Politics

No one deserves to suffer
I thought this was something
we could all agree on
someone working full-time
should not have to live in poverty
this too, I assumed was an opinion
we would all share with pride
oh, how horrified I am to know the truth
that these thoughts are controversial
that so many actually disagree
there are really people
that think suffering is right and just
when it's others, that is,
never in regard to themselves
because they know the intricate details
of why they made their worst decisions
while looking outward, they assume
steps are taken for shameful reasons
selfishness, laziness, carelessness, and malice
are explanations for other's actions
even though the same acts 
are certainly due to different motivations
by those who lay these heavy accusations
against their fellow men
for some people its very important
to know that someone else is below them
fuel for the fire of their delusion
that despite it all, circumstance, genetics, environment
it was their indominable spirit that overcame
that they are special, strong, resilient
that others simply don't have the will power or desire
to make a better life for themselves
and that they should suffer for their shortcomings
if only as a reminder that life is fair
by some warped definition of the word
it's more important to believe
they earned their good fortune
than to acknowledge
the random, cruel hand of fate
and use their blessings
to lift others up into the light

Shame

Shame is the thief of authenticity
the shadow that steals 
the joy inside your heart
the darkness that whispers 
what makes you unworthy

Shame is the fear of showing yourself
the horror of what it will mean to be seen
rejecting yourself before anyone else can
a punishment for perceived imperfections
a constant reminder that you are not enough

Shame is worse than the reality it threatens
the judgment of others only hurts so badly
when it is a confirmation of what you believe
shame is a mirror we place as a barrier
our own vicious eyes cutting in

Spiritual Backsliding

At the beginning of my yoga practice nearly 8 years ago, I felt that I was irrevocably changed. I could hardly believe the powerful shift I began to notice within myself. A daily 7 minutes was all it used to take to completely transform my mental state. A sense of gratitude, humility, and awe seemed to follow me wherever I went. My heart felt open for the first time in my life. I experienced a new sense of self-acceptance that I had previously thought impossible. My only hope was that some day I might become a yoga teacher as a way to repay the universe for bestowing this gift upon me by sharing it with others.

Driving home from the Saturday morning class I’ve taught for three years now, all of that seems like a distant memory. I feel bitterness, stagnation, regression, apathy. Not only do I suffer greatly from these states, but they also illicit a strong sense of imposter syndrome. Who am I to teach yoga? Who am I to promote meditation and gratitude and self-love? When I seem to have utterly lost my connection to everything. I know that no one is able to avoid these experiences forever, but I had hoped they would pass over me more quickly. I have been waiting for so long now. I fear that my rejection and refusal of them has kept me trapped beneath their weight. Despite this I feel helpless to free myself or accept where I am.

Nothing feels right anymore. Nothing feels worthwhile. I can hardly remember what it was that once sparked such joy inside my heart. I no longer enjoy my morning writing ritual or my daily drawing sessions. These few hours used to be what I looked forward to, the passion that kept me moving forward. I was filled with such energy and inspiration, pride and contentment and gratitude. These were my natural reactions to many parts of my life that have now lost all color. I often think that this is a sign that the things I’ve been doing are no longer serving me, that it’s time to come up with different habits and hobbies that do bring me happiness. Yet when I search my mind for a new direction, a new interest, I find nothing. “What’s the point?” is the only reply I am able to hear echoing back from the walls of my hollow heart.

I can’t even remember now how long it’s been that I’ve felt this way. It seems like a lifetime. I’m trying to take comfort in the fact that I do generally become more depressed and withdrawn at this time of the year. The lack of warmth and sunlight finally begins to grip me once the holidays have passed. It’s always so hard to convince yourself it’s just a transient state of mind when you are currently being consumed by it.

I think it would suit me to slow down and take notice when I find myself in these difficult periods. Rather than keep pushing myself to produce, to create, to transcend, it’s time for me to draw back, to let go, to be still. Intellectually I know that to have balance, I must incorporate rest. There is always a part of me that fears it. I’m afraid that if I stop moving, especially when I’m feeling down, that I’ll never get back up again. I’m afraid that momentum is the only thing keeping me alive, keeping me sane, and just barely at that.

The worst part is feeling as though I’ve completely lost all the progress I was so proud of a few years ago. It’s as though all of my effort, all of my lessons were for nothing. I feel like I’m right back where I started. Worse even, because now I’m also beating myself up for backsliding. A persistent shudder of shame and self-denial has been my constant companion for the last few months. And part of me feels at home here to be honest. A snide inner voice says, “See? This is just who you are. How foolish you were to believe that you could change.” Even when I know it’s not true, I have succumb to this voice. I’ve allowed it to suffocate all remaining self esteem.

