I was recently diagnosed with autism and did some research that answered a lot of questions that I had about myself. When I’m overstimulated by my environment or my mind, when stress accumulates, I’m in pain, or feeling weird somatic sensations around my body, I need some kind of distraction and relief. Unfortunately for me, that distraction is itching and picking. Dermatitis and allergies run in my family but I was the only one I knew doing this (who knows maybe relatives were too behind closed doors). Understimulation can also cause me to sensation seek with such stimming. I go into a kind of trance, decompress and feel grounded for at least a few seconds. Then the shame, guilt and anxiety about the consequences set in. I never did other kinds of stimming growing up maybe because I was doing my best to mask from others. These days I let myself move how I want in private but I don’t know if I’m ready to do so in public. I propose an international day of unmasking if a neurodivergent individual feels safe to do so. Whenever I let my real self slip through I was met with reactions that were like warnings – keep this up and you’ll no longer belong in the tribe. Does wonders for mental health. I grew up in the retro era where if you were a little different you were the R word. In a time when you were either ‘normal’ or belonged in an institution, no in between. If you had a therapist you must’ve been broken. Especially if your family comes from a culture that sees seeking help as a weakness. I’d like to think that even if I was neurotypical I would still be a concept questioning non-conformist.
So for now I’m learning how to change ingrained behaviour with equanimity and neuroplasticity. Maybe I’ll always stim and that’s ok but the level it’s at at the moment is debilitating. Even neurotypical people have their nervous tics.
We all have the right to live to our fullest potential, we just have to deal with the cards we’ve been given, reduce the negative symptoms as much as we can, and be grateful for any gifts we might discover along the way.