The easiest way for me to explain it is by providing a visual metaphor.
I like to call it the lasagna layer effect.
It’s usually an accumulation of things that trigger a meltdown.
For example, I’m going to the beach, I need to take my hat, I can’t find my hat.
I start to get stressed; my anxiety is starting to rise.
Wait ! I find my hat. I start to calm down, I can self-regulate, it’s okay.
Add the first layer to the lasagna.
I arrive at the beach only to find the beach is closed, there’s a shark sighting.
I now am battling with the huge emotion related to disappointment; this is really hard to overcome.
I have to work extra hard to self-regulate. I’ve got it under control but I am feeling agitated.
Add two layers to the lasagna.
As I am walking to the car my brother grabs my hat and throws it on the ground.
Already agitated I want to scream. I count to ten, self-regulate but I am really struggling.
Add another layer to the lasagna
Mum decides to stop at the Cafe to get us an ice cream. I go over to order my usual icecream , but the only icecream I eat is sold out.
This time you can’t add anymore lasagna layers because the tray is full, it’s starting to over flow.
Just like the emotions you have been trying to self-regulate all day.
You may not even notice that we are struggling to self-regulate, because sometimes we aren’t even aware until it’s too late ourselves.
I know from experience, that I am no longer in control of my emotions, when a meltdown starts.