Another busy stressful week here, doing my best just to get through. But what has been interesting, is approaching each day and each situation with a little bit more knowledge about myself than the last. A topic that came up in my last therapy session was stimming. I know what it is, but until recently I never realized how much I actually stim on a daily basis. As I really delved into that this week, I discovered so many of my hidden quirks that I have been embarrassed about my entire life, are actually stims!
My favorite, most common stim is scratching my head. I especially will do this for hours at a time if I am focusing on something. The act of scratching my head just allows my brain to focus. If I don’t do it, the noise around me is enough noise to drown in. Scratching my head is my tether to reality. When I scratch my head, I feel calm, even if its in the middle of a stressful situation. It doesn’t work perfectly, but it helps calm me down amazingly well.
In searching for my other stims, I was looking for stims that sort of fit that description and was coming up short. Other common stims I do are flicking my nails (aaallllll the time), and hand flapping when I get overwhelmed. And, its not just me sitting there flapping my hands by myself. It’s me flapping my hands and pacing, while complaining to a coworker about whatever situation has me currently worked up. I have always done the hand flapping, I just never knew it had a name.
I’ve been embarrassed by a few other stims I do, but now that I know they are stims, I am going to just do them anyways. I always tried to hide it before, and if I got caught doing it at work I would just die of embarrassment. #1 most embarrassing: putting my hair in my mouth. I especially do this while I am driving and my hands are too busy, so I can’t be scratching my head. But I’ve noticed recently that putting my hair in my mouth and the way it feels pressed between my lips, gives me the same amount of calm that I get from scratching my head. Occasionally if I am overwhelmed at work and I am washing dishes, I will just hold my hair in my mouth while I do them. I know It’s weird. I’m embarrassed to even be writing this, since I haven’t seen anyone else mention this as a stim for them. But it is a stim for me. And if I am not going to be honest here, then I don’t see the point.
The #2 most embarrassing: humming while I work. I hum to myself allllll the time. There are certain songs that make me feel calm (currently it is anything by Simon & Garfunkel). Most of the time, it is within range of others to hear. I hum when I am walking into work, when I am preparing the food, when I am serving customers, when I am washing dishes (with my hair in my mouth). The only time I stop humming is if someone else is actually talking to me, because I can’t listen and think at the same time. Huh. Maybe in writing this, I just uncovered another layer. Maybe I hum BECAUSE I can’t listen while I am thinking/humming. The humming calms me and narrows my field of focus. Its instinctive, to protect me from having my ears and brain assaulted by the sounds of the world.
Can anyone else relate to this? It seems insane that my brain has found all of these ways of stimming to help me counteract all the constant input from the outside world. But it works! If you also put your hair in your mouth, or hum obsessively, please tell me. I would love to know that I am not the only one. And if you do and don’t want to reach out, that’s okay too. I am putting it all up here for the world to see. Unpolished, imperfect—generally the exact opposite of anything I would normally post. But my goal for this blog is to just be myself, my honest self, the version of myself that doesn’t try so hard to over-perfect everything. Because perfect doesn’t really exist, and if I am going to grow and evolve, then its time for me to ditch the person I’ve been pretending to be my whole life. I have been such a chameleon, always imitating. There are parts of myself that I know, and there are parts that I haven’t even discovered yet. I want to get to know myself as an Autistic woman. And I think the best way to do that is to trust my stims. I am going to stim when I need to, how I need to. And I will do my best to kick the embarrassment to the curb.
I have a lot to offer. And if I am constantly repressing myself, of course I am never going to succeed. So, for me, the first step on this boundless journey is going to be one with my hair between my lips, humming Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits.