6 Word Stories pt. 26

See, just like I promised, no more medical stories! Technically only half of my steri-strips are gone, but I thought I’d let you guys off early. This week has been good. Quiet, which is what I’ve needed. Although the East Coasted is getting slammed by French Toast Weather (which is a phrase popular in St. Louis- it means a storm bad enough that people obsessively buy milk, eggs, and bread. I think it’s charming), we’ve been having lovely weather. I’ve been feeling a bit of a hole in my life now that the Winter Olympics are done. It was like a 3 week long super intense Special Interest that’s just abruptly gone. I also finished a big knitting project, so my hands feel a bit empty too. Guess it’s time to cast on something new!

  • Flapping to forget my wet socks.
  • I love sharing Special Interests together!
  • Sitting in the sun is rejuvenating.
  • On non-stop day I need quiet.
  • Knitting is such a productive stim.
  • My favorite TV show is back!
  • Pets are the best pressure stims.

This coming week should be good though, I finally start physical therapy. Time for some real progress!

 

6 Reasons I Make Art

I was raised by my mother, the artist, and while most of the things that I inherited from her are decidedly negative, my love of art is definitely a positive. I was raised surrounded by paint and film and clay, I spent summers at art camp, and all of this cemented art as a huge part of my life. Making art is a part of who I am, and I’d like to tell you why.

1.  It gives me a sense of satisfaction: There’s nothing like completing something to give you a little jolt of satisfaction. When I finish a project, and it turns out how I was envisioning (or even better!), I feel good in a way I rarely get from other things. Although the more I write, the more I get a comparable happy feeling. Right now, when I’m not working or in school, I need something like art to make me feel like I can be successful at something.

2. I get to use my hands: For me, art in inherently stimmy. Whether I’m swirling paint on a palette, kneading clay, or folding paper, I’m using my hands, and that’s calming for me. Often times when I get that mental itch to do something with my hands, art is the only thing that can scratch it. It’s different enough from stimming with a toy that they’re not interchangeable. Interestingly, usually having something messy or sticky on my hands is immediate sensory hell, but my brain seems to have an exception for art supplies, because I can finger paint, play with clay, and get glue on my hands without repercussions.

3. I’m doing something that doesn’t have a purpose: I’m what I like to call a lapsed perfectionist, and I having a very hard time “wasting” time on something that doesn’t have a purpose. And while you can argue (like I am in the post) that art does in fact have a purpose, there are parts of my brain that would argue that art falls under the umbrella of “useless”. I think that pushing through that feeling and doing something that I enjoy anyway is good for my brain. No, art might not have the immediate and visible rewards that research or learning does, but it definitely has worth in its own way.

4. It’s meditative: I make art in two ways. one, where I’m active and full of ideas and energy, and two, where I’m listening to movie soundtracks on my phone and zoning out with my art supplies. It’s the second one that I want to talk about now. I can admit that I’m terrible at standard meditation. I find visualization stressful, and breathing exercises make me hyperventilate. But sometimes when I make art, I can get into mindset where I can empty my mind, and focus solely on what I’m doing in the moment. For whatever reason, this usually happens when I’m painting with watercolors, and the abstract pieces that come out of my pseudo-meditative state are fascinating. Plus, when I finish, I always feel refreshed!

5. It’s easier to sort out my feelings visually: When I was in Eating Disorder treatment, we had lots of therapy groups, and, surprise surprise, my favorite was Art Therapy. A lot of people liked it because it was easy, they could put on headphones and dab paint on a page, and no one forced them to talk about anything. I however liked Art Therapy because it gave me an outlet. A big part of treatment is journaling, and I don’t really find that very useful. The writing that I do here is often therapeutic, but not in the way that journaling is supposed to be. I definitely a visual person, and while I’m good with words, I can’t really use them to describe my experiences. Art is good for me because even if I can’t put my feelings in to words, for whatever reason I can recreate them using colors and shapes and textures.

6. I can’t not: Sometimes I start to feel a pressure in my head, right behind my sinuses. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that I was getting a cold, but at this point in my life, I know what that feeling means: I need to express myself. In my minds eye I can see what I need to do, and I know the sensation won’t go away until I do. While this can be inconvenient if I’m not at home, or I’m doing something with a higher priority, usually, it’s a good thing. The pressure is telling me that I need to reconnect with myself, and that I’ve been neglecting that side of me for too long. It says to me that I have feeling that I need to work through, or that there’s something that I need to communicate. Giving in and making art takes a weight off my shoulders, and lets me move on, with my soul satisfied. Until next time of course.