My last hope is holding out until spring. While my heart may not even have the strength to long for the sun, part of me still has faith that there is healing to be found under its powerful rays. It is inevitable that some day soon, this long dark night of the soul with be flooded with light once more. I pray that it will be enough and that I can sustain myself upon my last scraps of inner strength until then.

8 Things to Know About the Winter Solstice

Repression & Anger

Understanding the 10 Types of Anger

Anger is one of the hardest emotions for me to deal with, yet it is one of the ones I experience quite often. Even over the most trivial things, my anger will flare up and destroy my entire day. I’ve noticed it rearing it’s ugly head more and more often since stopping my SSRI. It’s been looming over my head for over a week now, threatening to consume me at the slightest inconvenience. I don’t even know what I’m angry about a lot of the time. If I had to pick something, I’d say I’m usually just angry at myself.

For example, last night my dog somehow got into a tin of weed gummies I bought for someone for Christmas, eating them all in a matter of minutes. I was so furious, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wasn’t mad at her exactly. She’s just a sweet dog. She had no idea what she’d done, and she definitely paid the price for the rest of the evening. After that initial explosion of blinding rage, I usually turn my fury inwards. I’m mad at myself for being so mad, for not being able to control my emotions.

I think one of the reasons my anger tends to linger for so long is because I don’t know how to express it appropriately. Instead I try to stamp it out or push it down. Honestly, even looking it up hasn’t been much help in the way of learning how to express my anger in a healthy way. Most of the suggestions seem more like avoiding the anger than expressing it. If I express it at all, it’s usually in the most passive aggressive way possible. This is likely due to seeing my own mother deal with her anger in that way.

Anger is the most difficult emotion for me to deal with. Most of my other emotions are much easier to sit with, even the pain of sadness brings the relief of tears. There doesn’t seem to be any satisfying way for me to find relief from anger. Even if I lash out, it only leads to feelings of shame and guilt, or even fear in some cases if I’ve taken it out on someone I love and pushed them away. It also seems that anger begets only anger. It feeds off of itself, growing stronger and stronger as the day goes on and one irritation piles itself on top of another. Sometimes the shame is even welcomed as it momentarily diffuses my more explosive emotions and humbles me.

I genuinely don’t know who I am when I am angry. I see the discomfort and fear that I cause those around me, and despite my natural people-pleasing nature, even that can’t reach me in the moment. I feel as though I’m possessed, like I’m cornered and trapped with no escape route. I really think of myself as a sweet and friendly person, but the more often I find myself feeling angry and aggravated makes me question that self perception. I fear that others view me quite differently.

I’m truly at a loss about how to handle this disturbing aspect of my personality. Despite all of my self soothing techniques, my breath work, and my yoga practice, nothing is able to pull me back once I find myself on that perilous edge. The thought of meditating or anything like that only infuriates me further. My mind almost acts as if it wants to prolong or savor my anger. It feels as though my anger is justified and necessary in those moments. The idea of letting it go feels unjust and makes me even more angry somehow. I am the epitome of stubbornness when I’m angry. I don’t want to calm down. I want to explode and burn down everything around me. When I’m in that state not even the fear of severe consequences is able to restrain me.

I guess this is just yet another reason why I would benefit from talking to a therapist. I’m sure they would have some helpful advice to give me. For now I am going to try to do all that I can to simply sit with my anger. I want to examine it, mindfully move my mind over its surface, its edges, and its corners. Rather than staying locked away behind the aggressive rationalizations and justifications swirling around my mind, firing me up even more, I’m going to make an effort to remain in my body. I want to really feel exactly what’s happening. More importantly, I want to allow myself to feel it. One of the biggest hurdles is my absolute rejection of the emotion when it does arise. It seems unacceptable to me, which only makes it worse. Only by acknowledging and honoring my anger will I ever truly be able to let it go.

Humility and Shame

How to Deal With Shame

Humility is generally viewed as a good quality. Without it, the most incredible people can become narcissistic and unpleasant to be around. Shame is a bit different. It’s not thought of in a positive light. The mere word brings up feelings of discomfort and maybe even a vague memory of a time when you felt shame in your own life. However, at least in my experience, suddenly encountering a shameful moment is what deflates my ego enough to allow me to find humility again.

