain has some kind of permanent disability in managing many tasks simultaneously.) I was always fine when I got out on the road to do the deliveries, other than the times I had meltdowns. And this happened on a half dozen occasions.
Here is the nature of that kind of meltdown. I would call my wife and say, panicked and in tears, ‘Darling, I cannot do this anymore… it’s too hard… my mind can’t keep up… I’m useless.’ After 10-minutes of hearing me out she would usually help me accept that I could get through the delivery run. I was usually fine after this. The inner meltdown in the presence of others manifested in an outward meltdown when it was safe with my wife.
There was nothing wrong with the delivery driving job, and in fact it taught me important skills, helped me master a new degree of patience, gave me empathy for those in that kind of work, and it showed me what I’m not good at. And it showed me how, all through my life, I’ve had the capacity for this kind of depressed meltdown that comes straight out of my wounded child state.
We all have meltdowns, even those who seem to have perfect lives, and especially those who look like they’ve got their lives under control.
I don’t know a single person who hasn’t had a meltdown. So, what do we do with this?
We stop feeling ashamed of them whilst we do all we can to limit the kind of damage meltdown can bring.