If you’re following me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me post about stimming.
This is how you can tell I’m a baby autistic: I’m 56 years old and I just discovered stimming. Like, stimming as a source of pleasure, as an emotional regulation tool, as a place to put the overwhelming weirdness of me that flows from me in gouts.
I’m learning that I don’t have to suppress my physical weirdness. I can use it, feel it, enjoy it, live in it, savor it, nurture it, and let it fly. (And I can choose to let it be visible or not, depending on who I’m with and how much ambient weirdness tolerance there is in a room.)
I have, and will have, loads and loads of ideas about stimming as I explore it, but to start I just need to let it happen.
Primarily right now, stimming wants to happen when I’m alone at home. And it wants to happen to music.
I’ve consulted with my bones and they tell me they want deep bass, twangy guitar strums, deep or passionate voices, and lots and lots of drums. Is it a handjive or a Prima-style bass-drum drive? Even better. If a drummer or a bassist is working up a sweat somewhere, I want to stim to it.
What kind of stimming? Big, deep, full torso rocking. Back and forth or diagonal if I’m distressed. Side to side or up and down if I’m happy. Shoulders/arms optional. If I’m super happy and the music is the B-52s, it’s the Peanuts dance. (Huh – maybe I should add Linus and Lucy to my stimming routine?)
I’ve learned that if I’m melting down, or about to melt down, this kind of stimming (rocking and bouncing) makes a huge difference in how quickly I recover and how much damage I do. Heavy stimming can break my focus on the distress and it definitely acts as a valve to release the pressure of intense emotion. I get so into it I forget to be angry.
If I think to turn on music, the effectiveness of stimming as distress-reduction gets even better.
And if I stim/rock/bounce when I’m happy… man that’s just fucking delicious.
Because I know that distress makes my memory fail (which is why I can’t think of distress-reduction techniques when I’m upset) and my tolerance for complex steps evaporates, I made myself a stimming playlist. With a playlist I can pull it up from my phone, laptop, or TV with just a few steps.
(If you’re an Amazon Music customer I’m told you will be able to see and play this playlist*. My apologies if that doesn’t work. I’ve included the songs below.)
There’s some refining to do. I had a shit morning today and I used the playlist to great effect, but I skipped a few songs (not sure if Ballroom Blitz will have the longevity I thought it would). I also found that I needed to start big (heavy drums and base, driving beat) and end small (slower beats, more emotional resonance, more personal), so I rearranged the songs into the current configuration (below) to get something like a workout arc that grabs my energy and helps it settle after a while.
So yeah, that’s a thing. A stimming playlist. I’m especially happy that I thought of this because these kinds of repeatable, accessible-anywhere, modular tools are what I need so that the natural chaos of my ADHD doesn’t defeat my efforts to care for my more sensitive and brittle autism.
Do you have stims you use? Do you use music or other media to enhance/inspire stims? Or emotional regulation? Do you use a playlist for this? Am I even using the terms right? I dunno. I am just starting to figure all this out.
Jane’s Stim Playlist (Wind Me Up)
|Wind You Up||Jarles Bernhoft||Norwegian R&B – honest to god technomage|
|I Like to Move It||Los Colorados||Ukranian – accordion, marching bass drum, and other embarrassing instrumentation|
|Danny’s All-Star Joint||Rickie Lee Jones|
|Rats & Raccoons||Jarles Bernhoft|
|Calamity Song||The Decemberists||WHAT APOCALYPSE NERD DOESN’T LOVE THIS SONG?|
|16 Shells from a 30.6||Tom Waits||I cannot have a playlist without Tom Waits in it. It is ordained.|
|Peaches (1996 Remaster)||The Stranglers||That bass line is pure sex.|
|Sing Hello||Jarles Bernhoft|
|This Year||The Mountain Goats||Since 2020, this is America’s theme song.|
|Lift Me Up ‘Till the Morning Comes||Bernhoft|
|Oh My God Yeah Fuck It||Mike Doughty [feat Moon Hooch and Miss Eaves]||Mike knows.|
|Are You Gonna Be My Girl||Jet|
|Come On Eileen||Dexys Midnight Runners|
|Cmon Talk||Jarles Bernhoft|
|Arrow Through Me||Paul McCartney and Wings|
|The Lovecats||The Cure||The perfectly crafted pop song.|
|We Have a Dream||Bernhoft|
|O Children||Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds|
|She’s a Genius||Jet||I’m not.|
|She’s Thunderstorms||Arctic Monkeys||I am.|
|I Wanna Be Sedated (2002 Remaster)||Ramones|
|Valerie (Version Revisited)||Mark Ronson [feat Amy Winehouse]|
|Funk #48||The James Gang||Joe Walsh is an oldschool guitar mage.|
|Ballroom Blitz||The Sweet|
|Pardon Me||The Blow||If you don’t know The Blow, change that now.|
|Swing Baby!||Big Rude Jake||My best friend and I used this as the theme song for our stage and cable access shows. Jake was a Toronto punk-influenced jazz dude who sold us the rights for $1 American. He died this year of cancer. RIP, my friend.|
|Powa||Tune-Yards||This song lives in my root chakra, if root chakras exist. (Yeah, they really don’t. But it feels like they do. You know?)|
|Private Idaho||The B-52s|
|Cold Steel Hammer||Big Rude Jake|
|Sister Needs a Settle||Say Hi||This song marks a transition from (mostly) more driving beats to softer, more emotional, more focused songs. This is my cool-down, if I need it.|
|Torn||Natalie Imbruglia||Singing harmony with Natalie is a stim.|
|Seven Day Mile||The Frames||This song’s lyrics kind of don’t make sense and also kind of exactly make sense. It’s an encouragement to keep going. It taps a vein for me.|
|Riot Van||Arctic Monkeys||OLD PUNK BOYFRIEND MEMORIES. And that descending chord progression in the chorus is so smart and sly.|
|Far from any Road||The Handsome Family||Have you seen the first season of True Detective?|
|Sofisticated||Stereo MC’s||Cool in a bottle.|
|Somebody That I Used to Know||Elliott Smith||I like songs that play with measure or phrase lengths, and this one does it masterfully. Good strum, too. I feel it in my chest.|
|Sometimes||Walk Off the Earth||The acoustic mix on this cover, combined with ethereal and fluffy guitar strumming|
|Fragile||Paperboys||Best cover of this song, even better than Sting’s original.|
|Jane||Ben Folds Five||A SONG ABOUT ME BEING ME. This one will get featured in a blog post soon I’m sure.|
|Go Into the Night||Gabrielle Papillon||More play with measure and phrase lengths.|
|Paper Mache World||Matilda Mann||If you’ve watched Heartstopper, you recognize this one.|
|Why Am I Like This?||Orla Garland||Same as above. Also… I swear to god it’s about neurodivergence.|
|If the World Should End in Fire||The Handsome Family||It’s weirdly reassuring.|
*I’m not a fan of Amazon Music – or of Amazon – but it isn’t Spotify so it has that going for it. I used to work for Amazon, so most of my stuff is just up there in Amazon’s cloud and it will take me more executive function than I currently have to collect and migrate everything… which is how companies like this make their money. It is what it is.
2 responses to “I Stim, Therefore I Am (Stimming Playlist)”
Only the lucky early readers get to enjoy the fact that I can spell bassist correctly but not the instrument one plays. Fixing that.
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