I Stim, Therefore I Am (Stimming Playlist)

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 UpJarles BernhoftNorwegian R&B – honest to god technomage
I Like to Move ItLos ColoradosUkranian – accordion, marching bass drum, and other embarrassing instrumentation
Danny’s All-Star JointRickie Lee Jones
Rats & RaccoonsJarles Bernhoft
16 Shells from a 30.6Tom WaitsI cannot have a playlist without Tom Waits in it. It is ordained.
Peaches (1996 Remaster)The StranglersThat bass line is pure sex.
Sing HelloJarles Bernhoft
This YearThe Mountain GoatsSince 2020, this is America’s theme song.
Lift Me Up ‘Till the Morning ComesBernhoft
Oh My God Yeah Fuck ItMike Doughty [feat Moon Hooch and Miss Eaves]Mike knows.
Are You Gonna Be My GirlJet
Come On EileenDexys Midnight Runners
Cmon Talk Jarles Bernhoft
Arrow Through MePaul McCartney and Wings
The LovecatsThe CureThe perfectly crafted pop song.
UsRegina Spektor
We Have a DreamBernhoft
O ChildrenNick Cave and the Bad Seeds
She’s a GeniusJetI’m not.
She’s ThunderstormsArctic MonkeysI am.
I Wanna Be Sedated (2002 Remaster)Ramones
Valerie (Version Revisited)Mark Ronson [feat Amy Winehouse]
Funk #48The James GangJoe Walsh is an oldschool guitar mage.
Ballroom BlitzThe Sweet
Pardon MeThe BlowIf you don’t know The Blow, change that now.
Swing Baby!Big Rude JakeMy 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.
PowaTune-YardsThis song lives in my root chakra, if root chakras exist. (Yeah, they really don’t. But it feels like they do. You know?)
Private IdahoThe B-52s
Cold Steel HammerBig Rude Jake
Sister Needs a SettleSay HiThis 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.
TornNatalie ImbrugliaSinging harmony with Natalie is a stim.
Seven Day MileThe FramesThis 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 VanArctic MonkeysOLD PUNK BOYFRIEND MEMORIES. And that descending chord progression in the chorus is so smart and sly.
Far from any RoadThe Handsome FamilyHave you seen the first season of True Detective?
SofisticatedStereo MC’sCool in a bottle.
Somebody That I Used to KnowElliott SmithI like songs that play with measure or phrase lengths, and this one does it masterfully. Good strum, too. I feel it in my chest.
SometimesWalk Off the EarthThe acoustic mix on this cover, combined with ethereal and fluffy guitar strumming
FragilePaperboysBest cover of this song, even better than Sting’s original.
JaneBen Folds FiveA SONG ABOUT ME BEING ME. This one will get featured in a blog post soon I’m sure.
Go Into the NightGabrielle PapillonMore play with measure and phrase lengths.
Paper Mache WorldMatilda MannIf you’ve watched Heartstopper, you recognize this one.
Why Am I Like This?Orla GarlandSame as above. Also… I swear to god it’s about neurodivergence.
If the World Should End in FireThe Handsome FamilyIt’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.

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