About two years ago, I started EMDR in therapy. It’s intensive and exhausting, and it stirred things up in me that I was not expecting. I started age regressing after sessions for self-care, and one of the things I started doing instinctively was rocking. I didn’t think of it as a stim at the time, but I find myself doing it everywhere now. Waiting for a bus and I start stressing? Rock. Sitting at home watching TV? Rock. Out to dinner with all those lights and sounds and smells? Rock.
It settles me. If I’m anxious, it helps calm me and helps me remember to breathe. If I’m bored, it helps me feel like I’m doing something. If I’m tired, it’s like a gentle lullaby. With the pandemic and not leaving my apartment, save a couple trips to the ER/Urgent Care, for nearly a year, I became super comfortable rocking whenever I want. I used to be super mindful if anyone could see me and restricted how much I rock in front of people, but I’m kinda over that.
And it’s great because becoming comfortable with rocking is what has helped me discover and enjoy stimming in other ways. When I first started considering that I could be autistic, I tried some things out just for fun. I didn’t like hand flapping. That felt super awkward. But I do really enjoy flapping my fingers. It just felt natural from the start.
It’s fascinating to me. The more I allow myself to stim or just move my body in “weird” ways, the more I remember doing it all as a kid. I used to lie down and stretch my leg as much as possible while grabbing my toes and not bending my knee. (I don’t know if that description made any kind of sense, but we’re just gonna go with it!) I used to lie on the floor and shake the lower part of my body, like from waist down. I remember lying on the floor watching TV and doing it without realizing and my mom being like, what are you doing? And so, I started paying closer attention to what my body is doing so that I could control it better.
And now I’m learning not to control it, to let go, to allow myself to be fully authentic, even if I don’t know exactly what that is right now. A few weeks ago, I went to a thrift store. It was hot and raining and I was miserable, but I also love thrift stores and this one is kinda huge. I started stimming with my fingers while I looked at the shelves. For a moment, I put my hand down so other people wouldn’t see, and I thought to myself, what would I tell my child about openly …. and obviously stimming in public. And the answer to that is simply, if it’s not hurting anyone, do whatever tf you want with your body! And I put my hand back up to my shoulder, where it was originally.
I know that might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, but it was huge for me. For me to consciously make the decision to not hide a piece of myself, to let myself look weird to other people. And it’s interesting because I’m definitely weird, and I own that, and I like it ….. but this is a different kind of weird. Being into sci-fi/fantasy and cosplay and all kinds of geeky shit, I’m already a “werido,” and I’m perfectly okay with that. Don’t like my style, don’t like my interests, ‘kay, no big. But for some reason, if my behavior looks weird or socially unacceptable ….. okay, like if I’m walking around Center City (Philadelphia) in the middle of winter with a TARDIS hat and a 4th Doctor scarf or I hop on the bus wearing my Winnie the Pooh pajama pants, Idgaf. But if I order weird in a restaurant (I don’t even know wtf that means …. but it is a feeling I have), then I’m mortified. Or if I don’t properly greet the bus driver. Or I say something stupid because I have so few filters.
It’s EXHAUSTING to be constantly aware of every little thing I do in order make sure I don’t say or do something that will draw attention to myself or make someone think I’m stupid or rude or annoying or ….. that’s really what it is. I put other people’s experiences, no matter how innocuous, above my very real needs, and I’ve been doing it all my life. Any little step I take to reclaim my body and my mind is a big fucking deal to me.
So, I’m learning to stim more openly and not give a shit what anyone thinks of it.