>Self-Stimulatory Behavior, I Got It


Okay.  Deep breath.  I hope I can do this well.  I am writing about some of my little obsessions.  Watching my son, I have catalogued his quirks and oddities.  In video, photographs, and pages of text I have captures his essence.  Suddenly, I had an astounding revelation.  I too have pages of quirks and oddities to catalogue and disclose.  Here I go!
It all began with this link of characteristics of female Asperger’s traits.  Reading this list has been the single most awakening moment of my life.  I was very anxious over my fit with the male traits, many of which I do have, but some differences threw me.  It did not fit.  That’s why I sought out help.  My brand new therapist told me that women present differently, but I had never thought to have checked.
So I googled.  And here it is.  This chart is me.  Perhaps, for accuracy’s sake, I might not fit a sentence of two, but here I am.  Bless you, bless you, Rudy Simone.
I started reading the chart, saying, “Uh huh uh huh uh huh,” over and over again.  And then I reached the third column.  Midway down it read:
 “stims to sooth self when sad or agitated: rocking face rubbing, humming, finger flicking, leg bouncing, finger or foot bouncing”
And then
“Similarly physical when happy.  Hand flapping, clapping, singing, jumping, running dancing, bouncing around”
OMG.  Nothing I have ever read before was so accurate.
People who know me socially might not see or notice this.  I pace, rock, and flick, snap, flap and clap.  Many have commented on my leg bouncing.  “Spazz” was a school nickname, and actually a pretty good descriptor.  I could never understand why people were not totally jazzed about the things that made me happy.  If I got an A+ on an exam, I’d whoop and rattle my paper and look for someone to celebrate with. A fellow classmate and former best friend who also did well would look away and tell me to “Calm down”.
Nowadays, I still burst into song and make odd sounds when I am happy.  As I think about it, I don’t see others or even imagine others behaving this way.  As a child, I continuously made odd sounds.  I asked myself “why” for the first time today.  I savor the feel of the pressure and vibration in my mouth.  It is deeply pleasing and soothing.
My husband has grown accustomed to my happy dances and hand clapping frenzies, even when outburst of joyous expression lasts for ten or twenty minutes–that’s twenty minutes of “Blue-DUDE-blue-DUDE-DUDE-blue-DUDE DUDE!!!”  with a few raspberries and vigorous thigh slapping.  I am the only one I know who does this.  And I do it all the time.
I can’t imagine any of our neighbors doing this nor can I imagine them doing the finger dances I do when trying to organize my thoughts.  I have been repeatedly criticized in school and at home for my leg wiggling which can become reach startling amplitude.  It makes people flinch and stare.

At Southwest Counseling Center, my job was to help mental health consumers manage severe psychiatric illness.  I did well, but always fit in better with the consumers than the regular staff.  They valued me for my accurate note taking and ability to detect patterns in people’s behavior.  

Once I attended a treatment plan of a client I particularly liked.  I felt acutely uncomfortable with stone faced therapist “Mr. Jones”.  He was a stony-faced musty 1970’s Sears catalog sorta guy.  The client defended herself from his oblique criticism from therapist.  The kind of passive aggressive stuff that seemed too ill-tempered to be therapeutic.  I became distressed.  I did not want to be there.  I could not for the retort that came three days later.  

My agitation escalated.  Overwhelmed, I started rocking slightly and then I flopped over on the conference table, smooshing and rubbing my cheek against the cool melamine. As if my splayed out torso was not enough, my bouncing legs audibly rattled the table.  At some point I came back to myself, I sat bolt upright and bounced vigorously for the rest of the meeting.

Both therapist and client ignored what must have been a bizarre display.  The client, however, softened her tirade as if she knew and cared about my distress.  She basically agreed to whatever he said and the meeting was over quickly.  She never said a word about my “moment.” The therapist acted oblivious and aloof.  I took a disliking to him that has never dissipated.  I retired from SWCC six months later.

 What happened at that meeting?  I literally had no idea.  I’ve scratched my head over this for years.  Today, I know what happened.  The overpowering emotions got to me.  I liked the patient; I identified with her.  I knew she was off kilter but this therapist was not acknowledging her strengths, and I’d had quite enough of that in my life, thank you. I was torn between outrage and duty.
My emotions built to such a level that I could no longer physically restrain them.  The social brakes that tell me not to sing too loudly at JC Penney failed, and I had a little meltdown.  And I have been having variations on that theme for years.  Whew.  Time to take a break!

One thought on “>Self-Stimulatory Behavior, I Got It

  1. i too break out into random song when i am happy! i usually make up songs about my cats or close friends, if they are present. i also work i the mental health field, and i can so relate to what you are saying.

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