Category Archives: Stimming

Oh the Ways We Love to Stim

People often ask about stimming. It is something that “normal people” have trouble understanding.

Most people stim. Have you ever clicked a pen while thinking, swished your tongue around in the roof of your mouth, strummed your fingers tapped your toes. Some stims are less noticeable and are considered “socially acceptable” and “normal”.

I stim more than “normal people” but less than some Autistics. Growing up undiagnosed forced me to learn to hide what was not socially acceptable. Thinks like rocking and making funny sounds, though soothing and helpful, will get you funny looks. These things I love are not typically welcome in the workplace.

Alone I am left to stim freely, I like to jump, rock, and bounce about, sometimes doing things that would make people question my sanity – but it feels good, oh so good. Releasing so much tension, taking a break, shake it off, reset.

In public I do thinks like rub my hands, fingertips and wrists. I play with my phone or a necklace or bracelet. I tap my toes under the table and stretch in my seat. Sitting still is hard work and eventually I have to release the pressure.

Fidget toys, scented oils, snacks, playing with my laptop mouse, or swirling the spoon in my tea so I can listen to the sounds of the cup. Even if people don’t notice I am stimming constantly, regulating, focusing, trying to keep from being overwhelmed.

Sometimes I stim when I am uncomfortable. Stimming helps me relax. Sometimes I stim when I need a break. Stimming helps me focus. Sometimes I stim if I am anxious. Stimming can help me think.

Stimming can take me to another place or help me deal with what is happening in front of me. When things get bad I can always stim.

 

What IS Autism – From An Autistic’s Perspective

A reader asked if I had a blog post that described what Autism is. I started to say that this entire blog gives great first hand information from Autistic people.

Our experience can not really be summed up in a one page post. There are a lot of things that make us different.

First I want to say that each and every Autistic person experiences the world in a very different way so what I state below may not be true for everyone. I am going to go over some generalizations that are true for me, also taking in mind what has been shared with my by my amazing readers.

We tend to struggle with spoken communication but many of us do VERY well behind a keyboard.  We can have tricky short-term / working memories but a LOT of us have long-term memories that are FOREVER. We need time to process and go over things but once we understand something it stays in our minds (or that is how it is for me). Time to organize and prepare thoughts is essential for me because of this.

Many of us have sensory sensitivities. Bright lighting can cause chronic migraines and other illnesses. I can hear everything which is unpleasant because I can’t tune individual things out. My hearing is essentially so sensitive that I can’t hear conversations in busy rooms. Not to mention the distraction of every small noise seeming VERY loud. Clothing can be itchy and irritating. Tags and socks are the worst and certain grooming activities can be extremely uncomfortable. Getting a mani-pedi is NOT relaxing for me. Even getting a massage is difficult because of another person touching me can make me want to jump up and run.

I have a hard time sitting still. Our bodies (and minds) crave constant motion. I am always playing with something rocking in my chair, humming or singing. This is called stimming. It is a regulatory behavior and helps with sensory input, relaxation, and focus. I also speak to myself out loud a lot. These things “normal people” don’t tend to accept but we REALLY need them to.

Many Autistic people have comorbid conditions – other illnesses with their Autism. Some examples are insomnia, epilepsy, IBS, OCD, anxiety, depression, migraines, apraxia, ataxia, sensory processing disorder, the list goes on. These, in my mind, are not Autism but rather Autism related conditions. They differ from person to person.

Autistic people can be extremely intelligent but learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities can also happen with Autism. Just like “normal people” our IQ’s are all over the place. People often assume Autistic people all have intellectual disabilities. I prefer to think of it as a difference. Also EVEN non-verbal (non-speaking) Autistic people can fall into the “high IQ” category. Never assume an Autistic person cant’ understand you.

I can speak but am not as good at it as most “normal people” but there are a lot of Autistic people who have apraxia of speech. This means they may have all the words and thoughts inside BUT the mouth pieces don’t move. For some reason the brain can’t tell the mouth and related parts how to work. Some children speak late and others never speak. I had no speech delay.

Dyslexia and Hyperlexia are also common in Autism. I am Hyperlexic.