Shame is a very interesting emotion. It is definitely one of my least favorite. It cuts deep and leaves lasting scars. But I think that this is because shame may have developed as a means for us to make sure we don’t become separated or exiled from our herd. Shame is generally something that we feel when we are behaving in a way, or doing an act we wouldn’t want others to see or even know about. It’s an important inner valve to help us determine what will cause friction or change the way others in our group view us. Which, in the past, it could have meant a death sentence if we were cast out.

There have been many times in my life where I can recall a jolt of shame immediately redirecting me towards humility and self-reflection when moments before I had been boisterous with an overly-inflated ego. There is nothing wrong with being proud or confident, but sometimes it can get a bit out of hand and start to tip over into conceit. That’s when shame can really come in handy to help us check ourselves before we get out of control.

I had a particularly shame-filled encounter yesterday evening. I won’t go into detail, but I’ve been internally cringing ever since. Part of me still wants to jump out of my skin and pretend it never happened. In the past this would have sent me on a downward spiral of destruction. (Sometimes I go a bit past “humility” and into the realm of self-hatred.) This time, I refused to close my heart to myself and to the world just because I’ve made some big mistakes. Instead of turning away, I’ve been examining what happened more closely. I’ve been asking myself: What has this incident taught me? Is there something to be grateful for in even the most painful, embarrassing moments?

Though it still makes my insides contract whenever my mind glides over the memory, I’m actually glad that it happened the way it did. For one thing, it certainly could have been much worse. Simple embarrassment was a small price to pay considering all the possible alternatives. I’m also glad it happened because it shook me out of my stupor. It quelled my growing rage and judgement of others and deflated my foolish ego. If given the choice I’d pick humility over hubris every time.

Instead of my normal, borderline road rage on my drive home that evening, I drove slowly, mindfully, with grace and compassion for all my fellow humans on the highway. A humble heart is quick to kindness. It’s much easier to hold space for the errors of others when you’ve just been reminded of your own shortcomings in such a direct way. Being embarrassed is a reminder that we all make mistakes. It offers insight into our hopes of how others would respond to those mistakes we make and, in turn, makes us more willing to offer that same understanding to those around us.

Shame is also often the catalyst for a much needed change of direction. There is a small thrill in getting away with a shameful act, and the more often this happens the bolder and more obnoxious we become. Being found out is often necessary before we can really recognize the need for change. And yesterday was definitely a blessing in disguise for me. It was a huge wake up call. It was the kick in the pants I’ve been needing for awhile now. So even though it stung and continues to sting, I’m grateful. In fact I hope that memory brands my soul for years to come as a reminder of who I truly want to be. Shame shows us when we’re not being that version of ourselves.

Now, none of this is to say that shame necessitates some kind of personal change. There are plenty of examples of society teaching us to be ashamed of things that we shouldn’t be ashamed of. For instance, LGBTQ people may feel shame for simply being themselves. Promiscuity in women is often shamed. Victims of violent crimes are even shamed. And there are many more examples of unwarranted shame that is not a call for inner change or redemption. Deep down I believe we are able to decipher the difference. If you’re unsure, as long as you’re not hurting anyone or betraying your own sense or morality, then any shame felt is a challenge to overcome within ourselves, not a call to change.

Humility and shame are a beautiful example of the duality of our experiences in this life. It shows us that even in our darkest moments, there is something to be grateful for. As someone who is a deep lover of learning, I can’t deny that pain is often our greatest teacher. And I’m so thankful that the lesson wasn’t harder. I’m going to make sure that I take it to heart so I don’t have to be taught this lesson a second time. I know that I have been acting against my own interests for many years now. I thank the universe for offering me this opportunity for insight and redirection. I will not waste it.

Rape by False Pretenses

There are laws on the books for theft by false pretenses and larceny by false pretenses. They are defined legally as: obtaining title and possession of another’s property by misrepresenting a fact. As a woman myself, and someone who works with teenage girls regularly, I would like to see a new law enacted to enforce criminal liability for rape by false pretenses.

I was recently reminded of this concept by a girl who came to talk with us a few days ago. She disclosed sexual abuse by a man who initially she had liked and wanted a relationship with. (Not that it really mattered given that she was 15 and he was 20.) Anyway, essentially he led her to believe that he wanted to be with her and have a romantic relationship when he actually had no intention of doing so. He manipulated her emotionally so that he could abuse her sexually. This is unfortunately not an uncommon story. I myself have at least a handful of similar experiences from my adolescent and young adult life.

