I’m just going to relate something that happened to me today. I’ll warn you now that I describe self-harm. Read more
Those of you who’ve visited my blog before will remember it as Married, With Aspergers and you might be wondering what’s happened. It’s still me writing, all the older posts are still here. But the old title no longer felt relevant to the direction my life is taking now.
I identify as autistic and use identity-first language when referring to myself, so it was out with the “With Aspergers” for a start. And although I’m technically still married that relationship is over. My previous post explains about that. So anyway, that meant “Married” had to go as well.
I spent a lot of time thinking of a new title. It had to reference autism because that’s the main topic in my writing. I thought about loading it with references to stuff I’m a fan of, such as Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Trek, Discworld and so on. But that would have made it long and unwieldy.
Finally this afternoon it came to me: My Autistic Dance. It’s short, the majority of its letters form the word “Autistic”. And the Dance part, well that’s something I enjoy. Indeed, along with hand flapping it’s what my body does when I’m happy or excited. And I’ve been feeling like that a lot recently. So my happy dance happens quite often.
Dancing for me is stimmy. The rhythmic movement naturally regulates my sensory processing when I’m in the throes of emotion. Because emotions bring a whole host of physical sensations: that’s usually how I recognise them. More than that, though, dancing is pleasurable. I love music, and my body just responds to it.
So this blog is now called My Autistic Dance. It’s got a new theme too with a warmer colour scheme. I don’t know about you but the old one felt a bit cold to me, lacking in emotional warmth. It certainly didn’t reflect the positive feelings I have about my current situation and the way I am growing as a person.
I’m getting more involved than I used to. You won’t only find me behind a keyboard on this blog and Facebook now:
- I was very proud to have an essay included in Autism Women’s Network’s wonderful anthology What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew.
- I travelled to Ireland to join Fiona O’Leary and others (including at the last minute Emma Dalmayne) in protesting against the showing of anti-vaccine propaganda film Vaxxed in Dublin.
- I accepted an invitation from Emma Dalmayne to join the committee of her South-east London-based community group, Autistic Inclusive Meets.
- I volunteered to present one of the monthly “Lunch & Learn” sessions where I work. My talk will be called Understanding Autism.
There’s more to come, I’m sure, and I’m so excited to see where opportunities like these might take me. I hope you will be there with me and we can all dance together.
I don’t do arguments. That whole in-your-face shouting business? Take it somewhere else because I don’t want to know. I’ve gotten my reasons for avoiding these situations, some of which relate to my autism, others to my anxiety.
Stimming is very important to me. I stim when I’m happy, when I’m nervous, when I’m thinking, and when my senses are overloaded.
My project at work went well yesterday. Really well. So well that I got excited — this happens when I’m pleased with what I’ve produced. Now, the thing about getting excited is that, as with most emotions, I feel it mostly as a set of physical effects.
Excitement starts with a tense feeling building deep inside. Not the heavy, paralyzing tension of anxiety but a light, bubbly, tension of anticipation that spreads out. Up my neck to my head, molding my features into a broad smile. Down my legs making them jiggle and my feet tap. And along my arms until it reaches my fingertips and gives me the urge to flap. By this point I guess I must be awash with endorphins and fireworks are going off in my brain!
I’m still working on quashing my learned inhibitions against the more attention-drawing stims that resulted from teasing at school. So I bounced lightly away from my desk with my hands twitching slightly as I contemplated the forthcoming pleasure of flapping them. I might even have skipped a little — I can’t remember. As I passed through the door into the stairwell I gave myself to the sensations and my hands started flapping involuntarily.
Oh, the euphoria of the release I felt! After so many years of suppression it felt incredibly good to ride the wave of emotion and allow my body to express itself naturally, even though it was in private. This was something I decided recently: I would work on overcoming my inhibitions so that I can be more myself. Because being true to myself makes me happy.
A happy, flappy Aspie — I wouldn’t want to be any other way. You see, for autistic people stimming is a way of modulating sensory input — which includes the effects of emotion — and helps greatly in coping with many situations, both good and bad. It helps with concentration because it frees the mind to focus on something else rather than the sensory stimulus. Suppression — the building of barriers and inhibitions as a result of pressure through disapproval, teasing or bullying — can be harmful. Without stimming it is that much harder to cope with emotional or stressful situations. Without stimming we are denied a means of expression as much as if our mouths were taped shut or our hands bound.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. Don’t deny that to autistic people just because the way we express ourselves is not your way.
I’d like to thank the online Aspie/Autistic communities for providing me with a sense of belonging, of support, so that I have begun to feel confident about expressing myself naturally and honestly. On the subject of stimming there’s a short article about it from the BBC here, and a great blog post over at autisticook that has an illuminating survey of different stims.