Our brains tend to be spiky. We can be far above average in some pretty random areas, art, math, music, memorizing, writing, or not. At the same time our deficits in the areas that don’t develop as fully can be perplexing to the word’s general population.

For example – my conversational skills are so limited that I can NOT tell when my turn to talk is. My solution? Don’t talk. Before I stopped talking people kept calling me rude but I was doing my best. I never wanted to be rude. I’ve become more quiet and contemplative – more of an observer than I used to be. Actually this has been an improvement.

Autism is invisible. Unless I am stimming wildly in a chair or flapping my arms wildly you would not see my Autism – and these are things I do in private. Any time I try to share with someone that I am Autistic, a 34 year old woman who appears to have it together, I am dismissed.

I try to share mostly when I am looking for some understanding about an accommodation that I am about to ask for. I ask for little things – natural light, a quiet spot, to be able to take notes on a laptop.

Often people tell me I don’t “need” these things and that I am making excuses for myself. I just want to do my best. This is the hard part, when you ask for help and people say “nobody else will have that” or “it’s not fair to play favorites” even better “you already have it pretty good”.

Summing it up in a blog comment or post is impossible. Please dear readers, I ask that you provide your own experience in the comments so that the world may someday redefine wheat Autism is from OUR perspective.

 

With love,

Anonymously Autistic

“Anna”

 

#ActuallyAutistic #InvisibleAutism #AutismAwareness #SheCantBeAutistc #AnonymouslyAutistic

 

 

Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Me, so bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Wild child, who can’t sit still, full of joy bouncing off the walls. Yes you are strange, but please don’t fear your uniqueness. Be you, don’t grow bitter.Stay strange and amazing.

You have so much potential. Yes, your mother is right you are smart. Stop believing when people tell you otherwise.

It’s okay that you don’t need people. That makes you independent NOT defective. You are not cold and robotic you are calm and logical. Yes you do things differently but some day this will be your strength.

The people who picked on you never made it far in life. It was them not you who had the problem. Bullies are insecure and often suffer on the inside, lashing out to make themselves feel bigger. Don’t be like them. Stay kind.

Silly girl, who talks to the animals and trees. Never stop. Don’t worry about what other people think of you. You are perfect just the way you are.

 

With deepest love,

-Me

Autistic Confessions I Had a Meltdown at Work

The woman on the phone was not listening. I had called her for help and quickly realized that she would not be able to help me.

“I told her never-mind. I’ve made a mistake. I’m going to let you go.” She kept asking questions. Every question she asked I said – “I don’t know. I don’t have any more information. I am going to let you go.”

She kept asking. I told her again – “I need to let you go. You cannot help me.” Her overly helpful insistence that I not hang up the phone was about to make me blow up.

Finally, in a harsh tone I told her – “Look – I was trying to be nice but I am hanging up now because there is NOTHING you can do for me.”

I slammed down the phone and ran quickly out of our office in a panic. My heart was beating fast and my mind was racing. Everything was a blur. I wanted to scream, cry, and hit someone. More than anything I wanted to get away and be alone.

Run. Run. Escape. Escape.

Bursting into the hallway I frantically looked both ways – I wanted to go someplace without people. The bathroom? Elevator? Emergency stairwell! 

Hyperventilating I burst into the stairwell. It was dark and quiet as most people take the elevator. I rand up and down the stairs until finally I collapsed exhausted on the bottom floor.

I sat for a moment, curled in a ball rocking. Grateful for the moment alone – I sat breathing in and listening to my breaths.

Coming back to reality, feeling much better after my tiny explosion (this was a very small meltdown), I realized that I had left my key-card in the desk as I ran out in a panic, so I exited the stairwell and took the elevator back to my floor.

Back at my desk I sat down like nothing ever happened – as if I hadn’t just had a meltdown at work.

When an Autistic person is having a meltdown they are unable to think clearly. The flight or fight response is triggered so forcing them to engage with you can actually cause more stress.

We are all unique individuals but I like to be alone during a meltdown. If I get up and run away don’t chase me – this is flight and if you corner me my brain can switch to fight. I’m on autopilot and running has become the way I protect myself (and those around me).