I can say from experience how traumatic these experiences are, especially when the majority of society does not hold the abuser responsible in these situations. Just as rape used to be mainly viewed as the fault of the victim not “protecting themselves” well enough or “asking for it”, being tricked into sex by lies is something that “I should have known better” than to fall for. And for a long time, I also felt like I was to blame. Not only was I taken advantage of, but I also felt stupid, even though all I did was trust someone who I thought was my friend/future partner.

Looking back, I genuinely don’t know how I was supposed to have assumed that these men were just pieces of shit. I really had no reason to suspect that until they fucked me over, quite literally. Over and over again I was forced to swallow a lesson that roughly went: don’t ever trust anyone, especially men. I learned that it was my job to close my heart to the world, rather than expect to be treated decently as a human being. And it absolutely breaks my heart to see young girls internalizing that same toxic message.

Just like most victims of abuse, I was extremely embarrassed to tell my story to other people. I feared that instead of sympathy, I would receive judgement and be labeled a fool. Even now I question myself about it. In college, I met a couple different guys on dating apps. We talked for weeks, they expressed their desire to find a romantic partner explicitly, although I feel the context of a “dating app” (not tinder) was false pretense enough in that regard. Yet after we went on a few dates and things crossed the sexual threshold, I was ghosted and gaslighted. If there was any response at all, it was something along the lines of feinted surprise and “I was never looking for anything serious.” I was once even fed a bold-faced lie by someone I had worked with and been friends with for an entire year. He knew I only wanted to be with someone who was also vegan. He promised to become vegan so that we could be together, and I believed him, because (silly me) I thought he was a decent person. Lo and behold, after we had sex once or twice, he was gone without so much as a “goodbye.” He even blocked me on Facebook.

Now let me quickly clarify, I’m not saying that you should be forced to be with someone after you’ve had sex. It would have been a totally different story if these men had just told me they didn’t think things were working out or they decided they were no longer interested in me. That’s fine, not every relationship works out. But when a sexual act flips the switch from kind, attentive, affectionate to silence and gaslighting, that’s obviously not the same thing and is emotionally damaging to the one left with whiplash, wondering what just happened.

I realize that these situations would be extremely hard to prosecute, but I would still like there to be some type of legal acknowledgment of the fact that this is not okay! This is manipulation, this is sexual and emotional abuse. I fully believe that if someone only agrees to sex because you have lied about your intentions, then it is rape. And while I do think the specific men I’m referring to knew what they were doing was cruel and wrong, I don’t think they would have considered it rape. Both young men and women need to be taught about this. They need to understand early on that this is not an acceptable sexual encounter. It certainly isn’t consensual if one party is being lied to.

I’m curious to know what others think about this matter. Do you think it’s rape? Do you think there is any way, legal or otherwise, to hold someone accountable for this type of behavior? Have you experienced anything similar in your life? Have you ever intentionally misled someone in order to receive sex? Did you think it was wrong? Why or why not? I would love to open up a respectful, honest dialogue on this topic. So please share your thoughts. I’m very interested in hearing any feedback you have to offer.

I've Been Self-Gaslighting For Years And Didn't Know It

Forgive Yourself

I’ve spent a significant portion of my adult life agonizing and lamenting some awful decisions I made. Thankfully as time continues to pass, I’ve been able to gain the space I needed to find perspective. Eventually we are able too look back on our younger selves with compassion rather than shame and regret. We begin to realize that we have to forgive ourselves for not knowing what we didn’t know.

As a child, my family had five dogs at one time. We lived out in the countryside and a lot of our dogs ended up with us because people would drive down our road and abandon them there. Ultimately we were being kind in taking care of them, feeding them, making sure they had all their shots, etc. But my parents would not allow them to live inside the house. It still haunts me to know that those dogs spent so many cold winter days and nights with only a plastic dog house filled with hay to keep them warm, chained in one small area for most of their lives. I still live with a lot of guilt about this which manifests itself in the form of reoccurring dreams where dozens of animals are confined, sick, dying, starving, and forgotten in dirty cramped cages.

I had always blamed myself for the way those dogs lived. Although my sister and I constantly pleaded with my parents to let them live inside, their response was always that if we were so concerned about it, we could give them away. Given this decision I always felt I should have allowed them to find new homes that would have treated them more properly. I was too selfish to do what was right. One day my sister made me realize something though. She said, “That was not our fault. We were children. We shouldn’t have been expected to make such a difficult decision. We loved those dogs and we did our best.” Until that conversation with my sister, I had never really considered the fact that we were merely children. I still have to remind myself of that fact from time to time. Now I’ve even begun to look back at my adolescent mistakes and realize that I was just a kid.

