top of page
  • Saskia Müller

Meltdowns at Work

In the fast-paced world of corporate leadership, where demands are high and expectations even higher, finding balance can be a constant struggle. As a Supervisor, I've become adept at juggling multiple responsibilities and navigating through long days of meetings, deadlines, and ever-changing dynamics. Yet, amidst the chaos, there's a silent battle raging within—a battle against sensory overload.

Lights, noise, and unexpected changes—they're the triggers that set off a cascade of sensory overwhelm, a phenomenon that's all too familiar for individuals like myself who are on the autism and ADHD spectrum. But unlike the stereotypical image of visible meltdowns, mine are concealed behind a carefully constructed facade of professionalism.

It's a paradoxical existence, one where outward composure masks inner turmoil. Most people won't notice the subtle cues of distress—the tightening of muscles, the racing heartbeat, the overwhelming flood of thoughts—as I navigate through the daily grind. But make no mistake, the effort to maintain that facade is exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

Masking becomes second nature. We learn to act with decorum and grace, concealing our true selves to avoid judgment and criticism. It's a skill honed over years of trial and error, born out of a desire to fit in and be accepted. And yet, the irony is that the very act of masking often exacerbates the underlying challenges we face.

During moments of heightened stress or sensory overload, we engage in a delicate dance of self-regulation. Every aspect of our demeanour—our facial expressions, our tone of voice, even our body language—is carefully managed in an effort to maintain equilibrium. It's a relentless battle against the overwhelming onslaught of stimuli, a battle that often goes unnoticed by those around us.

So, what do we need? Understanding, empathy, and support. Simple accommodations can make a world of difference. Whether it's a quiet space to retreat to, noise-cancelling earbuds to drown out the cacophony, or dim lighting to ease the visual assault, these adjustments provide much-needed relief from sensory overload.

But it's not just about physical accommodations; it's also about debunking misconceptions and challenging stereotypes. The label of "high functioning" may seem innocuous, but it undermines the immense effort it takes to appear 'okay' in the face of overwhelming challenges. And while some of us may have 'low support' needs, articulating those needs amidst uncertainty and stress can be a Herculean task in itself.

Moreover, we don't expect others to tiptoe around us or treat us with kid gloves. What we do need is a bit of understanding and awareness. Recognising the subtle signs of distress—a furrowed brow, a clenched jaw, averted eyes—and offering a kind word or gesture can make all the difference in the world.

But perhaps most importantly, we need to foster open dialogue and create inclusive environments in the workplace. Organisations and line managers have a crucial role to play in this regard. By initiating conversations about neurodiversity and championing role models who openly share their experiences, we can break down barriers and remove the stigma surrounding conditions like autism and ADHD.

In a world that often values conformity over diversity, embracing neurodiversity isn't just a moral imperative—it's also a source of untapped potential and innovation. By embracing the unique perspectives and talents of neurodiverse individuals, we can create workplaces that are not only more inclusive but also more creative, dynamic, and resilient.

So, let's continue the conversation, one step at a time, towards a more inclusive future—one where differences are not just tolerated but celebrated, and where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and succeed, regardless of their neurology.

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page