If you’ve ever paid close attention while you’re around me, you might notice that I do some odd things. If I have to sit still for any length of time, I may start bouncing my leg a bit. Or, if I’m holding a pen, I’ll click the button repeatedly. And not just click it, but click it in a very specific manner: two quick clicks, a pause, then two more quick clicks. Over and over. It has to be two clicks, pause, two more because, well, I don’t fucking know. It just feels right. If I stand in one place for long, I’ll begin shifting my weight from one to the other. Like all my “quirks”, it’s a subdued version of what I really want to do, which is walk like I’m in a certain Monty Python sketch. But that would freak people the fuck out so shifting back and forth it is. So, what’s all this about? It’s called “stimming” and it’s a huge part of neurodivergence.
What the Fuck?
Okay, right about now, someone is probably wondering, “What the fuck is ‘stimming’?” And, really, that’s a fair question. If you’re not neurodivergent yourself — or close to someone who is — this is probably some brand new shit. Stimming is short for “self-stimulating behavior” and is generally made up of repetitive movements or sounds. And, while it may look weird to folks outside of the neurodivergent community, it is fucking essential for our sanity. I’m not being dramatic when I say that, either. Stimming helps relieve stress and free up our brain to manage all the shit that’s coming at us all the goddamn time. Think of it as a pressure relief valve to keep us from going up like an exploding water heater.
It Takes All Kinds
If you listen to experts, there’s only one kind of stimming and that’s hand-flapping (it’s an autistic thing). This pisses me off because really, there are as many types of stims as there are NDs who fucking stim. So, let’s go through a few and maybe help dispel this bullshit idea. As I said, there’s hand flapping (example begins at the 50-second mark) but there’s also the repetitive motions I mentioned earlier (clicking pens, fidget toys, playing with hair or zippers, etc.), body movements (rocking or my silly walk fetish), or chewing on things. There are also things like eye movements and echolalia/palilalia. An ND might have some of these or none of these (having come up with their own). I am not aware, however, of anyone who has all of them. But neurodivergence can take on some weird forms, so I wouldn’t discount it. The bottom line do what works for you and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it.
Masking, Neurodivergence, and Stimming
The thing is, I will probably never be able to embrace that “fuck anyone who doesn’t like it” ethos because I have so much baggage around stimming. As a kid with AuDHD, I had a frequent need to stim. But, whenever I did, it was not. . . okay, let’s be charitable and say “well-received”. The truth is, I got plenty of stink-eye, yelled at, even threatened with an ass whipping if I didn’t stop. Saying that I have “baggage” around stimming is like saying the January 6th insurrection was just a bunch of freedom-loving Americans touring the Capitol Building. Understand that when I say I can’t stim freely, I mean I can’t even do it when I’m alone. My childhood programming runs to fucking deep to allow it. And, that sucks because there are times when stimming saves my goddamn sanity.
Neurodivergence and Stimming: It Ain’t Going Away
Don’t get me wrong, I still stim but it’s always on the DL. Between all the negative shit pushed on me as a kid and my RSD, undercover is the only way I can ever pull it off. Even now, well into my 6th decade, I’m still worried about what people will say if they see me doing some weird shit like a silly walk or bouncing on the balls of my feet. Understand that when I say “worried”, I mean that if I knew they saw me, I’d have to go home and hermitize myself in shame immediately. And, it shouldn’t be like that. We neurodivergent folks should feel free to do whatever weird-ass shit is necessary to cope with the dystopian hellscape that neurotypicals have created. It’s probably too late for me to ever feel that freedom, I’ve got a lifetime’s worth of baggage that will prevent it. But, I’ve got grandkids, at least one of whom is neurodivergent, and I want that fucking freedom for them. So the next time you see someone doing some weird-ass shit out in public, keep your fucked up comments, stares, and general disapproval to yourself. Ain’t nobody got time for that.