An incomplete list of stims, from yours truly

An incomplete list of stims, from yours truly:

Sucking the inside of my arm (much to my mother’s chagrin, who demanded to know what the strange bruise-like marks were and was disturbed when I demonstrated how to make them)

Playing with my hair

Chewing and biting on things, particularly plastic things (this explains the random urge I get to bite things)

Squishing squishies and slime

Lipsyncing to music (I’ve been waffling back and forth about whether this is really a stim or not, but I don’t feel the urge to do it all the time, only when I’m out in public/stressed, which leads me to think it is a stim after all)

Leg jiggling

Chewing the skin on the inside of my lip

Playing with my hand fan

Rubbing my thumbnail through the fabric of my shirt

Part of me wonders what my stims would be like if I was encouraged to stim as a child, or even if my need to stim was encouraged. While it was never explicitly discouraged in the typical autistic behaviour correction sense—no refrains of ‘quiet hands!’—I was always told to sit up, sit still, stop fussing, stop fidgeting. All of my current stims—minus the chewing on things and sucking the inside of my arm—are socially acceptable behaviours that neurotypicals do frequently. Is this a coincidence, or did I redirect my energy into these stims so that I could do them in public and not attract attention? My instinct is the latter. I still suppress the urge to lipsync in public and only do it when I think people aren’t looking.

Why do I want to lipsync? I don’t know. It’s not really a conscious decision. It’s an urge, and it feels nice when I do it. Not in a tangible pleasurable sense, but in a way, a relief? A very subtle relaxation. Some of the tension in my chest, the ever-present iron band around my lungs whilst out in public, dissipates when I do.

Why do I suppress this? Why do I care what strangers think of me?

The answer is swift and honest: because I do care what strangers think of me, deep down. I have since I was a child, because no matter how hard I tried, I could not socialise properly. I always said the wrong thing, or laughed at the wrong times, or reacted in the wrong way, and then people would know I was different. Learning as an adult that different is not bad, just different, is incredibly difficult. There is nothing wrong with autism, and there is nothing wrong with the fact that I am autistic. But learning to love a label I hated for years is hard, and learning to love my stims is too.

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