Dear Meltdown: Welcome, & Meet my Friend Mindfulness.


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Author's own (Camilla Downs)

Meltdown (n): an accident in which the core of a nuclear reactor melts and releases radiation, a very fast collapse or failure, a very fast loss of emotional self-control.

Mindfulness (n): the quality or state of being mindful, the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also such a state of awareness.


A letter to the meltdowns that my 14-year-old special needs daughter experiences:

Dear Meltdowns,

Welcome, and meet my friend mindfulness.

Sometimes I’m able to sense when you’re lurking in the shadows. Sometimes I’m not. And you sneak up like a cat stalking its prey.

You penetrate the peace of an otherwise tranquil day like an earthquake suddenly rocking and rolling in the middle of a quiet night’s sleep. You are the complete opposite of fun and joy.

You are loud, aggressive, physically harmful, and verbally malicious. You lack compassion, empathy, and kindness. You take all actions and words personally.

What I want you to know is that I welcome you. Not like I’d welcome my best friend coming over for coffee and chatting; I welcome you like one later appreciates a grumpy relative during the holidays, knowing that being around this person can help us to learn more about our own triggers.

You are helping us to know what emotions and situations Lillian has resistance to fully experiencing. You are the red flag that goes up as a warning that this is where she feels vulnerable.

So, I welcome you. I meet you with love.

When I am in a peaceful, mindful state, going with the flow of life, I handle you just as easily as a leaf floating in the wind. I choose not to accept your meltdown hook.

When I’m resisting life, choosing grumpiness, and having an off day, I accept the hook you’ve thrown out and jump right in with both feet. These are the times I learn more about myself.

Either way, one thing I know for sure is that you are not the true Lillian. The true Lillian is there, and you are simply acting as a buffer so she doesn’t have to experience the rawness of life. It is my hope that as I meet you with kindness and compassion, you see that it’s okay to move aside.

Lillian can handle the unexpected, the discomfort of not getting her desires, and the “letting go” of learning to be flexible. It’s okay to release your grip.

I will continue to meet you with a calm voice and compassion as often as possible, until the day you realize it’s okay to become dormant, slip into an eternal sleep, and allow a miracle—the miracle of Lillian fully experiencing emotions and going with the flow of life.


Camilla, Lillian’s Mom


Lillian has a rare genetic condition called 18p-. This means that she is missing the short arm of chromosome number 18, and it affects about one in 50,000. The main way this manifests for her is that she is speech impaired, and has balance and motor skill issues. Also, for the past year and a half she has struggled with experiencing anxiety and difficult emotions.

Situations that can cause Lillian to meltdown:

Events not unfolding as anticipated.

Schedules being adjusted.

Communication difficulties.

Being reprimanded.

Teasing from her sibling.

In July 2015, Lillian had the worst explosive meltdown we’ve ever experienced. We made a quick stop at the grocery store to get a few items.

As I paid for our items, Lillian caught up with me, and once I was finished, I could sense her energy shift. Apparently, there was a miscommunication between us about looking at more gluten free desserts.

This quickly led to a volcanic explosion for Lillian. Fortunately, I was close to the exit doors, so I made my way out and headed to the car with Lillian melting down behind me. I quickly got into the car and invited Lillian to do the same if she was going with me. She was not open to doing any of the mindfulness techniques we’ve been learning.

I decided to start making our way home even though she had not calmed down—not the best choice in that moment. She was scratching, pinching, and pulling my hair from behind.

I pulled the car over, turned to Lillian and screamed some ridiculously outrageous comments. I quickly realized I must get out of the car. We needed space between us as I was bleeding and in a great deal of pain from the scratches, and she was a big hot mess.

Once out, I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and asked to see the situation differently. Upon opening my eyes, I saw, shining up at me from the rock and dirt filled ground, a beautiful red jewel heart. There was my answer, a reminder to always respond with love.

At this point, Lillian was ready to do a calming, mindful technique and I requested that she do it on her own. She got out of the car, chose to pick up a couple of rocks and studied them. After a few minutes we got back into the car and drove home.

We’ve not had anything of that magnitude happen since, and I am hopeful this was simply “one step backward” before more steps forward. When this happens, one of us must be fully present and mindful or things can escalate.

Lillian has been seeing a psychotherapist since April 2015. We are working on cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness training. Additionally, I work with her on physically feeling the emotions within her body.

She has made great progress. It’s slow going, yet I feel we are closer to the ultimate goal:

The miracle of Lillian truly experiencing negative emotions and the rawness of life without the buffer of a meltdown.

At some time or another, it’s possible we’ve all experienced our own version of a meltdown. Mindfulness is a miraculous practice to bring into one’s life. Once we become practitioners of mindfulness, more often than not, we are able to remain calm and peaceful when we or our children experience the rawness of life.

