The Mighty Logo

Why Masking My Autism Was Harmful

Since my autism diagnosis five months ago, I realized I am finally coming back to myself.

When high school ended, I didn’t even know there was life after that. I had never learned to project myself into the future. All of a sudden I didn’t have my routine, my friends, the environment I knew and loved and was used to. I lost the feeling of sameness that was so important to me. I was so deeply in the present, I got lost very fast when things had to change… and by lost, I mean depressed, suicidal and full of shame.

That big change alone killed a lot in me. I was a very optimistic girl, with a light attitude and I was almost always laughing. I became the girl with the grey eyes and grey face. I became a ghost. I dropped out of college. I got fired at the first job I ever had. I cried a lot. I didn’t understand anything. And I was deeply alone. Everyone was going on with their lives, and I was on standby.

I saw a doctor who gave me antidepressants, and that’s when I decided I was going to be happy without the help of anyone or anything.

Today, I see this as the moment I decided to fully mask who I was.

A year or so after high school, I consciously decided to pretend, hide and try harder on a daily basis. That’s not self-care. I did not heal. I just took showers more, brushed my teeth more, did my hair more, got out of bed and the house more. I looked for a career and a job and I did everything to make it look like I was not struggling. ‘Cause that’s important, right?

I observed other people and tried to act like them. I trained myself a lot to be able to interact with others. I spent a lot of time making lists of my feelings to try and understand them, and understand why they were there. I was going to do everything I could to look normal, act normal, fit in. I got into the spiral of severe anxiety and fatigue really fast, but at least I was not depressed anymore, right? At least I was functioning… right?

Today I’m 25 and I understand how much of a waste of energy this is. By doing all that, I also lose the core of who I am, and I love who I am. I don’t want to lose it.

Today I’m 25 and I’m so tired. I feel like all I did was fail at a lot of things. Sometimes I feel like The Girl Who Fails, but I remind myself that at least I’m The Girl Who (Still) Tries. Maybe I am equally lost, but I am hopeful.

Today I’m 25 and I’m finally coming back to myself. I am done trying to be what other people expect me to be. I am done trying to be an outgoing girl. I am not. I like to stay home. I like to listen to music. I like to think. I like to observe. I don’t really like to talk. I was not made to be excessively productive. I need a lot of alone time, to recharge.

I have needs I have been neglecting for a long time, and strengths I have taken for granted. It’s time for me to readjust where I put my energy. It’s time for me to try and give myself what I need to be that happy, sweet girl again. To be myself again.

Getty image by sSplajn.

Conversations 15