I’m back again with another important blog post. If you’re reading this, thank you so much. This blog post is about masking autism. Autistic masking is when a autistic person hides their autistic traits to blend in with neurotypical people. There’s many reasons why a autistic person resorts to masking and in this blog post, I will go over all the reasons I personally masked my traits.
When I tried explaining masking to a neurotypical friend of mine, she implied that everyone masks. While it is true that everyone can pretend to be someone they’re not or even pretend to get along with someone they don’t really like, autistic masking is much deeper than just pretending. When autistic people mask, it’s not just one incident or situation. It is literally an entire shift in their whole personality. When I mask, I suppress meltdowns, avoid stimming in public or around my loved ones, avoid using echolalia as one of my form of speech, force eye contact even when it doesn’t naturally feel good for me, bottle up my emotions so I don’t have to hear others tell me I’m too sensitive or over exaggerating, and force myself to stay in a environment that I know is causing sensory overload. The list goes on…
I can pass as a neurotypical when I mask which is why I get comments all the time like “I didn’t know you were autistic” or “You don’t look autistic” or “I would’ve never guessed”. What people see in public is not who I really am. I altered my whole autistic personality just to be accepted in this world because autism is not truly accepted no matter how much you preach autism acceptance. There’s still so much ableism going on.
I started masking from a very young age. Even though I was diagnosed a little late at 11 years old, I still knew long before then that I was different but didn’t know exactly why. I was bullied for being the weird one in school and other places. I was abused at home by my mothers now ex husband for most of my autistic traits. I was abused for refusing to eat foods that were triggers for me due to my sensory processing issues. I was still forced to eat the food and abused when I puked it because I couldn’t tolerate it. I was abused for making simple mistakes because the instructions weren’t broken down step by step for me. I was abused for my echolalia because he thought I was mocking him or talking back. I was abused for having meltdowns because it was seen as just a tantrum and bad behavior. I was abused for sensory seeking behaviors. I was also abused for not giving eye contact. I was forced to comply with the neurotypical standards that were being pushed on me. I was never able to be my true self without being abused or bullied. I didn’t feel safe at home and didn’t feel safe at school either. I never did well with social cues so making friends wasn’t really easy for me. I was often called the R word and made fun of. It was mainly because I was the only autistic person in a mainstream class filled with neurotypical students; so of course I was the perfect target.
I remember when I was about 9 years old, I went to the park to play and try to make new friends. Due to the fact I struggle with social cues, I didn’t understand that these 2 older girls didn’t really want to be my friend and that they weren’t laughing WITH me, they were laughing AT me. So they lured me to the woods and they both grabbed me and tried to toss me over this concrete wall where the train tracks were and a train was actually coming. Luckily I managed to fight and squirm my way out of their grip and was able to run away. I couldn’t even tell my mom what happened because I had already learned to bottle up my emotions and stay quiet. I wasn’t going to be taken seriously. After all, she didn’t take the abuse I was going through seriously because in her own words, “love is blind”. I basically almost got killed for being so different when all I wanted was to be accepted and to make friends.
After the abuse at home went on long enough, I told a girl at school which she then relayed the message to the teachers aide which then was passed down to the school principal. Police and child protective services were involved and I eventually got taken away from my mom and my custody was given to my uncle in New Jersey. So I went to live with my uncle and grandma. I had to start a new school which I was bullied there too. Living with my uncle and grandma was a whole other set of complications because they didn’t understand autism either. But I do have to say, that I probably still would not have gotten my diagnosis if it wasn’t for CPS getting involved. They ordered that my uncle and grandma take me for a psychiatric evaluation which resulted in me getting diagnosed finally. The diagnosis process is for another blog post maybe.
So to sum everything all up, I masked my autism, to protect myself. Masking was a trauma response. I’m not proud of it at all because it has caused major issues for me and my mental health. It has led to me attempting to commit suicide. I started self harming. Even now, I’m still having an identity crisis because I lost myself. Trying to find the real me again is so hard and exhausting because I still have so much pressure on me from neurotypical people who still don’t understand my struggles and they try to invalidate all my emotions and my perspective on things. I still mask my autism today but I can honestly say I have unmasked quite a bit. Masking for so long sent me into a autistic burnout. If you want to read more about autistic burnout, I have a blog post about it here.
I hope that someday I’ll be able to be authentically and unapologetically autistic. I’m happier when I’m my true self than when I’m masking. I need to do what is healthier for me and not care about how uncomfortable it makes others feel. I’ve been uncomfortable all my life trying to be a people pleaser. It’s time that it stops and I focus on myself. If people can’t handle me, then they’re the wrong people to be a part of my circle. I don’t need people who don’t accept me for who I am. I don’t need people who constantly invalidate me when I do try to show the real me. Also, when a autistic person tries to explain to you about masking and why it’s so harmful, please don’t downplay their struggles by saying “everyone masks”; because not everyone is autistic so you can’t possibly begin to know our struggles. Autistic people process the world differently so we are not the same as neurotypical people and our struggles are not the same either. Please be mindful and respectful and all should be fine.
I’ll end this blog post here by saying that I have added a merch page on my site where I’ll be offering all my handmade/custom made autism items. I figured since I mentioned in this post about being unapologetically autistic, it’s the perfect time to tell you that I have a “unapologetically autistic” shirt available along with other shirt designs if you would like to check them all out. Click here