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April 11, 2011

Another from several days ago on Tumblr, which I meant to post here earlier but was too tired and then forgot. I recommend clicking through and reading all of Jemima’s post, truncated for length in my reply.

Coping Methods: Directed Stimming


Right, in my first post in the series I talked about one specific stim that I have: Nail biting.

In this post I will generalise a little more, and I’ll try to explain how I deal with my stimming.

I have several stims. Most (if not all – I’m not sure) autistics have one or…

Excellent, and all too familiar. My specific stims are different–and I will break out in a lot more vocal and other Tourette-type tics when sufficiently stressed–but the basic pattern seems to be a common one among those of us with sensory issues.

My autism was also recognized late, as an adult, so I have actually had to learn to get more comfortable with controlled public stimming. Once I hit my teens, the stimming looked “weird” enough that it was treated as a sign of mental illness. As were the serious ticcing/overload episodes if I kept myself from stimming–no win possible.

TW: mention of SI

The resulting anxiety levels were horrible until I figured out what was really going on and was able to develop better coping strategies. For at least a decade of my life, I internalized a lot of shame about it, and tried hard to avoid “looking crazy” even when I was alone. That just didn’t work, and I resorted to cutting in an attempt to cope. (More intense sensations needed, yeah.) That was seen as rarer in the early ’90s, and inevitably a sign of suicidality and repressed early childhood trauma, so that situation was particularly no-win when I was already perceived as seriously mentally ill. (Other autistic things such as flinching away from unexpected touch were also seen similarly, BTW. Repeatedly getting told that you must not want to get better because you cannot dig up repressed memories that you do not, in fact, have will not help your general sense of wellbeing. To put it mildly.)

Once I had the knowledge to figure out why I was doing it and find better ways of coping, I stopped having periodic spells of self-injury.

These days, I am much happier while no doubt looking “lower functioning” to a lot of people. I use mindfulness rather than try to suppress/ignore my “crazy” feelings and urges. Now I let myself stim and tic more, even in public, when I need to. I sing quietly to myself a lot, and fairly unobtrusive flap my hands and fingers. If I need to, I go ahead and blurt out words and phrases quietly, before I involuntarily start yelling them and looking really crazy. And so on.

And I do not experience the near-constant agitation and hyper-anxiety that really did have me suicidal more than a few times when I was younger. I am learning to work with my own unique brain, instead of against it.

Let me repeat that: when I was looking far more “high functioning” in public, I was regularly needing to go home, hole up in my room with extremely loud music to try to drown everything else out, and cut myself. It has also been years since I had a headbanging meltdown.

I really worry about the wellbeing of autistic kids who are getting funneled into behavioral “therapy” programs with an emphasis on looking more normal. And then possibly being given antipsychotic medications for their agitation. Something’s got to give there, eventually. BTDT by a slightly different route, have the extra PTSD and med-induced Type 2 diabetes to show for it.

Every person on this Earth has a right to be who they are without being subjected to abuse, as long as they’re not hurting anybody else with it. Everybody. We really need to rethink putting so many value judgments on things like stimming, tics, and perceived “functioning levels”, and let other people do what they need to do in order to develop fully as the unique individuals they are. That’s the kind of awareness people with less common neurological setups really need. Not only is that kind of interference morally wrong, IMO, it backfires a lot and causes more suffering.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2011 1:02 am

    I am a picker (facial pores/zits/blackheads) and other tichotilimania type stuff. Hair pulling has been a new one, too.

    • urocyon permalink
      April 12, 2011 3:19 pm

      To avoid rambling all over the place–as usual ;)–I didn’t go into the cuticle and other skin-picking, which also shows up more during periods of high stress. Which also used to get “stop mutilating yourself!” responses. Not so helpful, no.

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