Unmasking – the ultimate challenge and achievement for autistic people.

It’s probably almost enough to refer you to the masking definition. But, actually, unmasking is a process that usually follows that lightbulb moment when we realise who we really are and who we need to start being. Unmasking is so empowering. It can cost relationships of all sorts, simply because we’re being ourselves, and that might not suit some people, who are comfortable with the masked version. But then do we want those people in our lives anyway? Anyone who is our true friend, anyone who genuinely cares about us, will be so happy that we know our true identity, they should encourage unmasking.

Of course, unmasking doesn’t just follow the grand reveal of our true selves. Many of us unmask every day, as soon as we go home to the safety of our little burrows, particularly those of us who live alone, or with people who accept and love us for who we are.

Unmasking takes a while. We’re so used to faking it in order to make it (through the day) that we may not even feel we know how to be, when we’re newly diagnosed/self-diagnosed. Many of us go through all sorts of emotions – up days, down days, confused days, and all the while we’re trying to work out who we are and how we need to be, in order to reduce meltdowns and burnout in the future. There’s no right way. The easiest way I’ve found so far is to question everything I normally participate in and ask myself if I genuinely want to do that. If the answer is NO, if at all possible I will say so.

I still mask with some people, I think we all do. Mostly because I just don’t have the energy or time to explain to indifferent people that I have changed; that I’m more authentic. I’m more likely to just give those people a wide berth instead.

Small things that I now do in front of anyone: I stim – I let my wild feet spin their figures of 8, whoever I’m with. If people notice it, I don’t care. My spinny feet make me calm and happy. I’m also not afraid to say “no, I don’t want to meet there – it’s too noisy and I’m uncomfortable”. The more I do it, the easier it gets and the better it feels! This is the power of standing tall, knowing our needs and limitations and knowing that we don’t need to accommodate everyone else. It’s actually OKAY if other people put themselves out to accommodate US.

Reading the entries on masking, burnout and skills regression alongside this entry, will help bring it all together.