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Computers and Self-Harm

Computers are the source of frustration for all of us at one time or another. Two nights ago, I lost a file with the outline of 50 pages I had read. I was using Windows, which was the problem — Windows can be a real nightmare when software misbehaves. (One program should never crash the entire system. I had a video driver fail for some reason.)

Most people would be upset, maybe say some choice words, and get back to work.

I sat on the floor, legs crossed, and rocked for nearly 20 minutes. I pounded my fists against my legs, unable to calm down and focus on the need to retype the file. I could have sat there, rocking, murmuring, and pounding on my legs for hours if it weren't for my wife's incredible calm and reassurance.
She ended up retyping the notes, with me dictating what I had lost. Without her, I would not have the ability to function as a student and teacher.

I know repetitive movements, including self-harm, is a part of autism. I don't have to like it, though. It's not logical, not reasonable, and certainly not productive in any way. What's the purpose of rocking and humming? What explains the compulsion to pound my fists against my legs for minutes or even hours at a time? I've even managed to bruise my legs with the repetitive pounding.

Maybe the rocking isn't so bad. It is a waste of energy, but I am not even aware I am rocking much of the time.

I was already on edge — that's when I am most likely to retreat into these behaviors. I have the normal stress of school, which is tolerable most of the time. What pushes me to that edge is public transit. I've written about the trains and busses in my journals. Once my senses and nerves are overloaded, it doesn't take much to push me that final inch or two.

I'm not blaming Microsoft Windows for my behavior. I just shouldn't do anything important on a computer when I'm already anxious.

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