January 15, 2019

My idea of a perfect moment is one that stimulates all of my senses at once – but gently, without surprises. A perfect balance is nearly impossible to plan, but occasionally it just happens.

My favorite example is sitting by a crackling fire, squished between friends on a couch, sipping hot tea, with someone softly playing acoustic guitar. Bonus points if we’re discussing one of my special interests too, to stimulate my mind.

This is a paradox of autism: Too much stimulation can make my nervous system feel “dysregulated,” but so can too little. At best, dysregulation feels like something is not right – like I was born for cozy fires with friends, and I’m not living my destiny. At worst, it can feel like my whole world is falling apart.

Moreover, this is a paradox of stimming: When I’m already overstimulated, stimming calms me by drowning out the harsh feelings with nice, predictable ones. And when I’m understimulated, it awakens my senses to focus and be present.

But I wish there was a way to subtly stimulate all of my senses at once, whenever I need. I wish I could discover a way to stim that simulates that feeling by the fire.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.