Only since finding another person that I truly love deeply and unconditionally, have I been able to look back at my time in college without immense pain and regret. For a very long time I thought I had destroyed my life. Even though the boyfriend I had back then was incredible and still one of the greatest loves of my life, I cheated on him. Not only that I cheated on him with two different people. Neither of which gave a single shit about me. Ultimately I broke up with that boyfriend in order to continue to explore what else was out there without guilt.

I can’t say what might have happened if I had stayed. All I know is that the years that followed were filled with disappointment, frustration, and heartache. But with my extremely limited romantic experience, how could I have known what I would find? How could I have known that the relationship I had was so uncommon and wonderful? If I hadn’t made the mistakes that I did, I may still be unaware of that. In the end, I’m grateful for the painful lessons I’ve learned through my mistakes. They have allowed me to become the person I am today and to be with another amazing person whom I love dearly.

I’m sure that I will continue to stumble and fall as I move along this path called life. There will be many more difficult lessons for me to learn. I only hope that part of me can remember that despite the pain, time will transform it into something worthwhile. I can recover from my mistakes, learn from them, even be grateful for them one day. But we don’t have to wait for that shift of time and perspective to be kind to ourselves. Punishing or belittling ourselves over our mistakes does not serve us. If nothing else, mistakes are an opportunity to practice self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-love. It is also a reminder to be gentle with others as they make their own mistakes.

It's Time for Forgiveness to Go Viral | Time

The Pleasure Paradox

Profound pleasure
is hard to find
it hides beneath thick, sticky layers
of pain, shame, and fear

Piercing pleasure
ignites a small terror
Will this last?
Do I deserve this?

Simple pleasures
are overlooked all together
discarded and forgotten
alongside childhood trinkets

Pure pleasure
is something to be hoped for
to be dreamed of
never to be obtained
Self Pleasure & Self Sex - How To Pleasure Yourself | Goop | Goop

Trauma

Emotional and Psychological Trauma - HelpGuide.org

Working at a child advocacy center, I have learned a lot about trauma. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) isn’t just something that war veterans have, it’s something that can result from many different situations. A lot of the children I work with end up having PTSD as a result of the abuse they have experienced. You might have PTSD from childhood trauma, a car crash, an abusive relationship, the sudden loss of a loved one, or any number of different scenarios. I’ve also learned that what defines “trauma” is different for everyone. Two people may experience the same thing and react completely differently. There are tons of things that factor into trauma.

It seems like trauma and PTSD are popular topics in the media today. I hear it mentioned all the time in the various videos and podcasts I listen to. The reason I want to talk about it today is because I caught myself feeling guilty about not having experienced any serious trauma in my life. Let me explain. I’ve always kind of considered myself a mess. I feel incapacitated by anxiety and neuroticism most of the time. However, I have heard so many stories of people that have gone through so much more than I could even imagine that seem to be coping with life better than I am. It makes me feel ashamed of myself, quite frankly.

It almost feels like I don’t deserve any compassion or sympathy for the issues I am struggling with from myself or anyone else. I often joke with my coworkers that the kids we meet are still higher functioning than I am, even though I’ve had such an easy life so far. I genuinely can’t understand it. Combing through my memories trying to find some kind of event to explain my poor mental health only makes me feel worse as I realize that I’ve not even had many minor forms of trauma in my life.

When I caught myself feeling guilty the other day, I tried to imagine what I would say to myself if I were a good friend. (We should all be our own good friends anyway, right?) I would have told that friend that they don’t need to justify or explain why they feel the ways they feel. It’s their experience and that’s enough to make it valid. This isn’t the trauma Olympics. Not all people who have anxiety or depression or any other mental illness have to have had a traumatic life experience. That’s why the DSM distinguishes between PTSD and other anxiety disorders, for instance. Not every mental illness has to be trigged by a particular life event. Not all traumatic life events have to lead to mental illness.

I often fall into that familiar trap of black and white thinking. Just because other people have it worse, doesn’t mean that my suffering doesn’t matter or that I’m not allowed to experience it. We each have our own shit to deal with. There is no need to compare ourselves to others in any way, let alone when it comes to mental illness. It’s not as if I choose to feel this way. Just like others didn’t choose to experience traumatic events or the aftermath that comes with them. You should never feel ashamed of something that is out of your control.

