Category Archives: self stimulatory behavior

Stims, Tics, and Freedom

I wish I could stop the majority of my stims. It is sort of weird to imagine my life without the stim in charge of my impulses. It is hard to explain what it feels like to people who have never stimmed, though perhaps you can imagine if you have tics or weird habits that are hard to stop. I see kids playing with their hair, gum, biting their nails. These are stim-like, though not as compelling, I’m sure. Stims are not conscious. They are relaxing, distracting, or invigorating depending on which one it is. Some are entertainment stims too.

The problem with stims us that they make me and other autistic people remote, detached, and hard to connect to. I think this is how stims are different than biting nails, for example, which is a habit. Biting nails isn’t a doorway into another realm, but stims are. It is the reason why I find it hard to eliminate them from my life.

They are compelling, tempting, and easily accessed. To resist is hard beyond imagining. I think I’d love to have just one stim free day to have a respite and see what life can be without stims in it. Would it be boring or flat, or just calmer? I don’t know. I guess I would quickly adjust to a new way if it was available, but it isn’t as of yet.

The Lure of Stims

In the past I internally lived in stims. The stim was entertainment, escape, compulsion, and the easiest way to deal with the frustrations of autism. It is like an alcoholic who runs to a bottle whenever he is sad or tense. It is a way to avoid working on things. It really makes the situation worse though. It is also unfair to the rest of the people who interact with the stimming person because he puts his challenges on them. In my Health class we are learning about drug abuse and alcoholism. I can’t help but see a similarity in autistic stims.

In the first place, a stim is a sensory trip of enjoyable feelings. It may start small but it can take over your life- not so much life, but all you do is less important than the stim itself if it is compelling. So, it is an escapist drug and it is addictive. I used to stim a lot as a young boy, especially before I could communicate. Now I stim less because I am engaged in life at a normal level, so I stay in the world as much as I can. I am thrilled about that because I don’t want to live in Autismland flapping, tensing, and twirling my life away. It is hard but I am happy in school listening and learning. I may miss out on the social aspect of high school because I don’t have friends in high school- none of the disable kids really do, I’ve noticed- but I do have a normal day of regular classes and regular homework and exercise and so on.

But stims are there tempting me. I get stressed or bored so I return to my trusty alternative to reality. Stims are a necessary outlet at times but they have to be in moderation. If not we become drunk on them and it’s too hard to return to some self control. We need a lot of help in these times and lots of activity to keep our minds engaged.