If I’m having a meltdown please do not touch me. My senses are whirling out of proportion and I am not thinking clearly. I may become unable to communicate other than one word answers and trying to communicate makes me feel worse – so don’t ask me explain what’s happening.

If you are in the room with an Autistic person having a meltdown – turn off the lights, get them a blanket or pillow and some space. A favorite stim toy might also be a good thing to offer.

You can stay in the room if the person you are with does not mind, but give some space and sit quietly.  Accept that they can’t control what is happening to them. Sometimes we feel the meltdown coming but other times it hits without warning.

Once started the meltdown has to run its course. Just wait, let me meltdown and don’t try to stop it. We may feel tired after a meltdown but sometimes we may feel a relief as the pressure may have been building for quite sometime.

Remember – as hard as watching a meltdown may be for you having a meltdown is horrible for an Autistic person. The pain is mental and physical. Autistic people having meltdowns are in crisis mode and our brains are lashing out at us. We don’t mean to freak out and are often embarrassed after having a meltdown.

#ActuallyAutistic

Weighted Blankets – Princess Aspien

I’ve suffered with chronic insomnia my entire life.

I used to sleep under sofa cushions and pillows as a child and now, because I cannot sleep unless I have a heavy (not weighted) blanket over me – EVEN IF I AM HOT.

Being squeezed tight and makes me feel calm. Those weighted blankets are a bit expensive, so I don’t have one but I definitely want one!

Princess Aspien has another video (which I can take no credit for). I am super addicted to her channel. Please subscribe and check out her video explaining her experience with using weighted blankets to help her insomnia.

Autistic Stimming & Hand Flapping

“If you’re happy and you know it flap your hands.” Anybody else flap their hands like a little chicken when they are really happy or get startled / surprised?

Until I learned what stimmig was I had no clue I was even stimming – and I stim all the time, a LOT. Most of the time I don’t even realize I am stimming.

Stimming is something that Autistic people do to help them regulate the constant onslaught by the environment on their senses. My brain is constantly flooded by the unfiltered information poring into it.

When I stim, I am able to tun out some of the extra noise, calm down, distress, relax, and focus.

Society tends to want people to sit still quietly, something I struggled with as a child. I remember fighting with my teachers, who wanted me to sit still. When I could not move paying attention in the classroom was impossible.

Autistic people need to stim, in a way it is a lot like breathing for me.

I have a friend who has Turrets. She told me that she can hold in her ticks but they build up and doing so feels horrible for her. This is definitely how I feel about stimming. It is like an itch that won’t go away – I have to scratch it and eventually I will no matter what.

I used to stop myself from stimming and would try to hide my stims. Now that I know why I stim and how it helps me to regulate myself.

If a stim is not appropriate (too loud or harmful) I try to switch it for something positive.  

Below are just a few of my own stimming behaviors. 

Finger Rubs / Silent Snaps

Finger Snaps

Tongue Flicking

Finger Snaps

Stim Toys / Jewelry

Look Out a Window

Sniff Something Nice

Listen to the Same Song for an hour over and over.

Dance

Hum

Hand Flapping

Rocking

Bouncing

Verbal Stimming / Mouth Clicks & Noises

Hand Rubbing

Hand Tapping

Foot / Leg Tapping

Skin Picking / Pinching

Body Tightening and Relaxing

Stimming is self care – don’t stifle the stim!

He’s Back! The Aspie World, one of my favorite Vlogers on YouTube is back this week talking about  Autism, stimming, and hand flapping. I can take NO credit for the video below PLEASE check out and subscribe to The Aspie World on YouTube for more amazing content.

Link to video HERE.

I Love to Hate You – Autism & Socks

Socks.

It is more of a Sensory Processing Disorder problem than an Autism problem, but maybe it’s an Autism problem because we don’t explain the discomfort to the people around us.

We don’t know you don’t feel the same way we do about socks. We think that our behavior should be self explanatory because socks just suck that much. I have very early memories regarding the unpleasantness of socks. They felt like fiberglass burning into my ankles and the seam was a large lizard wiggling around on my toes.

When I was a baby my mother liked to dress me in socks with lace trim. I hated lace more than anything. Thinking about those socks makes me itch. Nothing could ever make them feel right. Looking around me everyone had socks. I thought you all were crazy. Why on earth would anyone put up with this much pain?

My mother said it was to protect my shoes, because shoes are expensive. It was a logical enough explanation, but as I got older I remember rubbing my feet and ankles raw by pawing at my socks.

Wet socks and wet clothing have always been impossible for me. My mother once asked me to put on wet socks. I can’t remember very clearly what happened after she asked that question (perhaps I had a meltdown) but I feel like the situation ended with vomit.

As I got older I started picking my own socks at the store. Ankle socks with no seam in the toe were my favorite when I could find them on sale. I had expensive taste in socks. If I could not find socks without a seam, I prefer ankle socks with a seam on top but they have to be soft.

I tried wearing shoes without socks, most of the time I ended up with blisters on my tinder feet.My balance is not the best and I am a bit of a klutz. I imagine my feet take quite a beating when not protected by socks.

Flats were great until my feet began to sweat. Pools of sweat feel like oceans in my shoes – it is ALMOST as bad as wet socks.

I try to stock up when I find a type of sock that I like. If a company changes their socks it will take me a while to get used to them.

Nothing is more annoying than a sock problem. The distraction is so intense it becomes hard to think about anything else without stimming. Maybe that is why I went barefooted so much as a child. I loved the feel of warm dry grass and hot asphalt on my feet.

I don’t run around with my shoes off any more. Now that I’ve found socks that feel nice I prefer not to feel small things under my feet. (As an adult, at 125 lbs, your feet hurt more when stepping on objects than they did when you only were closer to 60lbs.)

Even now there are some sensory days that I just can’t handle socks. If that happens I don’t wear them. It’s that easy. It is not fair that I put myself through the torture.

Itchy socks take away my valuable spoons. I need those they are mine!

I’ve been wearing socks for over 30 years now. It has taken me a long time to go from hating socks to loving socks.

Baby steps, progress is progress no matter how long it takes.

Baby Robot Talks About Harmful Stims on Her AMAZING YouTube Channel

I never realized that I have harmful stimming behaviors – mine are EXTREMELY minor – but I do scrape and pick my skin till it bleeds sometimes when I am over stressed.

Actually, if we are being fully honest, I am CONSTANTLY fighting the urge in my head to scrape at myself. Stim toys help but if I stop paying attention my hands have a mind of their own. Its frustrating to have so little control over my own body.

Normally I tear my cuticles off.

It is also very had for me not to pick at or mess with any cut I have in my body.

I have to constantly remind myself to stop and try to do something else.

I keep stim toys in my hands and that helps me to stim in non harmful and positive ways.

Some harmful stims can be very dangerous and I do not have a lot of experience with those.

Please do not think that I am minimizing those in not mentioning them – I just don’t feel as if I have authority on this subject.

I know that I am more likely to harm myself more intensely IF I am having a total meltdown but most of the time I hide myself in a soft bed to prevent me from hitting my head or punching things.

“Stim freely – without shame.” – Baby Robot

I REALLY love Baby Robot‘s YouTube channel. I can take NO credit for her video please like her videos and subscribe to her on YouTube.

Social Anxiety & Late Diagnosis – Mental Health Week

How being diagnosed later in life can lead to mental illness.

In honor of mental health week I am going to talk about some of the darker corners of my mind.

My social anxiety grew out of repeated failures, confusing social interactions, and a life time of feeling out of sync with the rest of the world. It is the words of doubt – self questioning every interaction.

Did I say something offensive? Is she making a face? I can’t tell. (I have face blindness.) Shit! – Round and round in my head. So much work navigating interactions that others find pleasurable. I’m happiest at home with my husband and a good book.

In my teen years I learned to blend in with others around me by mimicking their behavior. I didn’t fit in naturally, but shallow teenagers were easy to copy.

Unfortunately adult humans are much more complicated and subtle. Non verbal communication skills are valued in society and employers want fast talkers who can read between the lines. I can’t do either of those things without great effort.

I don’t come off as smooth and slick in casual conversation. Often I play the fly on the wall in large group settings. It’s easier than talking and lets me pay more attention to the people around me (assuming the room is not too loud for me to focus).