I would never want anyone to feel ashamed for not being able to “justify” their mental illness. That’s like being ashamed of having cancer because you never smoked and lived a healthy lifestyle. It makes no sense at all. In fact, even someone that does smoke cigarettes, resulting in lung cancer, still deserves compassion and sympathy. Despite all of my psychology education and social work experience, I can’t seem to let go of these nonsensical perspectives when it comes to myself. Even though I know mental illness is just as real and valid as physical illness, I can’t seem to shake the idea that it’s somehow my fault that I manage it so poorly. Even when I really am trying my best.

It’s amazing to me how much easier it is to offer love and understanding to others, while it feels impossible to extend the same kindness to myself. So this post is for all the other people like me out there, beating themselves up over things they can’t control. If you are unable to say it to yourself, I’m here to say it for you. No matter what you’re going through, no matter what you’ve gone through, no matter who you are, or what you’ve done, YOU deserve love. YOU deserve compassion. YOU deserve happiness. YOU are enough. YOU are worthy. Don’t forget it.

Sierra Boggess Quote: “You are enough. You are so enough, it is  unbelievable how enough you

Shake It Off: Autistic Traits

As some of you may already know, despite no formal diagnosis, I fully believe that I have “high-functioning” autism. Although this self-diagnosis has given me great comfort, I’m very careful about who I talk about it with. A lot of people don’t believe me and respond with a surprised look. I don’t blame them, before I looked into it, I wouldn’t have believed me either. The way autism is portrayed in the media isn’t the way mine looks. I am able to blend into society quite well. I’m like a duck, gracefully gliding along the water. No one can see how hard I’m actually working just below the surface.

I don’t necessarily want to talk about my autism today. I want to talk about the way I view autism in general. I’m not quite sure how the autistic spectrum was determined. The two ends of it appear as totally different disorders in my opinion. How not being able to speak or live on your own and having trouble understanding social cues can be classified as the same disorder never ceases to amaze me. It made more sense to me when high-function autism was called Asperger’s. Anyway, when I refer to “autism” from here on out, know that I am speaking mainly about high-functioning autism.

I guess I’m biased, but to me, a lot of the symptoms of autism seem to be more natural than “normal” behavior. For instance, I’ve always thought it strange that human beings are expected to make eye contact with one another. In the rest of the animal kingdom, direct eye contact is a threat, a sign of aggression. I don’t blame myself for getting anxious and having to make a concerted effort to look someone in the eye when talking to them. The rest of the natural world seems to agree with me that this is not a great idea.

Another common trait of autism is not quite understanding or falling in line with social customs. However, most of these things have been arbitrarily created throughout the centuries. It seems more bizarre to me that most people appear to have inherent knowledge about these rules of etiquette. How should one be expected to know, understand, and accept things that continue to change throughout history and geography? Perhaps autism wasn’t discovered until recent times because in the past there actually were things like cotillion and other ways in which people were formally educated on how to properly behave in society.

The final autistic trait I’d like to comment on is often referred to as “stimming.” This is when a person does some form of repetitive motion in response to strong emotion, either positive or negative. One of the more common forms of stimming is hand flapping. This is one of the key factors that causes me to believe I am on the spectrum. I have had the urge to do this for as long as I can remember. I remember my mother advising me not to do it and my sister teasing me about it as a young child. Since then, I’ve learned to control this behavior in front of others. However, I still have the strong urge to move or flap my hands after a stressful or exciting event. As a teenager, while sitting on the classroom floor, my friends asked me why I was always rocking side to side while we did so. This was another form of stimming that I hadn’t even realized I was doing!

Even more so than the other things I’ve mentioned, I think stimming is actually a natural, beneficial behavior. I hadn’t realized it until hearing it discussed on a podcast the other day, but animals will often be seen doing something similar. It’s quite normal to see a dog shake their whole body after something stressful or exciting happens. I have seen many different species of animals doing something like this. It is a way to discharge excess energy or stress, a way to quite literally “shake it off.” It even makes me wonder where that expression originally came from. Perhaps I wouldn’t be such a tightly wound, anxious individual if I hadn’t been discouraged from doing this self-soothing behavior by society.

I’ve started to see my autism as something to be embraced, rather than just something that sets me apart from most of the people around me. It makes me feel more in tune with the natural world and other animals. To me, society is what’s strange, not my behavior. I’m simply doing my best to assimilate into this painfully artificial world human beings have created. From now on I am not going to stifle myself. When I have that overwhelming urge to shake, I’m going to shake without shame. I’d much rather fit in with the rest of the animals than humans anyway.

Photo by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels.com