While writing this out, I realized that it reads as a Special Interest, and I don’t really consider it to be one. The urge to interact with my Special Interest and to Infodump about it does feel similar, but it’s not quite the same.

I consider art to be anything from painting, to photography, to scrapbook, to crocheting. Anything that feels creative to you. Do you make art? Do you share it? How does the process make you feel? Let me know in the comments!

7 Essential Stim Toys

I’ve been stimming for 29 years, and for the first 28 of them, all my stim toys were improvised. I bit my nails, I chewed on paperclips, I’d dismantle anything that came apart, I made every sheet of paper I encountered into Origami; I even learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube, just so I could fiddle with it. These days I have toys that are actually made to fiddle with. I think I drained my entire bank account when I discovered Stimtastic! I have a large collection, mostly because I use different toys for different situations. So I present to you, my Essential Stim Toys!

1. Trivet Keychain: This was a DIY project, and one of the first things that I ever posted on Tumblr. It’s just a silicone trivet that I cut into strips and put on a keychain. The texture is satisfying to rub and squish, plus, you can suction your fingers into the hexagons. It’s a really cool feeling!

2. Tangle– I keep Tangles in all of my pockets, mostly because they’re quiet, and I can use them with one hand. They’re not something I use every day, but they serve a very specific purpose.

3. Rubik’s Cube: Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to be able to solve a Cube to be able to play with them. With their bright colors and moving parts, they’re very satisfying to fiddle with. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that solving a Rubik’s Cube is impossible- it’s a very linear process that’s easy to memorize, until muscle memory kicks in. YouTube is a great resource!

4. Squishies: These also come everywhere with me, but unlike the Tangles, I’m constantly using them. I have them in a variety of sizes and textures, and I love them all. There’s just something about them that are very soothing, and goodness knows I need that.

5. Howie: The one on the left is Howie. I got him from Target’s discount bin, mostly because he was soft. I didn’t think he could get much better than that, but I decided to do an experiment and de-stuff him, and then fill him with flax seed. Now he’s weighted, and he can be heated up in the microwave. He’s my couch buddy and I love him. Unfortunately so do my cats, so sometimes I have to share.

6. Spinner: I will fight anyone who says Fidget Spinners are just toys, just for kids, or just a fad. Fidget spinners, especially metal ones, have a weight unlike anything else. And shifting that weight from hand to hand really helps me focus.

7. Marble Maze: My marble maze is always in my pocket. The one I have is made of flannel, and the more I use it, the softer it gets! It also has foxes on it, which is always a plus. The combination between the softness of the fabric, and the kinetic motion of the marble makes it that much more satisfying, and even better, it covers more stim needs.

There we are, all of my essential Stim Toys! These, plus other sensory tool are what make up my Toolbeast, so I can function at my best when I’m out of the house.

Do you have any favorite Stim Toys? Have you found an awesome improvised Stim Toy? Favorite Store? Cool new DIY? I’m always looking for new sources of stim, so let me know!

Snapshot: Knit and Purl

Something I haven’t outgrown from when I was younger is the need to fidget. I didn’t know the word ‘stim’ back then, but that’s definitely what I was doing. When I was in high school, my parents got really annoyed because whenever I’d watch TV, I’d take apart the remote controls, which inevitably broke, and they were tired of fixing them. So in order the keep my hands busy, I decided to learn how to knit. I figured old ladies did it, so it couldn’t be that hard, plus, all the yarn I saw at Wal Mart cost $3, so it was a cheap replacement!

Oh how little I knew back then. Sixteen year old me couldn’t have known that I would pay $30 for a skein of yarn, or that I’d make lace so complicated it would take a day to do a row, or that I’d end up owning a spinning wheel. She also couldn’t have known that her fidget replacement would be her very first hobby.

When all you have are special interests, hobbies can be hard to come by. Something that you enjoy, but you’re not obsessed with. Knitting became this for me. I found the process of using my hands soothing, that following complex patterns stimulated my brain, and that giving away things I’d created was very satisfying! I’ve never found a hobby that hits as many area as knitting does, which is honestly ok with me. It means that I can keep looking if I want, but if I don’t find one, knitting will never leave me.