Being put on the spot in an office meeting will cause me more stress than most people because words stop flowing ineligibly any time I am put under pressure or asked to speak spontaneously.

Naturally I am unfiltered, however, I have learned to cautiously monitor everything I say in certain environments (mostly at work). My opinions and humor tend to be a bit beyond what is culturally acceptable / office appropriate. Starting controversy in the office is not my goal.

Social Filter V1.0

When I was a young undiagnosed Autistic woman, who did not care what other people thought of her, I was happy. I offended people constantly and often had no idea. If I ticked someone off bad enough they would blow up at me and I would dismiss them as being an ass or too sensitive. People who could not handle me were kicked out of my life.

Burning bridges does not work in the adult world. If you want to get a good job you have to learn to play nice and “have good manners”.

Social Filter V2.0

When I was young and learning to hide behind a social filter it was easy to copy my peers. All I had to do was “hold all my weird in”. Social Filter V1.0 was fairly basic.

As an adult, developing new social coping strategies, more and more rules were added to my social program. Every time I have a social blunder I make a rule. There are so many rules in my head about socializing that it is difficult to filter through all of them in every social situation.

It’s a workaround, a patch designed to help my computer keep up with computers that were built for socializing. My brain was not meant to work this way, so it is running hot and fatigued, but somehow I am getting by.

Running Social Filter V2.0 on my computer is like trying to run Windows 10 on a computer built for Windows 95. The hardware was not made to handle so much data so quickly. I’m working overtime and still not keeping up with the expectations that society has for me as an “exceptionally bright young woman”.

Why can’t I just be normal? Why can’t I hold a conversation? What’s wrong with me? Am I antisocial? Why doesn’t my memory work? – Questions in my head before my late Autism Diagnosis.

The constant failures caused my self esteem to fall. I began to hide myself from the outside world. So bright but so rude. You should know better. – people would say. My best never seemed good enough.

Eventually a computer that was running happily with Social Filter V1.0 became overloaded and crashed due to the more complex Social Filter V2.0 software.

Suffering from Autistic Burnout, tired from constant unexplained social blunders, and feeling completely insecure, defective, and sick –  fearing the worst, and afraid of my own mind, finally I ended up speaking to a Psychologist.

What happened?

I ended up with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis, started reading blogs and watching videos by other Autistic people online and eventually started my own blog and began virtually networking with other Autistic people.

Knowledge is power. Now that I know I am Autistic I don’t have to try and hide my little quirks. I do keep things to a minimum at the office, mostly for my own privacy.

Social Filter V3.0 is working well. I’ve designed to work in harmony with my brain. I keep stim toys in my hands and don’t try as hard to talk unless I feel like it. I wear hats and shades indoors. Sometimes I use ear plugs if I need a sound break.

I am kind to myself and explain Sensory Processing Disorder when appropriate. I speak up if I am confused and laugh at myself if I make a mistake. I forgive myself and accept myself. Other than trying to be kind to others, I try not to have a filter. That is Social Filter V3.0.

This filter, made out of self love and knowledge, will allow me to defeat my social anxiety. Now that I know I have nothing to be ashamed of. If only I had found this information years earlier – perhaps I never would have developed social anxiety.

This is why we need awareness – but not just awareness. We need understanding and acceptance. Being aware of something and having compassion for someone are two different things.

Remember that this week as we write about Mental Health Awareness.

#WorldMentalHealthDay #invisibledisability #Glitch #mentalhealth #iamwhole#WMHD

 

This post also can be found on The Mighty here.

Invisible Autism – Invisible Disabilities

I am Autistic

My Autism is invisible

It is hiding on the inside

Things in my mind

I do not share

When I cover my ears

and I bow my head.

Sometimes the world is so loud

I can not breathe

Suffocating in the sound

I hold myself tight

Trying to rock away the pain

For a moment I am visible

Did anybody notice?

My eyes dart around the room

Distracted people

My pain is hidden

I remain invisible

A poem inspired by Invisible Illness Awareness week

#ThisIsChronicIllness #InvisibleIllness #InvisibleAutism #ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic