What follows is an interview I conducted this morning with Emma about stimming. Emma patiently tried to explain to me what stimming is like for her.
A: Is it okay to ask you some questions about stimming? (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, stimming is a repetitive action or verbal output.)
E: Stimming is fun. And I am in calming and obedient service to those who are in charge.
A: Are you being facetious when you write “obedient service to those who are in charge?”
E: (Smiles) Yes. (Laughs) The stim is a great way to roam around feelings that are too intense. You treat me like a baby.”
A: Are you speaking specifically to me or are you using a more universal “you”?
E: All people out there. Bloated feelings despair and anger me. Almost all feel too much to manage and I cannot be present all the time.
A: Can you tell me more about stimming?
E: I am not able to write about stimming because words cannot describe it.
A: Can I ask some specific questions about it though?
E: Yes. (Leans over and gives me kisses on my cheek.)
A: Is stimming ever not fun?
E: Yes. When feelings are too extreme, even a good stim won’t help.
A: Is there anything that will help?
E: A lot of patience and love. Acknowledge my attempts to self-care and do not cause me more pain by trying to change or control me.
A: What happens if someone stops or tries to stop you from stimming?
E: It makes thick feelings worse.
A: Do you ever feel stuck in repetitive loops?
E: Yes, but so do others who are not autistic, but they are called passionate and are looked up to instead of looked down on.
A: Yesterday you wrote: “Raging beasts of pain masquerading as stims cause many to misunderstand.” Can you elaborate on that?
E: Stims alter the persistent anxiety of life so that I am able to function as well as I am.
A: So you weren’t saying stims are painful as much as that they help you cope with the pain and anxiety you often feel?
E: It is impossible to describe to all who have not experienced a lot of distress. Day after day I am scared of people’s opinions about me because they can harm me with their beliefs about my lack of intelligence. People treat those they believe stupid, very badly. I am not stupid.
A: I know you aren’t! You are the smartest person I have ever met!!
E: (Smiles and squeezes my arm.) I am intelligent and cannot speak with the same brilliant words that are in my mind.
The timer goes off.
E: Now we are all done!
A: Yes we are! Thank you Emma for your patience with me and helping me understand.
Addendum: I asked Emma just now if I could ask her one more question. She told me that I could.
A: Do you like the word “stimming” ?
A: Is there another word you’d prefer?
E: Yes, but words are not as meaningful to me as they are to those who talk all the time.
A: If you could choose any word other than stimming, what would it be?