Autistic and NeuroDivergent Masking – Help! I Don’t Know How to Unmask

Patreon members, Facebook Subscribers, and YouTube channel members had access to this video on October 15, 2021. The video’s public release will be November 17, 2021.

Transcript

Hey humans Lyric here.

So this week I am going to be talking a bit more about NeuroDivergent masking and Autistic masking, and why taking the mask off is not necessarily something that is a simple process.

We say, “oh, take the mask off” but a lot of people are then left asking, “but how do I take this mask off? I’m not even sure where I end and the mask begins because I’ve been masking for so long.”

People is me, but I’ve also heard other people ask similar questions, and because I have heard this question asked many times, we’re going to dive into it this week. If you are at all interested, please do stay tuned.

As a refresher for anyone who’s new, NeuroDivergent masking is when a NeuroDivergent Person, a person who is brain may be Autistic, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, OCD, et cetera. Is masking or hiding that NeuroDivergence, in order to blend in and appear more NeuroTypical.

Uh, I’ve said before, and I always say that it’s not something that any of us do to be manipulative or to be deceptive. It’s something that we do, as a survival- survival skill, because just want to blend in.

We don’t want to stand out, and by the very nature of being someone who moves, communicates, and expresses themselves differently, you often stand out without even trying, just by existing, and being your authentic self.

 Sometimes it feels like that can put a target on your back, and you just don’t want to feel like there is always a spotlight on you. So you learn to hide anything that makes you stand out, or that makes you different.

A lot of times for NeuroDivergent People, because our strengths and our weaknesses are different from NeuroTypical strengths and weaknesses, that can mean we are hiding and dulling down our strengths.

If we are capable, we’ll kind of dull that down, or downplay our capabilities, or we may hide our struggles, and when something is uncomfortable for us, or painful for us, we may act like everything is fine, when it’s not, we may be really overwhelmed, or panic panicking on the inside, but acting like everything is great.

Even if something is painful for us, we may just keep pushing on through, because NeuroTypicals, and people around us don’t seem to have difficulty, and we don’t want to make ourselves stand out, so we don’t speak up, and we make ourselves small, and we make ourselves suffer, at the expense of appearing NeuroTypical – wanting to blend in, because it’s safer, sometimes, to not be noticed.

NeuroDivergent People mask for similar reasons that Queer People stay in the closet, because coming out, and being open with certain parts of yourself, can leave you vulnerable, in a society that is not always very welcoming to people who are different – to people who are in the minority.

NeuroDivergent People are a NeuroMinority, and NeuroTypical people, air quotes again, every time I say “typical”.

What is typical? Relative concept depending on your brain – dogs… really?

Okay, and so the other complexity to this is being in public, and having to hide and mask the way your body moves, or your reactions to things, because reacting the way your instinctual way to react to something -like having a meltdown in public, can be very dangerous.

Some of us learn to completely internalize our meltdowns and we’ll just shut down, instead of melting down, for example, because that is safer, because it’s much more invisible. If you melt down and cause a scene, it can be dangerous for you.

Someone like me, I’m a tiny little, non-threatening human, most likely people’s, uh, ask if I am okay, because I am a small person, and I look quite young, the way I present.

Whereas my partner, if he had a meltdown in public, he’s darker skinned, and a man, that would be more dangerous.

 Having to hide certain parts of yourself is tied into physical safety, as well as safety from judgment in your relationships, and other people.

Because so many of us mask, to keep ourselves safe, I’m afraid there will always be situations where we will have to mask, to at least some degree.

I’ve been told, I look like I’m on drugs, so I tend to mask up real quick if I am around law enforcement, because I am just terrified I’m going to get arrested just for existing.

I’ve realized now, five years since learning, I was Autistic, that layers of my mask are always going to exist, and different people I engage with are going to see me unmaskst- unmasked to different degrees, depending on how comfortable I feel around that individual person.

For example, my partner and my romantic partners, probably see me the most unmasked that anyone else sees me.

I unmask the most when I am completely alone with the dogs, cause they can’t tell my secrets.

If I am in public, with new people, or especially NeuroTypical people, I don’t know well, or in situations that I’m really uncomfortable in.

Around medical people, situations, for example, like I am more likely to be very, very masked, because I’m very uncomfortable, and I don’t feel safe.

