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Ranking My 9 ADHD Stims From 'Normal' to 'WTF?'

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Stim toys are often referenced when it comes to autism. While stimming is a huge part of life for autistic folk, did you know they’re not the only neurodivergent people who stim? 

People with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder stim as well. For ADHD’ers, it’s a way to regulate stimulation while also grounding us out, helping us either seek out stimulation or de-stimulate. A lot of ADHD people utilize stimming in order to focus on a task as well.

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I have a few ways that I stim throughout the day. Some of them are relatively “normal,” and others are well… some would say not so “normal.” In fact, I’ve been told that some of the ways I stim are actually “strange,” and “weird.” I was a theater kid in the early 2010s. Being called “weird” is something I have since desensitized myself to, but it doesn’t take away that what they deem as weird, I genuinely feel is “normal.” It’s my normal, and that should count for something.

Ranked from most “normal” to what others have deemed “strange,” here are my favorite ways to stim:

1. Drawing

When I need to have my complete focus on a call that is either highly emotional, or I’ll have to do a lot of listening, drawing is easily the best stim. It takes a lot of focus, but depending on what kind of drawings and doodles I’m doing, it leaves enough room for me to hear what’s being told to me and process it without being reactive. In fact, I tend to doodle on most of my work calls. I used to get in trouble for drawing in class, and I wish they understood that I performed better when I did.

2. Singing

As mentioned, I was a theater kid. Singing is a stim that comes in handy if I’m overstimulated and I need to come down quickly. I have to focus on the words, rhythm, and breaths needed. This is a stim I utilize when I am very overwhelmed and potentially near a catastrophic meltdown.

3. Swaying and rocking back and forth

I picked up this stim when I was working in hospitality. I couldn’t sing or draw and I had to stay on my feet for hours, so I started rocking back and forth. I’m actually doing it right now as I type. This one is still “normal” enough that I’ve never gotten comments on it.

4. Playing with my Slinky

A Slinky is God’s gift to man. I can lose track of time playing with it. While this seems relatively “normal,” I know it tends to annoy people around me due to the sound it makes. So it’s not “strange,” but it’s definitely annoying.

5. Any random straw wrapper at a dinner table

Once again, not “strange,” but more annoying and technically rude compared to the slinky. It gives my hands something to do, especially when I’m not allowed to use my phone at the dinner table.

6. Pacing

We are officially in “strange” territory. I pace when I’m on phone calls because it allows me to give all my energy to the conversation, especially if I’m talking a lot. I have gotten many strange looks from family members who all ask “Don’t you want to sit down?” No. I don’t. I won’t listen if I do. So I pace back and forth from room to room in the same exact circle or path.

7. Twerking

Yes, twerking. When I’m laying down I like to twerk while laying down as a form of stimming. So I don’t consider this strange, but when you’re in a room at a party with people who don’t know you and they turn around and see you making that ass clap, and once again, they don’t know you…yeah. A little strange.

But if y’all say that you’re racist (joking!…sorta).

8. Vocal trills

So what makes this “strange” is I never know when I’m going to do it. I just get the urge, and I have to. Sometimes it’s just a lip trill, and other times it’s a full vocal run. No, I can’t sing. That’s not the point. The point is people do look at you oddly if you do this on the way to get a buffalo chicken tender sub from Publix and it’s dead silent around you.

9. Dancing

No, not in a club. Not when there’s music playing. When it’s silent and nothing is happening around you. I have had people tell me that I love dancing to music that isn’t playing, and honestly, I didn’t realize I was stimming after a while. I do get weird looks, or people say I’m being quirky and outgoing, but either way, the side eyes tell me that apparently, this is “strange.” They just don’t like my Usher-inspired dance moves. You know the ones I’m talking about. Watch this if you don’t. I wonder if Usher would think if on a scale of one to 10, I’m a certified 20 too. Oh well.

Now once again, are any of these actually “strange?” No. Strange, weird, and words like that are extremely relative and subjective. To some neurotypicals, these behaviors may be, but to me they’re not, and I’m confident enough to not take offense to it even if it is fairly rude.

Remember, the people around you should be lifting you up and be compassionate towards your “quirks,” not make you feel as if you should be ashamed.

Getty image by MirageC

Originally published: March 29, 2023
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