April 23, 2022

Lying awake at night, knowing nothing about neurodiversity, I sometimes got a strong urge to rub my feet together like a cricket. So I did.

But partway through, I always paused, just to prove I could. Then I continued.

For some reason, I thought the behavior was acceptable if I could stop it, and not if I couldn’t. I sensed a stigma around letting such a seemingly useless action master me – no matter how good it felt, how necessary, how powerfully cathartic, or how harmless.

I didn’t know at the time that I was stimming, or meeting a natural need for sensory stimulation.

Unlike tics or compulsions, stimming is usually possible to resist with enough effort. It just gets more difficult, and more costly, the more you try.

It also isn’t useless. It’s a way to self-regulate, or get into a frame of mind where self-control is easier. So in the end, stimming doesn’t take away control – it gives it.

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.