Camouflaging Autism – What is Autistic Masking?

Transcript:

Humans on the internet NeuroRebel here and this week, we’re going to talk about Autistic masking. So what is Autistic masking? Let’s dive in.

[00:00:46] Autistic masking is when Autistic people consciously or subconsciously mask their Autistic traits in order to blend in or appear to be neurotypical.

[00:00:57]I want to make sure to mention that masking is a self-defense and it is not something that is intended to be deceptive or manipulative. It may also, depending on where you are reading, be called camouflaging because Autistic person will often camouflage their difficulties, their struggles, the things that make them uncomfortable, make them different, or stand out.

[00:01:23] It’s important for us to talk about why autistic people mask. As I mentioned earlier, when Autistic people mask, it is not intended to be manipulative or to intentionally deceive other people.

[00:01:37] A lot of us have learned to mask subconsciously because of comments made by other people in society. Maybe we did something and someone looked at us and said, that was weird. Or maybe something a little bit more well-meaning and kind like, “are you okay?” These little comments make us realize, Oh, we’ve done something that drew attention to ourselves and sometimes we just want to be invisible or be left alone and so then we can learn to mask.

[00:02:07] Another reason Autistic people may mask is because they may have been overtly bullied. A lot of Autistic people, myself included, were bullied as children, other kids in school can unfortunately be quite mean and I even was bullied by a few teachers and authority figures growing up.

[00:02:24] Autistic people or late diagnosed may also mask. I had no idea I was Autistic until I was 29 years old. Then when I was diagnosed, I started to relearn a lot of things about myself and one thing I realized as I started to unravel things was at some point in my life, I had stopped prioritizing my own needs and wants and had started to live the life that I thought I was supposed to have instead of really living a life I wanted to live that included going to social events that made me so miserable that I was having panic attacks on the way to them  and working a job that I thought I was supposed to have, even though it was making me ill and taking a very  hard toll on my mental and physical health. I was just doing what I was supposed to do. The rebel in me was completely gone and I had lost myself for many years, then I like to admit. Because I didn’t know I was autistic. I didn’t know that my brain worked in a different way from other people.

[00:03:29]When I would try to speak up for my needs, say things like, “Oh, that light’s too bright” or “it’s really cold in here”, or “the socks are really itchy” or  “that hurts me” People wouldn’t believe me and would dismiss me and tell me it “wasn’t that bad” and that I “needed to toughen up”. I would hear these things over and over and over again and eventually I got to the point where I stopped even speaking up about these things and just suffered in silence with my own discomfort and just went along with everyone else because I figured I must just be the biggest wimp because everyone else can deal with this and they’re not complaining so  I can’t complain.

[00:04:10] That’s because I didn’t know about autism. I didn’t know I was Autistic. I didn’t know people had such different perspectives and perceptions and experiences of the world. I didn’t know that the people telling me that my needs were ridiculous couldn’t understand my perspective of the world.

[00:04:33] I really believed what they were telling me and I think they believed it too. 

[00:04:40] When I finally found out I was Autistic at the age of 29 I had a lot of unpacking, and unmasking to do  and people always ask about ” how do I take the mask off?” It is so hard to know where the masks even start. How much of this is a mask and how much of this is me. t’s it’s a lot of work to uncover all of that. 

[00:05:03] My advice for those of you who are just kind of starting the journey to maybe taking the mask off would be to really look back on your life. Think about how you were when you were younger, maybe before you entered public school or before people started to tell you how to act and think and look, and dress.

[00:05:24]Where were you in your natural state?  How are you when you’re alone? How do you act when you’re alone or when you’re at your most comfortable and around people who make you feel safe and have people you trust… compared to  in situations where you are very uncomfortable and feel like you just want to blend in and hide and disappear into the background?

[00:05:47] That’s where it is really going back and unpeeling all of the layers. Some of this stuff has been built up year after year just thing after thing you’ve hidden in you’ve very down and just been holding to yourself. I had migraines from fluorescent lighting for 29 years until I was diagnosed.

[00:06:07] Now that I know I’m Autistic and I can avoid the fluorescent lighting I haven’t had a migraine in over a year.  I can’t even tell you the last time I’ve had a migraine because I am taking that sensory need  into  account instead of just going and acting like everything’s okay and sitting under fluorescent lighting all day.

[00:06:26] It is important for us to mention and talk about the fact that being able to unmask and be openly Autistic is a huge privilege that not every Autistic person has. There may be concerns in their job or employment that they may be  discriminated against, or let go for being Autistic. This is a real concern depending on your career field if you’re neurodivergent, it can be used against you.

[00:06:53] I’ve had people tell me that their diagnosis was used against them in family court  to deny access to their children. So these are a couple very real scenarios that people sometimes may have to worry about depending on where they live or their own individual situation.

[00:07:12] Another thing to consider is being unmasked as  someone like me, who’s five foot two, very small, and non-threatening human compared to someone who is larger, bigger, and  could be interpreted as more threatening and intimidating say if they were having a meltdown or maybe  just moving or behaving in a certain way in public, it can be more dangerous.

[00:07:41] That is something also to consider that until we have more education in the world on what Autistic people look like, how we move, behave, and act  there are people who will always have a bit of danger or not be able to unmask or be openly Autistic and that’s why I personally. Things that those of us who can –  it’s really great for us to do so to help educate and pave the way to a world where eventually, maybe it will be safe or more Autistic people to be open and not mask and hide their neurotype and their differences.

[00:08:17] Thank you so much for hanging out with me this week. I know this topic is kind of heavy. It’s a very intense topic and it’s something that is important and we need to talk about a lot more because  a lot of the reason why we are misdiagnosed, not diagnosed, not discovered, people don’t understand  that  we are Autistic when we tell them we are Autistic is because autism is invisible and a lot of us are able to mask or camouflage our differences and difficulties.  Until the neuro-typical world starts to understand Autistic masking and camouflaging we’re going to be doing a lot more educating.

[00:08:57] So yeah, spread the word. If you found this video helpful educational or useful, please hit share. And while you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe and turn on notifications so you never miss an update. I put out new videos every Wednesday, and if you’d like to help support and be a part of the NeuroRebel project and the work I do educating the world and blusting autism myths and neurodiversity myths  you can subscribe on Patrion – patrion.com/neurodivergentrebel or you can also subscribe on Facebook at facebook.com/neurodivergentrebel.

[00:09:35] Thank you so much for being a part of my world for the past four years. I am extremely grateful for each and every one of you have a wonderful rest of your week, and I will see you next Wednesday.

[00:09:47] Bye.

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2 thoughts on “Camouflaging Autism – What is Autistic Masking?

  1. This is interesting. I am thinking of my son and when he does this. He was diagnosed at 4 and is now 17. As he has been growing up I have been trying to teach him to offer a solution when speaking of his needs. Such as, “I am cold. May I turn up the heat? Do you know where my sweatshirt is?” etc. so others see it as speaking for his needs and telling us what he needs. When he looks at us or others and announces his needs with nothing behind it we don’t know if he wanted us to do something or was just information us of something. Do I need to take action or is he telling us how he is feeling? I have been having him listen to this so we can talk about it. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

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