4 Autism Stereotypes I fit and 4 I don’t 

So if you missed my Monday post, let me fill you in. In a one sentence summary, I talked about the harmful effects of stereotypes, and the importance of positive representation. I’m a little biased I suppose, but I think it was a pretty good essay. In writing it, it got me thinking about which autism stereotypes I fit, and which ones are definitely not me. It was actually really interesting. If you’re up for a session of introspective self awareness, I highly suggest it!

Do Fit:

1. Autistic people can’t live independently: The last time I lived alone was my first semester of college, all the way back in 2005. To say that it went badly was an understatement. I spend most of my time hiding under my bed, I forgot to eat, and I had to drop a class because I just plain couldn’t find it. Thank goodness I met my wife that first semester. Even when we were just dating, she had an innate talent for recognizing how she could assist me. She’s been called my interpreter to the world, and I think that’s one hundred percent accurate. But still, my caseworker has advised her not to leave me alone for more than 24 hours. If everything went exactly to plan, I’d be fine, but if something went wrong, if my routine was messed with, we can could end up in a position where I forget to eat or go to the bathroom. I’m working on independence in Occupational Therapy, but right now, it’s not my strong suit.

2. Autistic people sit in corners and rock: Ok, so it’s not always in a corner, but I am totally a rocker. Interestingly, I have different rocks for different things. If I’m rocking side to side, there’s no need to worry, because it usually means I’m just bored. If I’m rocking front to back though, that’s problematic. It means I’m overstimulated or that I’m about to melt down. Luckily, there’s are several people who can interpret my rocks and intervene if necessary.

3. Autistic people connect more to animals/object than people: Ask my wife to tell you the story of the time she threw away my shoe-box. It was early in our relationship, and she hadn’t yet experienced all of the autistic quirks that I come with. She threw away the box from my new shoes, and I sobbed. For two hours. I felt so guilty that they might think that I didn’t believe they could live up to their potential. So clearly, I experience hyper empathy with inanimate objects. And it’s not just your standard ‘my stuffed animals have feelings ‘ (they do!), even statues and cardboard boxes have feelings. My favorite street sign’s name is Oliver and I say hi every time I pass him!

4. Autistic people don’t make eye contact: So there are a lot of people who would say that this answer isn’t accurate. That I do make eye contact. In fact, they saw me do it last week, and am I sure I’m really autistic? I know I’d break their tiny little neurotypical hearts if I told them that every time they think I’m making eye contact with them, I’m just staring at the bridge of their nose. This knowledge might destroy their fragile little minds. All this being said, I can make eye contact. But it’s not intuitive, and reminding myself to do it every 10 seconds takes up a lot of energy. It’s also a bit uncomfortable for me, so I only really do it with people I know really well. Since they know me as well as I know them, they don’t find the sporadic eye contact weird. They’re just happy that it’s genuine.

Don’t fit:

1. Autistic people don’t have friends: I considered myself very lucky because I’ve never experienced bullying. Or if I have, I didn’t realize that’s what it was. This is a viable option, I’m not the most observant when it comes to social stuff. But as unaware as I am about socializing, I have always had friends. Granted, I’ve never been the one to start the friendship. The pattern in my life has been, an outgoing and extroverted person decides they want to be friends with me, and initiated contact frequently enough that eventually it becomes part of my routine, and a friendship forms. On top of being extroverted, many of these people have a talent that I wish more people had- the ability to accept that my social skills are atypical and my connections hard won, but they are still good. It may be difficult to be my friend sometimes, but there are upsides too.

2. Autistic people are savants/intellectually disabled: For whatever reason, people have a tendency to think that autistic people have either very high IQs, or very low IQs. The idea of an average autistic is almost as much of a white whale as the idea of an autistic adult. This sort of makes sense to me. Autistic people are only of interest if there’s something different about them. Which is totally unfair to those of who haven’t been given the Hollywood treatment. Autistic savants are rare, and are not even a little bit like the one’s shown in movies like Rain Man. And intellectual disabilities have been separated from developmental ones for decades now. Essentially, some people do have both, but a majority only have one or the other. I test well (the tests are mostly puzzles, and I love puzzles!), but my IQ doesn’t measure my social abilities, my ability to live independently, or my mental health. This is a problem that diagnostic professional are still working on, but since we won’t get any new changes until the DSM-6 comes out, we’ll just have to advocate for ourselves.

