And the things that get in its way.

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There's this movement, a gesture. I could recognize it anywhere, and when I see it, I know - this is a person with an unusual brain. It's a little hop and a loose shake of the hands - looks like you're fluttering them like wings. And that's what it feels like, too. That person is flying.

It's called stimming. Self-stimulation, although that kinda makes it sound like masturbation. Or stereotyped behaviors, I think the DSM calls it? Or whatever else you want to call it. My family called it buzzing. That was a great word for it, that electric zzzzzzip you feel. Or do you ever? I do. I can have a shot of joy anytime I want it. Temporary, but permanent, because it's always with me. A drug built into my brain, my hands. Nothing feels like that.

Nobody outside of my family has seen me do that since I was like, maybe eight? Most people who can learn very quickly NOT to, not in public, cause it stresses the people who can't out. But nobody ever quits. I haven't. Crushed down, secretive, no wings for me anymore, I just rub my hands together, but I do it. I can still take flight.

This is crazy typical for the autism spectrum, but it crops up outside of it sometimes. ADD or ADHD, sensory processing disorder and related issues, and the odd OCD person. These are all things that happen to be kind of related - you'll find that some of them are more likely to emerge in the same person, or that there are similar issues, etc. In my case there's obviously a VERY genetic component - of the ten members of my immediate family, five have official psychiatric diagnoses of related conditions, while two more have some really telling tendencies in that direction but were never severe enough to get taken to the shrinks about it. Three of us stim. If you go by IQ, we're those people that are weird smart. Most of us fall above 130, the highest level of classification, "very superior", which is the topmost 2-3% of the population. "Stupid", in our family, is testing in the high 120's, at which you are a mere high "superior" and have to share space with the top 6-7% of the population. But that doesn't necessarily translate into real-world competence. I am the only one of the five with a diagnosis who has neither failed out of nor come close to failing out of school. We are also avoidant as fuck and share a family habit dropping off the planet when we get stressed. Like half my conversations with my family start with note-comparing on who's currently incommunicado and why. I have the feeling that if eugenics were being practiced, we would be eliminated from the gene pool.

And that would certainly be a shame. Because yes, sometimes it is a pain in the goddamn ass to have a brain that's a little different, when you feel like everybody else is on the same highway, reaching the same conclusions by easy stages, and you've got to take seven damn detours on back roads to get to the same place. There is anxiety, frustration and shame built into being wired differently. But then again, who says it's any better to be average? I doubt anyone really has it easy, even inside a neurotypical head. And what people who have never taken the detours don't understand is how much wonder and joy are also involved. In noticing the details of life, in thinking differently in general, but also definitely in stimming. I read other people's reports of their experiences with it once and it was interesting, because everyone, from a variety of official diagnoses and with different specific ways to get themselves there, was describing it in the same words: excitement and calm all at once, delight, release. Taking flight. Nobody at all was interested in getting rid of it. From the sound of it, what some people are looking for in some drugs or in meditation is what I can have in literally about one second, the time it takes to bring my hands up. Not bad.

I met this kid yesterday, and there was nothing about him that would have immediately told me he was different. The first time he did it, I didn't think anything of it. But then he did that gesture again, in exactly the kind of context in which one would stim, and I was like, ohhhh, okay. I recognize this. And you know, the first time I saw my kid brother stim it was like a dagger to the heart - I was like, oh shit kid, you're in for a rough time. But I was a lot younger then. This time around I just kind of thought, huh. Well, good luck, kid. You might have your issues but you're gonna have your benefits too. You should be fine.


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