Uh, so if I have dropped my mask around you, enough that I start, really, relaxing and being myself, and letting my body move the way it moves, and I start talking, and nonstop talking, and I am verbally stimming, and doing all of these things… even if it’s annoying, please know it’s a compliment, because it means I feel really comfortable around you; and I feel comfortable enough to be myself.

I wanted to talk about masking again today, because I realized that, sometimes, even now, five years later, I am masking, and I don’t even know I’m doing it. I don’t even realize it’s happening.

 Something that my partner pointed out to me, when he was watching my TikToks, and my YouTube, and some of my other videos, he’s like, “why are your eyebrows always so high up on your face? That’s not where your eyebrows normally are?”

 I realized even my facial expressions are often something projected, that I have put there as part of this mask.

This channel, where I’ve been talking about taking your mask off, and unmasking, I have unintentionally been masking, which is not at all what I had set out to do.

I’m trying very hard today to have my natural speech, and not let these dang eyebrows climb up my face.

They really want to though. It’s what they- that’s what’s what I’ve taught them to do.

 All of that’s exhausting, and I don’t, I don’t want to mask anymore. I want it to be comfortable, and I hope you can be comfortable in your own skin too. Realize that masking is a complicated topic.

It’s not like. “Oh, just take the mask off.” No, this is going to be a process. You don’t just take it off, in one layer.

It’s really rediscovering who you are, and asking yourself the question, is this something I do because it’s something I want to do, or is this something I do for the sake of other people? Is this really me? Or is this something that I have reflected onto myself, because I have been living in a world of neuro-typical mirrors?

I can’t answer these questions for you, but I wish you luck, in this journey to discovering what parts of that mask is healthy and safe for you to leave behind.

Thank you so much for hanging out with me, for the whole video. I’m really grateful for every one of you watching, commenting, sharing, also the Patreon subscribers, and Facebook supporters, who do that little monetary subscription, that helped me with things like web hosting, and transcriptioning software, and all of the things to edit and process these videos, and make sure they are the quality that you all have all come to expect.

I couldn’t do that without you. This blog is, literally, made possible from the help of all of the viewers like you, so I’m grateful for each and every one of you.

I hope I will see you all next Wednesday, bye!

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Help me get the word out!!! – If you like what I do, and would like more, please consider subscribing on Patreon. This blog is made possible by support from readers like YOU!  (Sharing my content is also, equally helpful!)

With gratitude,

Lyric

One thought on “Autistic and NeuroDivergent Masking – Help! I Don’t Know How to Unmask

  1. What you said about masking very much in the presence of medical personnel, omg yes. I am chronically ill and last year had to spend a considerable amount of time alone in the cardiac ward of a hospital and visiting hours were severely limited because of covid. I felt ultra unsafe and masked to the point where I even had a tech look at me doubtfully and say, “really!?” when I disclosed that I am autistic. It often feels SO frustrating because it literally goes against my morals to be inauthentic and I feel so yucky after I mask really hard with someone but at the same time for me it feels like a deeply ingrained trauma response/survival mechanism and as such I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to fully unmask. But just the way you put it, masking hardest with you feel unsafe, that just really perfectly communicates what underlies the instinct to mask – it’s like a “fawn” response in the “fight/flight/fawn/freeze” trauma response. And I 100% also experience intense fear around law enforcement because I have traditionally had a very “alternative” kind of style and once after I was in a car accident, all I could keep repeating to the police officer who showed up was, “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay” because I was in shock and basically having a meltdown. I was lucky that he didn’t make an issue of it, and I don’t even drive anymore partially because I’m so afraid of being pulled over my law enforcement. My partner even got me stickers and put them on either side of my vehicle, stating that an autistic person is driving the car and may be unable to speak, may act in certain ways, etc. I never really could figure out if those stickers made me feel safer, like a police officer wouldn’t incorrectly interpret my behavior as “being on drugs” or acting suspiciously in general, or if it was like putting a giant target on myself given how police have mishandled so many interactions with autistic people, even leading to those autistic people losing their lives. Fear absolutely plays a huge part in the motivation to mask and I think that the motivation and necessity to mask will continue to be there until society is better educated on neurodivergence and is less likely to respond in harmful ways to autistic people just being our autistic selves. Right now I also only really unmask in the spaces I feel safest in, with my children, my partner and around my animals. I would love to one day be able to unmask in more spaces but for that to happen those spaces have to become MUCH safer. Education like the kind you’re doing definitely gets us closer to the world being a safer place for autistic people so thank you for all that you’re doing!!

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