Autism: Confessions of a Skin-Picker

 

What’s Stimming?

Stimming is self-stimulatory behaviour. It is repetition of movement, sound or movement with objects.

It’s done for relief and pleasure.

Simplified: Stimming calms or stimulates.

Everybody stims, however, NTs have more socially acceptable stims and are more able to control them.

With an autistic person – stims are necessary to their mental health well being.

We stim to release tension or to stimulate ourselves.

Some people stimulate themselves to feel pain for pleasure, like my friend who liked to pull her leg hairs out one by one using tweezers.

*eyes are watering*

I didn’t know I was autistic until five years ago – so I’ve had forty plus years of generally hiding/suppressing behaviour that I now understand to be stimming..

It started with spinning where, as a small child, I would spin myself around until the butterflies danced in my stomach.  Then came infants school where there were boxes upon boxes of colourful (and tactile) objects that I liked to stroke or manipulate in my hand. Doing this soothed my anxious mind – albeit temporarily. I wasn’t interested in constructing things like the other children. Sod THAT for a game of conkers! I just wanted to sit in a corner and stroke stuff!

Speaking of conkers…

I like to touch them. (NOT a euphemism)

Then came the glue..

You’re probably reading this and thinking, ‘Glue? Oh my God, she’s a glue sniffer!’

Rest assured. I wasn’t (and have never been) a glue sniffer.

I may, however, have had a brief dalliance with Tippex in my high school days..

One of my all time loves is art and that love started in school. However, art was sensory for me. Visually? Great. Smells? Not so great.

I loved the smell of paint. Still do, but not when it’s combined with the aroma of curdled milk, cabbage and dried vomit as was the case in school. That said, I loved to create pieces of art so I forced myself myself to tolerate everything else..

The other sensory issue was that I almost pathologically HATED getting stuff on my fingers..

My mother told me that I was using a knife and fork a lot younger than my brothers were. She presumed it’s because boys are generally slower than girls? I think it’s probably because I disliked the feel of slimy food on my fingers. *shudders* This also explains why I find making pastry so unpleasant, hence, I avoid it wherever possible.

Whoever invented ‘Jus Rol’ has my unwavering adulation.

So, glue..

The first time I used glue – the stickiness made me anxious but I had communication issues so I wasn’t able to ask if I could go and wash my hands. I was starting with palpitations when THIS happened:

The glue dried and I discovered that peeling it off my fingers was quite possibly the best thing to happen to me since Enid Blyton!

I could happily lose myself in a glue-peeling session which made my school day slightly more tolerable.

Note: FFS don’t try this using Super Glue!

Glue-picking was the precursor to my most used stim – skin picking.

Yeah, a lot of my stims are gross.

When I was 21 I got chicken pox. Initially, this was crap because I was pregnant at the time. I was the size of Brazil with spots that itched like fuckery. I remember the one thing that people kept saying to me: ‘WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T PICK THE SCABS!’

That’s like telling Mary Berry to stop baking and become a binman..

OF COURSE I PICKED THEM!!

I especially loved the scabs on my head because I would pull them ever-so-slowly through my hair which was, like, orgasmically pleasurable.

I’ve always picked my spots. And other people’s. Feeling that satisfying ‘pop’ as zit matter is released at high velocity? That’s right up there on the pleasure scale for me. Welcome to the pleasure dome mateys! I literally don’t understand how a person can have a big fat juicy zit and NOT want to pop it? Weirdos.

Downside is: I have scars.

LOTS of scars.

I also pick the skin off my lips. Sometimes with my fingers – sometimes with my teeth. NOT the best of stims if you like vinegar on your chips!

Zit slaying and lip picking are stims I try and save for ‘me time’ because even I know that it’s socially unacceptable to be pecking at yourself in public like a demented pigeon. Even so – sometimes I forget myself..

My bad, motherfunglers.

Rest assured that once I’ve acknowledged my skanky behaviour, I switch to a more socially acceptable stim – like fiddling with my cube/keys/phone/pebble/whatever.

Should I mention that I’m allergic to nickle so when I wear cheap earrings, my skin weeps, then crusts over? I guess you’ll know where I’m going with this so I’ll move on..

My, not gross stims, include rocking back and forth or side to side. I take more in when I’m rocking because I am less focused on my anxiety. It’s a gentle movement but if I’m having an anxiety crisis at home, it’s full on IN YOUR FACE back and forth rocking sometimes combined with manic pacing up and down.

Then there’s my fidget cube. I say mine. I may have nicked it from The Boy because his stim of choice is to chew his nails..

I also use a spinner which I like to spin near my cheek because I like how it feels on my face. No doubt, I’ll probably end up in A & E one day with a spinner-related facial injury..

NOTE: I’m trying very hard NOT to think of the scab..

Next, is my thumb ring.

Yep, I just lurve touching my ring.

Leaaaaaaave it.

I always wear one on my thumb which I manipulate with my index finger or my left index finger and thumb. It started off as me trying to give myself an edgy look? Then I realised that manipulating it calmed me down, so I’ve worn one for years. My current one is metallic rainbow colours so I get visual and tactile pleasure. Win and win!

I also LOVE soft materials. I wear soft leggings and stroke my legs, but not in a kinky way. I love blankets too – especially fleecy ones. They comfort me and keep my extremities semi-warm as I seem to be lacking blood flow in my hands and feet. Plus, under a blanket, you can hide from the world.

