January 22, 2019

The best way for me to handle strong emotions is to transform them into something else.

Movement is the most natural outlet. Emotions can feel like a physical force, welling up in my chest and bursting out through my limbs, so rocking or swaying gives them a place to go. A friend once told me, “You can’t contain all the happiness in one place, so you have to distribute it across space.” That’s true for both positive and negative emotions.

Writing is another way I deal with emotions, because it transforms them into words. I especially benefit from making a list, any sort of list – a history of what happened, a plan for next steps, or simply an inventory of the thoughts taking up space in my brain. Seeing my ideas on paper (or a screen) makes them easier to remember, organize, and process.

When an emotion is too deep for movement and too complex for words, it comes out in sounds – squealing with excitement, groaning with discomfort, sighing with contentment. This is more rare for me than the other two outlets, but also harder to control.

I understand that expressions of emotion can sometimes be disruptive, depending on the context. But if I don’t let them out, they build up inside. So instead of trying to contain how I feel, I try to express it in accepted ways.

Sometimes I can’t, and it comes out like a glitter bomb. When that happens, I hope that others will be patient with me. They usually are. Sometimes, they find it delightful.

This post was inspired by a question on my “ask me anything” thread: facebook.com/534206893738169

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.