The Problems With Masking | Asperger's/Autism

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Recently I've been seeing infographics doing the rounds on social media all about masking in those with Asperger's/Autism and the problems it can create for those that do this. Today, I just felt like giving you a first person point of view as to what it's like to mask and how masking has affected me throughout my life. I've never actually mentioned having Asperger's on my blog before as it's something I tend to keep to myself, but I felt like I needed to voice my opinion on this topic.



For those of you who don't know what masking is, it's fairly common in those with Asperger's/Autism (I realise Asperger's is no longer considered a diagnosis but for the purposes of this post and to help it make sense to me I refer to myself as having Asperger's, which is what I was diagnosed with about seven years ago). In order to try and blend in with other people, those who have Asperger's/Autism will often mimic the behaviour of others. This can include, but is not limited to, things like body language, facial expression, eye contact as well as words/phrases and social scripts and what not.

I had been masking for much of my life, without realising it, it was just a way I had learned to adapt my own behaviour to fit in and appear the same as everyone else. In all honesty I'm not quite sure what I've been trying to mask all these years, but it was there, this ability to mask and appear like everyone else by basically copying the behaviour of others.

Ultimately though, this has led to one massive burnout where I can no longer fathom keeping up this act, where I can't stand the thought of having to wear a mask to cover up who I am again.

I think about things like work and friendships, situations which will inevitably involve me having to mask some of my different traits and just the thought of it leaves me feeling drained. I simply don't have the energy anymore to keep this up.

You might be thinking, why don't I just drop the mask? The truth is I've been wearing it so long I've forgotten who I am without it. It's really messed with my sense of identity. I try and find myself through dying my hair, through listening to music I used to like, but I'm lost and I don't know where to find myself again.

I sometimes feel myself coming back, the old me echoes in an old song I used to love listening to on repeat while walking to see friends, but then I'm lost again. Masking can and does play with your sense of identity and I suppose in a way, we all mask our true selves from the world, but it's the way in which people with Asperger's/Autism do it so frequently and to such a degree where they're almost unrecognisable that leaves them feeling defeated when they become too tired to carry on with the mask.

I've often felt like the me at home is a completely different person to the me in the outside world. I can play the part like I'm just like everyone else and you wouldn't be able to see what lies underneath. I've often been told "You can't tell you have Asperger's" or "I wouldn't have known you had Asperger's" but that's because a) There's a stereotype there, which I may talk about in another blog post and b) because I mask it to fit in with social norms. On the contrary, I've often been told I'm weird, or different to other people and so this feeds into my wanting to mask my Asperger's/Autism.

But it's left me feeling as though all my friendships have been fake, that noone really knows me and that the person I present myself as isn't the true me. It leaves me feeling as though I'm a 'fake' person, it leaves me feeling defeated when socialising doesn't go well and it leaves me feeling as though the true me should be suppressed and not shown to the world.

I've long thought about not masking, but it's become so ingrained in me that masking is easier than showing the real me. I say easier, it still drains me and leaves me feeling exhausted, but then I feel as though I'm not being judged because the person they're judging is the mask, which can change and adapt at a moments notice, as opposed to the true me.

Having Asperger's/Autism is nothing to be ashamed of and those little things that make up who you are like repetitive speech or movements and a tendency to ramble on about your specific interest just make you you and in an ideal world there would be no need to mask. Unfortunately though, this perceived need to mask is present in a lot of individuals with Asperger's/Autism and is simply put, a way of coping in a very complicated world. But this way of coping has consequences, and this is how having Asperger's/Autism affects my mental health on a daily basis. I think that the fact I feel the need to mask, which for me stems from the fear of judgement, has a direct impact on my mental wellbeing, it leaves me feeling depressed and socially anxious.

Anyway, I'm waffling on a bit now, I guess I just wanted to post this as there may be someone out there who relates to this post and it could help them, and it may also help understandings of Asperger's/Autism that little bit more. It's also helping me a lot too, as by sharing it on here that I have Asperger's/Autism, I may no longer feel the need to mask it so much and it could help me in the long run...I guess we'll see.

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