Also, people trying to sell you PVC windows. Or God.

Going back to pastry, I was once informed that cold hands make better pastry? So it’s a shame that I dislike the feel of it on my fingers or I could be the pastry queen of the North by now, no?

I get that I have some gross stims. I mean, picking my skin is pretty, er, what’s that word the young un’s use? Ah yes, ‘minging’ but it gets me through the day and through life. It’s not like I sit in Costa flicking my skin into people’s skinny lattes is it?

FYI, I am picking my lips right now as I’m editing this post for the 135th time.

Finally, people may tell you that stimming is offensive or unacceptable. The problem is with them, not you. Stimming has a purpose. It is part of the armory that we need to exist in this world. For this reason (and many others) it is perfectly acceptable to tell them politely, but with conviction, to eff off.

Me? I stim to calm myself and because it feels good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedicated Non-Follower of Fashion

I don’t do fashion, me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my moments over the years where I’ve tried to be fashionable in order to fit in, but it was hard work. All I ever really wanted to wear were my jeans and tee shirts. In my most creative phase I wore black lace skirts, gloves, vest tops, studded belts/cuffs and high-heeled boots, which, bythe way, I couldn’t walk in. What can I say? I was into Siousxie Sioux and her glorious gothness. I wanted to look like her – only with Madonna’s hairdo.

Over the years I must have spent hundreds of pounds on clothes (albeit via charity shops) only for them to sit unloved in the nether regions of my wardrobe. I’ve bought so many clothes on a whim during my monthly hormonal malfunctions. I CRINGE thinking back to some of the disasters I’ve bought, such as floor length green and pink striped WOOLEN skirts, which is fine if you want to look like a caterpillar..

I think that women should stay the hell away from clothes shops when they are on their periods (or going through the menopause) because they buy shit clothes that languish in their wardrobes with the tags on until they end up in a charity bag. Am I wrong?

“Women are more likely to have accidents in the few days leading up to their period and during their period.”

This includes accidental purchases of shit clothes that don’t fit and which look HIDEOUS. I vote they install sensors in shops that pick up on hormone imbalances, so as soon as the hormonally bewildered wander in – alarms go off – and they are escorted off the premises and propelled in the direction of the nearest Thorntons. Me? I don’t have that problem anymore because I’m post-menopausal which means that my hormones no longer fluctuate. I am psychotic 24/7. However, I can wear white jeans now WHENEVER I PLEASE. HA!

The thing is that I was (and still am) a tomboy.

In 1982 I lived in skin-tight jeans and AC/DC t-shirts, so maybe you can imagine my distress when my mother informed me that I was going to be a bridesmaid at my brother’s wedding…

To most 11-year-old girls, being a bridesmaid is a dream come true. Me? I sat down on my bed and wept because the thought of being center of attention terrified me, not to mention the indignity of having to wear a dress. In hindsight, I wish I had spoken up because at least then they wouldn’t have my sulky face ruining their wedding album. In my defence, I was on the verge of starting my periods, therefore, MEGA CRANKY, and the photographer kept insisting on telling me to ‘smile ducky’ which just made me want to beat him to death with his Nikon!

To make matters worse, my ‘evening do’ outfit was a pair of CANARY YELLOW pedal pushers with an equally hideous blouse. I had (have) legs like chicken drumsticks, so my mother saw fit to buy me a pair of PEDAL PUSHERS. Also, she wanted her money’s worth out of the wedding sandals, so I had to wear those again, only with my school socks!

Way to go, Mum. Could the outfit have been any bolder shade of yellow? I think not. There is a good reason why people don’t nick yellow cars. IT’S BECAUSE THEY ARE ABOUT AS INCONSPICUOUS AS LORD VOLDEMORT STROLLING AROUND TESCO DOING HIS WEEKLY SHOP!

Actually, I might bring this one up in my next therapy session?

Bro, if you are reading this, I’m sorry I spoiled your day with my sulky face. I was SO out of my comfort zone with all those people (inc scary old vicars and photographers) and then having to wear a girlie dress when I was about as girlie asa wheelie bin. I just wasn’t bridesmaid material. Bridesmaids should love every second of the experience, but I was one big sweaty mess. I am honored that you asked me, truly, and I love you for it. However, I also know that Mum would have killed you if you didn’t. Love, Sis.

It’s taken me forty odd years, but I finally understand that I am a woman of simple tastes. My wardrobe consists of jeans, tunic tops and umpteen tee shirts. Everything is 100% cotton. I own one pair of boots, four pairs of Converse (bit of an obsession) and a pair of sandals..

I’ve finally sussed that wearing certain materials only aggravates my sensory issues which makes me more of a miserable cow than I already am. Life is hard enough without handing myself more ammo, no?

I would quite like to die wearing a pair of Converse, but knowing my luck, I’ll shuffle off my mortal coil wearing my tea-stained dressing gown and pyjama bottoms with the holey crotch. Such is life, eh?

What I do know is that my days of wearing uncomfortable shoes and clothes are over. I wasn’t designed to totter in heels and I will never again inflict my bony ankles on the general public. Whoever designed boot cut and flared jeans has my eternal gratitude. From the bottom of my bell-bottomed heart, thank you.

“Anyway, there is one thing I have learned and that is not to dress uncomfortably, in styles which hurt: winklepicker shoes that cripple your feet and tight pants that squash your balls. Indian clothes are better.” ~ George Harrison

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