Night of the Living Stim

Night of the Living Stim

No, I haven’t been bitten by a zombie, but rather this my state after suppressing stims!

“Stims,” autistic slang for “self-stimulating behavior,” is a misnomer.  I am not “stimulating” myself. Before I rock or spin or sing I am overstimulated to begin with!

“Self-stimulating behavior” is the sort of label scientists give behaviors they don’t fully understand. You could file it away next to “Refrigerator Mothers” or embrace its irony and make a night of it.

So here I am, two weeks late, celebrating the “Night of the Living Stim,” a delightful event where stims are celebrated by their owners. I hope sharing my experience opens your eyes and makes you smile. Perhaps you might try stimming yourself!

Stim-planeWhen I stim, I am an airplane.

I inhale deeply and stretch as if to embrace the world. Thus positioned, I am ready for flaps or perhaps a foray of wild spins.  Exaltations of “woo” complete my whirling celebration of toads, cookies, or wilderness walks. I stim most often when I am happy.

Stims represent many things to me.

My stims are a dance. I don’t need a beat or bass line to keep internal time. Emotion is the pulse that swells the tide inside my mind.  I am over-excitable and celebratory in a lively, visual way.

My stims are transcendent. I go where shamans go; to a self-generated euphoria of thought so intense it becomes movement. The divine is sublimated into circular motion and sinuous courses.

My stims are a weapon. At times, intense anxiety pushes my body to flee or fight, with no enemy in sight. I duck and dodge, rock and swing to placate primitive instinct. I battle ferociously when I sway like a boat.

What is stimming like?

Picture yourself at the edge of a cliff, breathing in the fear of a plummeting descent.  Whoosh! You have been pushed over and find yourself zinging toward the earth. Without thought, you flail your limbs and to your surprise, you are uplifted by wings you never knew you had. The rhythm of beating wings is your stim, your tool to save yourself from rocky chasms or to hoist yourself heavenwards.

Remember this when you see us soar.


Please visit the event follow-up for a summary of Night of the Living Stim articles by autistics and allies.

Night of the Living Stim developed by:

Monkey Pliers   @monkeypliers  
Renee Salas  @srsalas13
Ben Forshaw  @bjforshaw
Forgotten  @TwinsMa
Bridget Allen  @ItsBridgetsWord
lynnesoraya  @LynneSoraya

Bloggers supporting the event:

 Asperger’s / Autism Toolbox
S.R. Salas (blog) aka Renee Salas (on Facebook)
Shaping Clay
Married, With Aspergers
One Quarter Mama

10 thoughts on “Night of the Living Stim

  1. An impressive insight. I agree that the word ‘self-stimulating’ is totally misleading. i thought that the first time I read up about stimming, i feel it’s more ‘self-regulating’ or alternatively the externalisation of internal overload.
    That’s at least how I see it in my son. His running and jumping are usually the peak of stimulation, not the way there?
    I personally tend to paralyse in stress or over-stimulation situations, cry for the happy (it’s actually a bit annoying, I tear up for the weirdest things) and sing and hum in the middle when i am just fine.
    I think it’s good to DO things or let them happen. I used to fight my paralysis (which was useful at some point of my life but seemed exaggerated later on) but now I think it’s good. It can come across a bit odd, or blunt (i usually stop talking too) but it helps me refocus. I know kids can have a hard time for handflapping and my son obviously is told to not run in the classroom but it would be good if people just dealt with it and accepted it like, i don’t know the gesticulating of textbook Italians ? If no one is harmed and it helps your body and mind to embrace and fully feel the emotion you are going through.. why would it be a behaviour to be suppressed?

    1. Suburp,

      You are exactly right, it is 100% about regulation. So much of what everyone does is to achieve an internal balance. With ASD, our equilibrium tips so much more, we need to work more dramatically to achieve it.

      I relate to your paralysis. My brain freezes and I can’t get the words out in an intelligible way. It’s hard to explain to others that at times I just need quiet, not talking or socializing-that I don’t need anything but time in my own mind. I find this alone zone time to be more prominent since we’ve started our family. Your acceptance of paralysis helps me feel better about my own. I always feel guilty when I can’t even open my email!

      I agree with you about how important acceptance is. To a growing person, it is essential. Half my agony, no, more than half comes from fretting over being misunderstood or chastised. Having the freedom to function within your own needs when it does not harm others is something I want my son to have.

      Thank you for your well thought out and superbly written comment. I appreciate the intelligent dialogue!

    1. Thank you for visiting with me. I am so embarrassed when my comment-replying skills go on vacation! I was incredibly late for this, but I’ve read that the crew is planning to reprise the event sometime in the future. I admire everyone’s positivity and cheer as they celebrate their uniqueness.

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