One of the hardest things to do is to unmask.
As a young person, I was given a lot of advice on how to ‘be’.
How to sit, how to speak, how to stand, what to wear, to be mindful of always wearing a full face of makeup.
And I practised consciously
Masking becomes a special interest
I watched others, casually observed the way they moved their heads
The sound of their laughter
The clothes they wore, how they styled their hair.
I scripted one liners and entire paragraphs
I created the person I believed I was to be, with each and every person I was in the company of.
Everything about myself was a mask.
And when I came out of those years, post diagnosis
It didn’t end.
It still hasn’t ended.
I am confident, yes.
I’m not so concerned by what others think anymore
But I’m still learning who I am,
And the difference between who the authentic me is
And who I believe it is, based on what I’ve created.
I saw an interview of myself yesterday.
I was shocked.
I was shocked at how much I talked
On and on and on and on and on I went.
I know I do this,
And I’ve been laughed about in an endearing manner about how much I chatter on.
But I saw it yesterday.
I also saw myself looking around everywhere as I talked
Up and around and all over the place
Words were flowing endlessly and my eyes were just everywhere but with the person in front of me.
There’s a reason for this of course.
I was being asked about my passion-autism.
I was info dumping.
And making eye contact whilst talking is something that is difficult because I can’t concentrate on what I’m saying if I’m concentrating on the eye contact.
“Have I looked too long, should I look away, will I be rude if I look away, I’ve looked so long it won’t look natural if I look away now, am I being too intense, am I not looking enough?”
My eye contact is usually great.
But those are my thoughts whilst engaging in it and nobody would know.
Mostly, I have no clue what you’ve said when I’m looking at you.
Unless you’re a close friend and I trust you deeply.
So why did it matter so much to see myself this way on camera?
Because I saw the autism.
But I still have an internalised fear that others won’t.
They’ll see a delusional crazy person who *says* she’s autistic
But really is just attention seeking.
And therefore, anything she says is not credible.
She’s not credible.
I’m not credible.
Not to be taken seriously.
I’ve been assessed and diagnosed twice.
By leading researchers at universities dedicated to autism research.
And I was even unconsciously masking then.
Answered my questions based on what I believe to be ‘normal’.
And yet I am still diagnosed autistic.
Unmasking is hard.
There’s an entire world out there that are still catching up.
Even though the Diagnostic Statistical Manual has
Even though it’s being talked about so, so much
There’s a resistance.
And when people have known you all your life
And know that yes, you are indeed different
But don’t believe you to be autistic
It causes great anxiety.
I watched the interview,
Which I normally don’t.
And it was as clear as day to me
That the woman I was watching
And there was this part of me
That has worked so very hard
All of my life
To hide what I and others believed
And that part of me
Felt let down.
There was a sense of grief
In letting go
Of what I worked all my life
To appear to be.
Is a long term
Learning who we are
Is a long term process
This was the first time
In a long time
I’d heard that voice
Felt that inner critic
I look unhinged.
And so here I am
Announcing loud and proud
Over that voice
I hope I fail
To look ‘normal’
I pray for the courage
To be authentic
And to be loved
And taken seriously
As a happy