Stuck in a stim

Like many people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I “stim”.  That is to say that I engage in “stereotyped and repetitive motor movements”. That is also to say that there are certain activities I can (and often need to) do over and over again in order to help me anchor my brain, relax my nervous system, and give me something to focus on.

By engaging in these movements, I can pay closer attention to what someone is saying and better absorb its meaning.  Or I can think through a complex train of thought.  Or I can release my nervous energy without harming myself or anyone around me.  Or I can switch from one task to another with less difficulty.  Or to distract and occupy myself while waiting for someone.

You get the idea.

Each Aspergian/autistic person’s “stims” are different.  What works for one may not appeal to another.  And many of us have several stim activities, because what works for us at one moment may not do the trick at another moment.

Until I found out that I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I was embarrassed by my stims.  I knew I enjoyed them immensely; I knew that they gave me the relief I was looking for.  But I had no “legitimate” reason for carrying out those activities.  And I certainly didn’t see very many other people around me doing anything like that.

Score one for self-consciousness.

So, only since I discovered the truth about my Asperger’s/autistic neurotype did I actually mention my stims to other people and talk openly about them.

Score one for self-acceptance. 🙂

One such stim I have is to examine sections of my hair and look for split-ends.  There–I said it.  I may have mentioned it before, in passing, but only briefly, as I didn’t want to belabor the point; I was still getting used to saying (or typing) these words out loud.

Examining my hair for split-ends brings a surprising amount of satisfaction, one that is difficult to describe in words, because the words don’t exist (at least, that I know of).  What I feel could be explained (although not 100% accurately) as the satisfaction one gets when they’ve improved something in some way.  Every split-end found and dealt with is one less split-end in my hair.

And I have lots of split-ends.  My hair is long, extremely thick, and fairly dry, so it splits a lot.

Score one for Stim Job Security!

Although I can use this stim to help me “change gears” from one activity to another (a phenomenon known as “task-switching”, a common challenge for people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, including myself), sometimes this stim becomes a task in itself that must be switched from, especially if my engagement in it has gained enough momentum.

Oh boy.

Sometimes, I get “locked into” that stim.  It’s hard for me to find a Stopping Point.

The Inner Critic helpfully awakens.  Or at least, that’s her impression.  Yep, she even critiques my stimming activity.  How nice.

She’s already finger-wagging.  OK, just this section of hair that you’re currently working with; then it’s time to get to work.

I know, I know.  But I’m so relaxed here.  I’m not sure I’m ready to dive into an obligatory task yet.

Well, you’ve been at this a half hour already.  You’re already behind schedule for the day.

I know.  I’m just fleshing out this thought, getting prepared to exercise my brain.

Suit yourself.  But you can’t let this go on much longer.  You’ve got things to do.

I know.  I’ll get to them.  Now get out of my head so that the stim can have its intended effect and I won’t have to do it as long.

Alrighty then.  But I’m going to check on you in a few minutes.

*Sigh*

And she’s not kidding; placating the Inner Critic without actually doing what she wants is like hitting the “snooze” button on an alarm clock without actually turning off the alarm.  In another nine minutes, it’s going to go off again.

Better get stimming.

Being caught in a stim is like waking up in a nice warm bed on a cold winter morning.  You don’t really want to move; the thought of getting up and around and doing what needs to be done is not exactly appealing.  You’re sort of stuck in bed.  It’s just too comfortable to think about expending that energy and facing that colder air.

To me it feels like inertia; the stim can gather its own momentum and take on a life of its own.  It’s also probably an Executive Function issue; I might be having trouble sequencing my to-do list for the day and working up the motivation to get started.

One bundle of hair here–oh, and let’s get the ones on the back of my neck, too.  Haven’t paid any attention to those in a while.  It’s also all-too-easy to forget about the ones on the sides near the front.  It’s like I take those for granted, so sometimes I might assume I’ve attended to them more recently than I actually have.

Will this be the last hair section?  Or maybe I’ll do this one over here, and then “cut myself off” from the activity?  How did I ever get through life before discovering my split-ends?  Oh yeah, that’s right–I bit my nails instead.  Dreadful, really, because I did it too much and they always ended up jagged.  Yikes.  The hair is a much better solution…

…until the helpful Inner Critic, much like the un-snoozed alarm clock, comes nagging again. 🙂

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37 Comments

  1. Wow, you too? Sometimes I get that way too, particularly when smoking a cigar. I do more than just draw, taste and retrohale. I agonize every aspect of it, including studying the burn of the wrapper and watching the ember consume the leaf. I don’t know why something so simple is so fascinating to me but it is. I guess I just take it to a level higher than most.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Better hair than skin 😕 I have been a skin picker since before I had acne, and I’ll get lost in the bathroom sometimes just hunting down every last clogged pore, skin flake, etc. Gross, yes. Hard to stop, definitely.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a coworker that did the same thing with her hair. 😄 If it was slow at work (rarely) she’d pull out the scissors and start going through her ends. I’ve seen a lot of stims described by ASD folks that are things I’ve done (NT me) or seen others do. Then I read how ASD folks are shamed for stimming and I just don’t get that. I say STIM AWAY❣💞😘💫💖🌻✂💯🆒💗😎

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know exactly what you mean about the satisfaction you get, I thought it was very well put. My hair is far too short for me to look at the ends, but like a previous commenter, one of my stims is skin picking. Not nice and not good for you but impossible to stop. It’s the eliminating of tiny ‘lumps’ on the skin that’s so satisfying, and yes, I have the scars to show for it. 😣
    I also know what you mean about getting stuck as I get stuck in bed frequently and then I’m late for work 😲

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww dang it, I just realized my WP app ate the reply I wrote back yesterday, so I’ll try again 💖.