3. Autistic people have no sense of humor: In my opinion, very few autistic people fit this stereotype. Even if someone’s humor isn’t exactly your standard fair, it’s still considered humor! That people said, some types of humor are more accessible than others. Sarcasm can be hard for some people, not just autistic people either! It require tracking and recognizing a lot of different communication queues, which takes time. There’s definitely been times where I realized something was sarcasm 15 minutes after the fact; it took me that long to put it all together. I definitely use humor in my day to day communication. It often makes more sense to me than small talk and other types of interaction. Not to mention, making someone laugh is a really good feeling! Especially with people I know really well, being able to target their sense of humor makes me feel connected.

4. Autistic people are suffering- I am not suffering. No matter what certain organizations would lead you to believe. Are that parts of autism that are painful? Yes. Frustrating? Double Yes. Confusing? Triple Yes. But those aren’t autism things, those are life things. And when I say these things, there are always people who will pop and and say “Well you don’t count. You’re not one of THOSE people with autism (note the use of person first language. Ugh.) You’re not one of those poor souls who can’t speak or communicate of wipe their ass or love their poor suffering parents. They think this because they’re not looking at this from a neurodiverse viewpoint. Speaking is not the only way of communicating, and I can only speak from my own experience, but when I need assistance with things, it doesn’t feel like suffering. It’s just the way things are. Some autistic people may feel like they’re suffering. And that is their experience, and it’s a thousand percent valid. But I’ve been the way I am for 29 years, and my life is my life. It has its ups and downs. And downs don’t necessarily mean suffering. At least not for me.

 

6 Songs I Love to Stim To

I am one of those people who always need noise. Silence is painful for me, so I always have the TV, or music, or a podcast on. I like noise than is in my control. What I don’t like is being in crowded areas with lots of people. I don’t like engines revving or thunder or alarms. I use music to drown these things out and hopefully avoid a meltdown. I also use stimmy music to gain energy, focus, and calmness. I usually gravitate toward songs with high BPMs, fast lyrics, and strong percussion. The lyrics are like my brain, black and white, they either don’t matter at all, or they matter greatly. I carry headphones with me everywhere, so I always have my music when I need it.

What’s My Age Again: This is my main stim song. 158 bpm of pop punk perfection, this is my go to for almost any occasion. The words are kind of weird if listen to them, so for the most part, I don’t, except for the line ‘Why would you wish that on me, I’ll never want to act my age’, which I appreciate because no matter what my age is, I never manage to act it.

We Didn’t Start the Fire: This one is a classic, and appeals to the history buff in me. I was also fascinated by the fast that someone could manage to write a song with so many events in it, in historical order. The lyrics are fast, they’re fun to research later, and the chorus is fun to sing and bounce around to.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It: R.E.M. is great. I think most people can agree on that one. I heard this song before it was easy to look lyrics up on the internet and it took me years to get it all down. It’s one of my greatest accomplishments. This is another song with fast lyrics, so fast that I can’t hear my brain think, which is really nice sometimes.

True Trans Rebel Soul: This song is by a band called Against Me!, and it’s hard to describe how I feel about it. The album it comes from, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, is amazing, and to hear it done live squeezes my heart. This band was a favorite of mine from high school, and they while they already had tons of punk rock fans, they got tons of new ones when their front man (now woman!) came out as Trans, and released this album. This is a song I blast, that I can feel through my whole body, that I scream along to. It’s a good feeling, trust me.

I Bet My Life: I’m not sure why I like this song so much. To be entirely frank, I’m not really an Imagine Dragons fan, but for whatever reason, when this song comes up on a playlist, I end up turning the volume all the way up and listening to it a dozen times in a row. This is one where lyrics are important. Sometimes I find it easier to communicate through music than through words. I include this on an ‘I’m Sorry’ CD to my wife when I was in treatment. I still feel guilty about the way I acted when I was in my eating disorder, and when that guilt gets unbearable, this song lets me say sorry over and over again. It’s also in my tiny vocal range, which I don’t have to tell you is really satisfying.

Hallelujah: Everyone knows this song. It’s been covered dozens of times, so there’s a version for every mood. My favorites are the versions by KD Lang, Rufus Wainwright, and Jeff Buckley. This song makes me feel warm, and connected, and it’s really good when played loud. It’s one of my goals in life to master the finger-style version on my guitar. The song is mournful, but for some reason, it doesn’t feel that way to me. I like that if I choose to focus on the lyrics, they’re open to interpretation, and if I don’t, the 4th the 5th still sound good, feel good, are good.

As always, I’d love to hear your stim songs so I can expand my list! So if you’ve got one that means a lot to you, or you think is just perfect, leave it in the comments! If we get enough, we could make a Spotify playlist that everyone can enjoy!