Pent up energy and pressure. secrets of the stim

Something that might help people with meltdowns. Most of us stim and most of us like deep pressure, or use sensory stims to self regulate. Most of us also have no idea what stims are until we see other autistics talking about it. And most people around us, have no idea what its like to live inside an autistic body. Of course it’s going to be different for everyone but I thought I’d share my experience and some tricks I’ve learned.

Inside all of us is a crackling brain. Synapses firing, input and output bustling. Our bodies try to keep up, try to process and try to regulate everything. Within my body a sort of pressure builds up, a sort of rising, crackling energy that pulses within and jerks my body to repeat certain actions. Sensory overwhelm does this, social and emotional overwhelm does this, as does engaging in a special interest. My mind gets ahead of what my brain and body are capable of. At times I can feel utterly explosive. During times of low or slight overstimulation you can find me stroking my skin, rubbing my cheeks or my forearms, entranced by the sensory experience of it. I can do this for hours. I have rubbed the skin off my face and left sore and tender spots on my skin.

But its when it gets explosive that the real issue is. This kind of feeling sometimes sends my stomachs for loops, or makes my body ache to yawn in its entirety. It is these moments when I will stim. During severe overstimulation you can hear a barking cough emit from my throat, repetitive and harsh. Other times you will hear a quick thud-thudding as my fist pummels my chest. Sometimes my body tics- tongue clicks and grunts and short bodily jerks. I feel like I am either moving too fast or too slow, but never in step or sync with the world around me. There are times when no automatic stim relieves this pressure. There are times when it builds up and buzzes in my brain, and yanks at my limbs. My emotions become fraught and my senses are on fire, my skin burns at the slightest touch… a dull ache of pressure, tactile allodynia and anger grows and swells up inside me, fluttering in my chest and cramping my brain. It is these times when I will melt down. The urge to bang my head, to scream, to release that pressure through repetitive vocalisations commanded from somewhere deep within. Physical release is demanded, it is needed. WIth proper stimming and proper influx of overstimulation sometimes I can halt to a stop, slow down, become catatonic. Other times I become mute or enraged, my fists wanting to slam every surface. A meltdown or shutdown is inevitable.

That is my inner experience. This building up of energy or pressure inside me. I can relieve it though. Deep pressure can help. Deep joint pressure is used by OTs on children.
OTs also sometimes encourage this sort of applying pressure to release pressure, exertion and transfer of energy from the inside to the outside. In people with severe phobias, systemic deep pressure stimulation of the joints is a practical and handy solution to releasing anxious tension leading up to facing a phobia.

diagram of autistic hands stimming

The Son-Rise Program suggests applying this principle of pressure stimming to release this energy, which, I believe for us autistics, is a biological imperative.

The Son-Rise Program suggests this exercise many of us may find useful: Try this exercise:

1. Find an object like a bouncy ball or a washcloth soaked in water.
–>Really bite into it. Yes I do mean that. Sink your teeth into it with all your might.
–>Do this three times, each time lasting at least 20 seconds.

2. Clasp your hands together and really squeeze them, again not half-heartedly but will all your might.
–>Do this three times, each time lasting at least 20 seconds.

3. Write down how it felt to do this.

What I feel and what people report is a release of any built up tension. It feels good to do this! And is helpful for the body. Our children are doing this for the same reasons. However, their need to release energy from their bodies is far greater than ours. The trick here is to help our child use something other than another person to release their energies.

They may also give themselves their own sensory input by banging their heads, biting into the soft part at the base of their thumbs, slapping their thighs, and banging their feet. In this case we see the children as acting as their own occupational therapists, trying to help their sensory systems balance.

Does anyone else get this sort of pent-up energy that needs to GO AWAY feeling inside them? If so, does pressure stimming(applying pressure to joints, weighted blankets or compression clothing, clenching body parts, etc…) help you?

Image by Artism Spectrum

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