      I can relate, luv. Before I discovered my “gift” of dry hair, my skin and fingernails were prime targets! 💖. That’s probably the only reason I don’t chop my hair off; I need the painless stim target! 💚💙. I know what you mean about the tiny lumps on the skin. Were they the type that are hard little bumps? 😘🌷

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Looks like your second reply worked! Yeah, hard little bumps, and also basically zits on my face, I pick at them a lot. Sadly, even in middle age I still get spots, it runs in the family, though, and they are not so many as they used to be. I think it’s to do with perfectionism: skins is supposed to be smooth, the bumps are not supposed to be there, so they have to be eliminated! Maybe the feeling is difficult to put in words, but from your description I’m sure that you feel what I feel!
        I’ve had long hair a few times, but my hair is greasy rather than dry so I don’t really get split ends. It doesn’t really suit me either, so I cut it off again every time.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yay! I’m glad the second comment came through 😉. OK I know you didn’t ask for info on how to solve the bumps issue, but I’d be remiss if I withheld what I learned without sharing. I recently learned that that is often a slam-dunk for Vitamin A deficiency. It could be other stuff, too, and Vitamin A shortage is more common than currently believed/reported/admitted to 😊. Again, not intended to be medical advice, just wanted to share in case it helps (?) 🤗💞🌺

          I’ve had the zits, too. Omg those are the worst, because I would want to pick at them, too, which only made them worse. Vicious circle! I know exactly what you mean (at least, my version of it) about feeling the need to eliminate various “imperfections”; I will even do this with paint on walls, when it starts to bubble up and become loose! Or with bubble wrap! Totally satisfying 😂😉 Do you experience this, too? 💚💙

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          1. I think the bumps are just zits that haven’t come through yet. But I won’t reject your advice out of hand, it hasn’t occurred to me but Vitamin A shortage is a possibility.
            I don’t experience this with paint or bubble wrap specifically, but that’s the sort of thing I mean, yes. I was reading a very thick paperback yesterday, which has some sort of very thin translucent layer over the cardboard that makes up the cover, and this layer had started to peel off at the edges, and of course while I was reading I was pushing and fiddling and trying to peel it off further…

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I appreciate your transparency and touches of humor in the midst of what might make someone anxious. I am understanding more and more about Aspergers and autism, for which I am thankful. You drop me right into your world so that I can almost fully experience spectrums. Thank you for sharing your life’s journey with us. 💚🌹

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, thank you so much for your kind words! Always happy to bring a smile, and to share perspectives that come alive for others 😊. That’s awesome!! Thank you so much for visiting! I enjoy experiencing your world as well 😊❤️💝

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Omg I can so relate when I’m at work sometimes I’m so stuck in a stim that I loose track of time completely. It’s like a trance. So satifistying yet so impractical because I work with students I have to really snap out of it before I go to work with them after breaks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Howdy brother! Awww I hear you on the shame and self-consciousness you feel about stimming. Been there for sure 😘. I finally decided I didn’t care anymore – not that I’m saying that’s the “right” answer, or in any way better than someone else’s thoughts/feelings toward stims ❤️. I found a meme on Google or Twitter that talked about how stimming is natural and healthy, and it’s something we often need to do. Speaking only for myself, I definitely can relate to that perspective. I feel so much better when I do. I used to be really self-conscious about mine, but then I decided “meh, who is anyone to judge me? It’s not like they’re perfect. Small talk, for example, is completely accepted, customary, even expected. But as one blogger pointed out a few months back, it’s basically done to assuage their own nervousness (!). So yeah, if anyone objects to my way of soothing myself or anchoring my brain, they can buzz off.” Lol 😘❤️

      Name change – I adopted a pseudonym a short while ago, under which to write about Aspie/autism stuff, since I’m not yet in a position where I can use my real name. With any luck, that day will come, but I think it’s a little way down the road yet. And I have 3 blogs, but wanted to split one off of this profile, so I did that over the weekend 😁. I wanted to mix 2 of the blogs on the same profile, but not the third (we need a ninja emoji for iOS!! Lol). So after splitting the third blog away from the other 2, I linked up both of the remaining ones into the same Gravatar 😘💖

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love, love, love the way you write about your experiences so openly. Stimming is something I have had to educate my son’s school and teachers about. He is not doing this on purpose, or to be disruptive … it is necessary in order for him to function. Worst moment ever … and most eye-opening to the world of misunderstanding and lack of tolerance … when my son’s communication book came home in year 1 with the comment, ‘Geordie spent the whole lesson flapping about and doing nothing.’ We need more education on stimming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I wholeheartedly agree – much more education on stimming! That would be extremely beneficial 😊. You’re so spot-on with everything you said! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

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  8. I didnt know I stimmed until I knew about the likelihood of my spectrum placement. I just figured they were bad habits – chewing fingers, chewing lip, chewing inside of cheek, scratching, rubbing nose, eyes, forehead, clicking pens, leg wiggling, flicking my fingers, pacing, straightening paperclips (one of my favourites!) and countless other things. Once I realised, it became SO obvious it was silly. Even my Aspie husband didnt realise he did it as well, until I pointed it out to him a few months ago, and he knew of his Aspieness for nearly 20 years. We keep learning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol omg I had no idea that anyone chewed the inside of their cheeks! I used to have a real problem with this, and it took me years to stop, but eventually I did. Now I painlessly chew/rub the side of my tongue against my teeth 😂. Straightening paper clips is another winner! Lol 😉👍🏼💙

      Liked by 1 person

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