It’s Rude to Stare!
But we all do don’t we?
It’s just one of those things whether it is appropriate or not – it’s human nature to have a gander and more so when we are told to not do so! That is the beauty of curiosity. When l was younger my own Mother constantly reprimanded me for looking, goggling or staring! When she wasn’t telling me off for that, she was scolding me for my public displays of ticking or stimming. Of course in the late sixties to late seventies neither of us knew l was under the spectrum as an Aspie and we didn’t know specifically what either a tic or a stim actually was.
Back then her biggest worry with me staring was at one legged people, or large people, or disabled wheelchair bound people and l was always told ‘to not stare’ long before usually l had seen what l was not to stare at in the first place. However, upon visualising it, l still stared. If my parents were not informing me to not look at someone else’s misfortune l was being scorned for my own set of fidgets!
My parents were embarrassed by my tics and stims, and yes knowing what l know now, l had both at the same time. One [tic] was present when l was stressed and the other [stim] was used to calm me down. But that is what the real problem was back then when l was younger and they lasted with me almost to the time that l moved away from home. They would say they were embarrassed for me, but that would be a lie – they felt socially uncomfortable when l was out with them and hands were flapping or l was making funny noises!
These days, many years on from then, my parents seemingly can never remember my stimming or tics or choose to not recall the issue. However we are talking about a completely dysfunctional family in many respects. My Father is more than likely an undiagnosed Aspie himself [because of his behaviours]. He cannot tolerate any kind of imperfection in other people, but is oblivious to his own flaws. My Mother is full on Neuro in comparison to either of us, and whilst she easily can see that her ex-husband is on the Spectrum cannot see her Son there, despite his actual diagnosis. My Sister only sees anything Autistic as a condition and that one Autie/Aspie is the same as the next. I have become very used to the facts that my family suffer from selective memories.
Living at home with my parents when l was younger and indeed till my late teens was a life filled with stress/tensions and conflicts. Our family home was constantly brimming with arguments and domestic aggressions, raised voices and slamming doors! It was very hard to remain sane when l was constantly being subjected to sensory overload. I had continuous issues with anger and meltdown. Tics and stims were my way forwards, for both started when l was around 4 or 5 years of age, if not earlier.
From what my Mother says, l started self-harm from a very young age. Because of the very nature of the tensions in the family home, l actually believed that all households and families were like this. Imagine my shock when l visited friends’ houses for dinner and found normality in their lives? Where you were encouraged to speak about ‘your day’ and not forced to only listen about another’s.
From the ages of around 9-12 year of age l was not far short of a ball of nervous energy, a blur of abstract behaviour and activity. I was already wearing masks at both home and school just so people [outsiders] would not see who l really was. In private l was stimming relentlessly, and if caught again would face serious scolding’s and punishments and would receive the same attention should l be caught with tics outside the sanctuary of the house. Read the word sanctuary loosely, when younger there were no safe havens for any of us from my Father’s odd behaviours and actions. He wanted the perfect family and a flapping child was a flawed child. I learned that in order to avoid disciplinary actions l had to hide my identity, hide who l was, ticking and stimming only when l could.
Friends or associates of my family were told if l was caught out in public, that l had problems, issues with my mental health. Funny tiptoe walking, vocal tics, stuttering, excessive blinking, flapping hands, swirling or twirling, rocking, hopping, mouthing air pockets, repetitive movements and noises, finger tapping, face pulling, eye rolling and so on, and on, and on the list went. These were all part of the fact that l [their Son] was not well.
I just masked up daily, and hid away my emotions from my family, friends and peers and more importantly teachers. Both my Sister and l were always advised by our Mother to not ‘talk about anything, anywhere’ and so we didn’t. The problem with holding it all in, is that eventually you explode, or in my case, meltdown.
But for clarity what is the difference between the two, a tic and a stim?
Stimming is regarded as a repetitive behaviour that awards the user a form of self-stimulation to the senses. Whilst the presence of tics is not a voluntary and deliberate action and awards nothing pleasant and if anything is invasive to ones’ overall mannerisms, but the two are often confused and are seen as just one, and it’s not that way at all.
Stimming and or ticking are viewed by many as inappropriate behaviours – similar to staring at a woman’s cleavage for too long – a quick furtive glance is ok and in most cases well received – however look too long and you are considered creepy, and staring longer than too long and you are then a harasser!! And the latter is considered the height of rudeness and inappropriate behaviour.
But tics and stims are not inappropriate behaviours at all; they are only embarrassing to those who allow themselves to feel uncomfortable in the presence. Some people feel this way when confronted by disabled people in wheelchairs, or when a person does not fit the normal mould of shaped society. It is society that is to blame for stimming and tics to be frowned upon. For making people think or believe that a specific identity is required to live by. A code of practice for normality. I never felt embarrassed with them, they calmed me down – it was that simple – that is all that was important. I only ever became self-conscious of them when my parents made them an issue and when l was older both my ex-wife and an ex-partner made me feel guilty.
People make me laugh, so many say they want and wish to be considered unique and yet in truth, they are so very desperate to fit in to society. People do NOT want to be seen as outsiders, this fad for the fame of being unique is short lived and only the brave and the bold deserve the medals of honour. Be proud to be different l have always said and l mean that.
Today l am so very lucky, l am with a loving woman who understands me for the man l am and accepts all of my behaviours and quirks. I am a challenge to her and at times l know she must think ‘Oh Lord here we go again’. But the days when l am in full tic swing are mostly gone unless l am seriously stressed and l tend to steer clear of those moments. Although l do have a frequent reoccurring tic which arrives in the form of the knee bob and this can prove uncomfortable at times, and l still stim – but l do so with such regularity that is now part and parcel of who l am.
It is not just those on the spectrum that can stim, many people do it and more so perhaps even unwittingly not realising that a little foible they have is actually a stim in the first place.. Suzanne has a habit of finger twirling her hair and of course that is a stim, equally as much as foot taps or pencil tapping or even pen smoking that other people do. Biting your fingernails can be regarded as a tic and no one bats an eyelid at that. But of course some tics and stims are so miniscule they matter not, they go unnoticed and as such cause no alarm, or uncomfortable sensations with others.
That is the way of society l feel, go figure?
How about you the reader, do you wittingly or unwitting have tics or stims that you know about or have been pointed out to you?