A heavy feeling sits in my chest. People run around, asking me to do things, clean that, get this. The horrible work lights hurt my eyes so I look down at the ground. The environment gets busier and busier and the feeling in my chest starts to expand. All my senses are getting mixed up and I feel like I’m going to explode. I know what I need to do to make myself feel better. I take a deep breath and walk to the cupboard. I close the door behind me and start to spin and jump. After a minute, the feeling in my chest has subsided and I start to feel happy and calm again. I then walk back out of the cupboard and continue to deal with the madness.
Stimming is something a lot of people on the Autistic spectrum do. Stimming is short for self stimulatory behaviour, which is when a person is doing something to give themselves sensory input. We stim for lots of different reasons. For me, when I’m happy I like to jump or clap my hands! But I also stim when I’m feeling stressed or anxious, especially in environments that are challenging. I feel like a puzzle and my pieces are missing, but when I stim I feel complete again.
Self stimulation doesn’t have to be physical movements like rocking or hand flapping, it can be smells, sounds and repetitive movements in objects. I find listening to music very stimulating, if I find a song stimulating I will repeat it over and over again. I like the feeling of pressure, for example hugs or heavy objects. I also like to visually stim!
The other day I was doing my fifth driving lesson and it was raining. I was sitting in the car and my driving instructor was showing me where everything was and explaining to me how everything worked. But then she showed me how to use the windscreen wipers and instantly my eyes were fixed on the moving plastic. I suddenly felt calm and happy. I watched the wipers push the rain across the window. I was mesmerised. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth…
“Georgina!” I snapped out of my trance, my driving instructor looking at me oddly. I felt embarrassed. There are right places and wrong places to stim and that was definitely a wrong place (luckily I wasn’t driving!). I did get worried about driving with the windscreen wipers on, I didn’t want them to distrstact me. But they didn’t whilst I was driving so that was okay! I spoke to my friend who is also on the spectrum about what had happened and they also said that they find windscreen wipers stimulating too!
Anything that moves, glittery or shiny I am instantly hooked. I used to have crystals hanging near my bedroom window as a child. Every time the sun came out, the room would be filled with colour! It was my very own sensory room! I would spin the crystals and watch the colours dance around, I loved it. I would watch them for hours until the sun disappeared.
I used to get told off for stimming, people would say it was inapropriate and I would be stared at by strangers. I didn’t notice it when I was younger, but as I got older peoples comments started to hurt me and I started to think. Am I hurting people by doing this? Am I offending them? Is what I’m doing really wrong? No. I wasn’t hurting myself and I wasn’t hurting others. Over the years I have found ways of stimming that blend or get unnoticed in public places if I needed to but, I will normally stim in private where no one can judge or see me.
We need to do it, it makes us happy and reduces any anxieties. It’s a way of coping with the world around us. It can be a way of expressing ourselves, when I jump I am normally happy or exited about something! It can also be a way of calming down the body. If I didn’t do it, I would become unwell. But most importantly it makes me, well me!
Its okay to stim. If it makes you feel better, do it. If it makes you happy, do it. Just keep Stimming!
(Note to self, don’t stim and drive!!) See you soon!