With mindfulness, we are able to tune into our body and notice the beginning signs of a meltdown; clenched jaw, increased heart rate, tight shoulders or neck, stomach pain.

At this point we can say or think to ourselves, “There is anger inside of me.” This is the opposite of thinking or saying, “I am angry.” These two statements have completely different meanings and will take one down different paths.

Once we acknowledge there is anger (or any other uncomfortable emotion) within us, we can then put our focus on how this physically feels in the body. Is it tight, rolling, moving from place to place?

Let’s be real here—this is absolutely not fun and can be extremely uncomfortable. Yet, if we stick with this practice, it will become more of a habit and eventually the uncomfortable emotion will release.

If we wish to help our children (special needs or not) in this area, we must first practice this for ourselves and model this to them. Why would they meet a meltdown in this way if they never see us do this?

Examples of mindfulness techniques used with Lillian and her sibling, Thomas:

Focusing attention on a favorite rock, gemstone, or crystal. Concentrating on how it feels, looks, smells, and sounds.

Breath work. At times with no phrase, and at times with different variations of phrases.

Focus on in and out breath.

Breathing in, I am calm. Breathing out, I am peaceful.

I am in control. I can handle this situation.

Guided five-minute mindful exercises.

Relaxing each area of the body

Focusing on different areas of the body

Walks in nature to include focus on flowers, trees, birds, ducks, etc.

Thinking or saying a peace mantra, Om Shanti Om.

Taking turns describing in detail another family member (remembering to use non-judgmental words) and similar family exercises.

These techniques were learned by me during the past 18 years of reading, studying, and practicing the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Lao Tzu, Pema Chödrön, Raphael Cushnir, and The Dalai Lama.


Author: Camilla Downs

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Flickr


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anonymous Apr 3, 2016 5:01pm

Wonderful article, Camilla! Your insight into how to live a beautiful life, no matter what road you are on, is amazing! You inspire and teach with your writings. Lillian and Thomas are lucky people – you are their wonderful role model and mom!

Much love and happiness to team TLC!


    anonymous Apr 4, 2016 10:11am

    Thank you Natalie! I greatly appreciate your kind, supportive, and love-filled words. So blessed by your presence and your light! Oceans of love and hugs to you! xoxo

anonymous Mar 31, 2016 10:52am

Thank you for sharing your heart and wisdom, Camilla. Your expressions of living the Beauty Way always inspire me and I confess to being a true and faithful voyeur to all you share through social media. Because I feel your heart so fully in all you express, I feel so free to love you, Lillian and Thomas with all my heart.

    anonymous Mar 31, 2016 12:17pm

    Oh Denise. You bless my heart! Voyeur on! It is my purpose to openly share for all! We watched a movie this past weekend. The main character commented that his mom used to tell him he could choose a "smart" life or "pleasant" life. He chose smart for a while and then decided he liked pleasant much better. I'm with him. I choose pleasant!

    From a fellow recovering solve-all-issues-with-the-mind human,
    One who now chooses to listen to her heart, with all it's foolishness .. xoxo

      anonymous Mar 31, 2016 12:37pm

      Aho, siStar!
      All Ways

anonymous Mar 30, 2016 9:11pm

Dear Camilla,
I fell in love with your writing long ago when I first read your blog and book, "D iz for different." When my own daughter was diagnosed years ago with a variation of a chromosome 18 disorder (Tetrasomy 18p Syndrome), I searched libraries in vain trying to locate someone whose child and experiences might similar, but there was nothing. Thankfully, we have the internet now and families are better able to locate and forge kinship. Oh, what a difference the journey could have been to have found such valuable camaraderie back then!
"I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and asked to see the situation differently. Upon opening my eyes, I saw, shining up at me from the rock and dirt filled ground, a beautiful red jewel heart." (That passage is particularly insightful and meaningful to me.) I once looked down and at my feet were beads reminding me of my own daughter's precious life.

    anonymous Mar 31, 2016 8:27am

    Dear Velvet,

    Thank you for the beautiful comment and sharing of such a special moment. All that we wish to know is there for us. We simply have to be willing and open to receiving. Bless you and your wonderful daughter.

    With oceans of love and hugs,

anonymous Mar 30, 2016 8:55pm

you are a good mom. you make me happy and excited about everything.

    anonymous Mar 31, 2016 8:24am

    Thank you Thomas. You are a wonderful person! The happiness and excitement lives within you .. I just help you see and know that. I am grateful and blessed we chose one another to experience this life. YOU are one of my greatest teachers. Thank YOU for that! I deeply, deeply, deeply love you! xoxo

anonymous Mar 30, 2016 2:45pm

This is a wonderful and helpful article…for anyone. Lucky daughter to have such and insightful mom.

    anonymous Mar 30, 2016 3:34pm

    Thank you Barbara!! I appreciate your kindness and support!

anonymous Mar 30, 2016 8:07am

Thank you Momma … I deeply love and appreciate you! xoxo

anonymous Mar 29, 2016 5:06pm

Very special person! The most wonderful daughter and mother to my two grandkids in the world! And that's as true as I can be.

anonymous Mar 29, 2016 12:40pm

Camilla, beautiful & inspirational, as always.

    anonymous Mar 29, 2016 1:08pm

    Thank you Kathy for the feedback!

anonymous Mar 29, 2016 10:45am

Such a powerful and meaningful story for us all Camilla. Thank you so much for sharing this and for being such an unconditionally loving and amazingly brave mother, woman, and soul. You and Lillian are such gifts to each other and your story is a true blessing for us all to learn from and remind us of the need for mindful presence and ways in which we can practice this within our own lives, as well as with those in need of our support. Lillian is a magickal soul and with your loving guidance, is blossoming into the amazing being she came to be, with so much to offer the world. Much love to you both <3

    anonymous Mar 29, 2016 11:49am

    You're welcome Tania! What a deeply meaningful and touching comment. I'm grateful for the love and thought you put into this. Much love right back to you! xoxo

    anonymous Mar 29, 2016 12:51pm

    Thank you, Tania

anonymous Mar 29, 2016 7:16am

I love this article! Lillian is very fortunate to have such a loving mom. Camilla’s patience and kindness resonate with her two beautiful children. I am always inspired when I read about adventures with TLC.

    anonymous Mar 29, 2016 10:34am

    Thank you Valissa! I have to admit I'm not always patient and kind!! Yet, to quote Wayne Dyer, "I'm a hell of a lot better than I used to be!" …. I'm blessed that our adventures inspire you! Oceans of love to you! xoxo

anonymous Mar 28, 2016 4:50pm

These are good techniques to use in any area of conflict! Thanks, Camilla!

    anonymous Mar 29, 2016 8:23am

    You're welcome Robin!! Thanks so much for the fabulous feedback!

anonymous Mar 28, 2016 3:13pm

What an incredible story Camilla. Thank you so much for letting us in to your life through your heart and spirit. There are so many positive elements in your story that grabbed my attention such as love conquers all, lead by example and the practice of mindfulness just to mention a few. I appreciate your inspiration very much.

    anonymous Mar 28, 2016 4:50pm

    You're welcome Gail. I feel openly sharing is what I am supposed to BE doing. Thank you for such wonderful feedback!

anonymous Mar 28, 2016 1:44pm

Thank you for sharing. Your experiences make me look at you with even more love and respect. You are truly an amazing person who continues to always share love with everyone. You are a true role model of how to live every aspect of life with love. Thank you.

    anonymous Mar 28, 2016 2:53pm

    You're welcome Jennifer. I feel we ALL want the same thing in life … to be happy. Some of us get a little stuck and some of us get a LOT stuck. Yet, it is a global desire. xoxo …

    One of my favorite quotes is by Hafiz …
    "And still, after all this time,
    The sun never says to the earth,
    "You owe Me."

    Look what happens with
    A love like that,
    It lights the Whole Sky.”

anonymous Mar 28, 2016 1:15pm

What a powerful story, Camilla! Thank you for sharing these wonderful tips that we can all use when we encounter the challenges of life. Love your spirit!

    anonymous Mar 28, 2016 2:46pm

    Thank you Dawn!! Greatly appreciate your enthusiasm!

anonymous Mar 28, 2016 1:14pm

The Meltdown by Camilla was insightful! I am passing it forward to parents I know with children who have compromised abilities. And as a parent, I am kindly reminded how mindfulness is so important in being the example for our children. It gives us the strength to meet the challenges with a compassionate focus. Appreciate the article very much!

    anonymous Mar 28, 2016 2:45pm

    Thank you Merrilee! Blessed that you found this to be meaningful and that you'll be sharing!

anonymous Mar 28, 2016 12:56pm

Thanks for sharing your story, Camilla. Inspiring.

    anonymous Mar 28, 2016 2:44pm

    You're welcome Lois! Blessed it was meaningful to you!

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Camilla Downs

Camilla Downs is best-selling author of “D iz for Different – One Woman’s Journey to Acceptance,” blogger at Mindful Musings, and inspirational speaker. Her passion is writing, sharing her life experiences, mindfulness, meditation, emotional connection, and nature photography. She is a single parent to 14-year-old Lillian Darnell, and 10-year-old Thomas Darnell. She and her kids call themselves Team TLC to correspond with the first letters of each of their names. They are six months into a living-in-a-tiny-home adventure. Lillian has a rare chromosome deletion called 18p-, and although Thomas has not been officially diagnosed, he struggles with sensory processing issues.