Did diagnosis affect masking?

Although I was diagnosed as autistic a few years ago, there has definitely been a delay in me accepting that entirely and effectively holding on to that “high functioning” impression that made me feel less “disabled”.

People I was able to mention my diagnosis to were keen to point out how “well” I was doing. Only recently have I picked up enough information to know this was unhelpful because for years I have been partly holding on to that illusion of “coping” that appeared to separate me from other autistic people I knew of.

I attended a couple of support groups where I didn’t feel like I quite identified with other autistic people there because I was thinking of how “capable” I was. Most of them didn’t have jobs or had fairly menial ones. Were they actually like me? I was doing pretty “well” wasn’t I?

A major mistake at that time was not trying very hard to find other autistic people via the internet, and even autistic forums didn’t seem to grab me particularly. I knew about social media but hadn’t made the leap to connecting autism to that. I wonder if I was so weighed down by carrying on in my situation I wasn’t able to connect the dots.

I was too invested in “fixing” my approach to NT connections using the knowledge of what I found difficult.

The main point here is that without a firm encouragement from someone to say – go and search for #ActuallyAutistic on Twitter and Facebook, join some groups and these ones are good – I was stuck for a long time without any additional information and resonance with other experiences. I was still trying to internally work it all out just because I was used to having to do that.

I had to lose most of my investment in the NT world before I really stopped masking. In fact, recently as I’ve hit 40 I think my body has given up and won’t allow me to attempt masking on top of coping with sensory overload.

So I think diagnosis can only significantly affect masking in the short term if you have a frame of reference and find the right people rather than trying to get “advice” from the wrong people, usually the people readily accessible in your life. If someone isn’t right there guiding you, it’s a bit of a blind scrabble to figure out what you do next.

I may be repeating myself but it does seem odd that you can hang on to that idea of attempting normality even if it hasn’t been working and continues not to work for some years, even after you know you’re autistic.

2 Replies to “Did diagnosis affect masking?”

  1. This really resonates with me. While I only got my diagnosis this past June, I also felt like I didn’t belong in autistic spaces (I saw you read my blog post about it). I think my autistic traits started being obvious to people when I was no longer able to cope in certain situations. What annoys me about being told that I’m doing “well” for an autistic person is that I was told this by another autistic person. I don’t disclose my autism to most NT people.

    I want to no longer mask, but I feel unsafe to unmask if I’m not at home and I don’t know how to unmask.

    1. I’d forgotten I’d written this post and read it again. In reality I don’t stop masking entirely, but I have mostly stopped trying to engage in the wrong social context for me – you lose the need to mask if you have nobody to mask for. It may be a little lonely, but this is better than constantly burning out. But given that you’ve only been diagnosed for a short time it’s understandable you’d still feel unsafe. It’s taken me more than 7 years to find a balance. I was also never particularly good at masking so there wasn’t so much to let go of I think.
      I’m glad you commented as I’ve wondered if anyone had read a post and found it helpful.

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